Career Crossroads Series, Part 3: FEAR; How to Overcome it and Hand in your Notice

You know you want to make a career change.

You also have a good idea of what you want to do.

So, why is handing in your notice so damn hard?

There are plenty of inspirational stories of how people have made big fundamental shifts  to change their careers and go and live the life that they desire. It’s fascinating, compelling and awe inspiring. It’s also really scary, mixed up with excitement and self doubt. 

If you know you want to make a career change but aren’t sure what you want, or how to find your passion then take a look at last week’s Blog which is all about this topic. If you’re faced with redundancy and need to make a change, then take a look at Part 1 in this series. But if you’re at the final step and hovering over your resignation letter, read on…. 

Why is it so hard to take the final step and make the career changes that we know we want to make? Let’s explore that for a moment: 

Security and Safety

Let’s face it we all have needs around security and safety. Leaving a secure paid job with no way of covering the next mortgage payment is a real factor that holds people back from making a career change. I definitely play in the risk averse camp and would want a few months in the bank before taking a leap. If you’re reading this, my guess is that you are too (otherwise you’d have leaped by now!).

Very often, however, our desire for security and safety goes beyond the breadline and our perceived need for security gets in the way of us really assessing what is really holding us back.  

There are many things besides money that give us security and safety, maybe for you it’s familiarity, or comradery. It could be knowing you are accepted by the people you work with or having confidence in your ability. You can feel safe when your needs are fulfilled and if you’re about to change all of that it can give way to feelings of insecurity and fear, the very opposite of what you have worked so hard to achieve. 

Some people are motivated by risk and fear, but many people aren’t used to these feelings. Perhaps they’re used to playing it safe. Working your way through these unfamiliar feelings is part of what will help you to break free. 

What if……….

When you’re faced with a big change your internal voice can throw all sorts of questions your way. What if it doesn’t work out? I could make all these changes and still not be happy. What if I struggle or people don’t like me? Why am I doing this again? Is it really that important? Doubt slowly creeps in and takes hold of your dreams. Changing your career can bring all of your insecurities to the surface and if left unchecked will keep you locked in the status quo. 

Honest conversations are hard to have

There are very few of us who do not experience self doubt, a lack of confidence and fear in the face of big change. People just don’t openly talk about it. Who says “I’m putting up with my shitty job because I’m scared of being a failure” or “I feel like my soul is being slowly eaten away but that’s easier than making a big risky change”, or “it would be great to do something different but quite frankly I don’t trust myself or believe in myself enough”. These aren’t every day conversations, but they are conversations we have in coaching.  

It can hard to let people into your inner world and share the raw honest truth about where you are at. You may not even have this conversation with yourself, for if you do, you have to then do something about it

It can be easy to bury your dream under a pile of excuses when you’re facing the fear. 

Who am I if I’m not XYZ?

Our identity plays a big role in our change journey. If you’re a high achiever it’s likely you’ve been steadily climbing the corporate ladder. It’s what you’ve known since you left school/university and you’ve always had your eye on the next promotion. Half way up the ladder you look at your life and think “I’m not sure I want this anymore’ but who are you if you don’t have a corporate ladder to climb? How will you measure your success? Or, “how will you know if you are ‘good enough?’ What would it mean if your phone wasn’t constantly ringing with seemingly important and urgent demands on you? 

If we cannot identify with the version of ourselves in the future, our identify will keep us locked in the present, even if we’re miserable. 


So, what can you do to make it easier to face into the fear and make the career change? Here are some approaches and strategies that you can try

1. Name your fears

When a fear is named it loses half it’s power over you. Whether you’re afraid of failing or afraid of making the ‘wrong’ decision, naming the fears means that you can begin to explore them. Take pen to paper and let your mind flow. 

What is this fear about? 

2. Explore those fears

Are the fears real or are they stories you are telling yourself? Where do the fears come from, are they based in today or are they a shadow from your past?

Shadows feel real but they keep you from seeing things as they are today. For example, a child is bullied in school and never really feels that they ‘fit in’ until they go to university, when for the first time ever they feel accepted. As an adult, facing making a big career change, they feel afraid. The fear is about rocking the boat. Currently his colleagues like him, he feels that he belongs, what if he doesn’t fit in with his future colleagues? He might be the outsider again and he doesn’t want to go back to that. 

The reality is as an adult, this person has skills, resources and resilience that he didn’t have as the child who was bullied. He may face difficulty – that’s always a chance, but how would he navigate that with the resources and experience he has today. 

The shadow doesn’t let him see today’s reality, because he’s in the fear. Step outside of the fear and examine it as an outsider. 

Unsure if you have a shadow or not? Ask yourself “How old am I feeling when I feel this emotion?” Then take a look at what was happening at that time. 

3. Remember your WHY. 

Why are you doing this? What’s your big compelling reason for the change? Can you dial this up and really focus in on it?

If your WHY is about leaving the corporate world to go freelance, why are you doing this? 

You might be able to list off reasons such as “more time for myself”, “More control over the hours I work” but what else is it about? What’s the reason behind the reason? Is it freedom? Maybe it’s about having a bigger impact? Perhaps it’s about being more connected to your family and children? What are your deeper reasons for making the change? Can you make the impact of that bigger than the impact of your fears?

4. Manage the practicalities

If you can’t pay the mortgage your heart and your head are going to tell you to stay put. You’re a resourceful person. Plan for your exit, don’t leave it to chance. 

It’s easy to blame the paycheck for your reasons to stay, and there is likely to be an element that is about the paycheck but it’s most likely to do with all the other stuff. Manage the practicalities then see what’s still coming up for you. 

Last week I mentioned this quote: 

“It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

Let your heart roar. 

Download the leaders guide below for more tips on overcoming self doubt and building confidence. Tips that are useful in the face of a big change such as your career. 



The Leaders Guide to Finding Passion and Purpose in your work

Sharing is caring!
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Comment: