There’s No Such Thing as a “Wrong Move”

It comes up every single time I’m talking about what’s holding people back in their careers, and goes a little something like this:

“I don’t know, it seems like it could be great but I just don’t want to make the wrong move.”

“I’m just nervous that if I take that job and it turns out to be the wrong move that it’ll set me back in my career and I’ll be behind.”

“I have a few options right now, but I can’t decide which one is the right one, so I think I’ll just wait it out a bit longer until I know for sure. I’d hate to make the wrong move.”

UGHHHHHHHHHH x’s 1,000.

Here’s my beef with the “wrong career move” thing - it simply doesn’t exist. Is there a scale that exists of best to worst moves? Sure. But the idea that any move in your career would be the wrong one is absurd. The thing is, every move you make in your career is just that, a move. Each decision you make throughout your career adds up to the story of you, positive, negative, or otherwise.

When people hesitate on making any move out of fear that it could potentially be the wrong one, it’s simply a high level form of procrastination. You can’t be blamed for choosing incorrectly if you don’t choose anything at all, right?

Wrong. Inaction and the decision to do nothing is a move, and it’s often not the best one. If you know that you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, and unmotivated in your job yet you choose to wait it out and hope for the most perfect opportunity served up on a silver platter with every bell and whistle you could ever dream of, you’re making the decision to stay unhappy, unfulfilled, and unmotivated.

When I think back to my own career history, I can’t find one single instance of any move I’ve made being the “wrong one”. That’s not to say that I haven’t made some careless or shortsighted moves - I’ve certainly racked up some of those. When I was going through my divorce at 25, I lost my damn mind and my work ethic took a hit. A year of having my mind elsewhere, staying out way too late on school nights, and coming in 15 minutes late here, 30 minutes late there, added up to me getting the old 5pm on a Friday tough talk from HR, aka “this no longer seems to be a good fit for you or the company.”

Did that suck? Absolutely. Was it the wrong move? No. Had I not been fired from that job, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to actually pack up and move to LA (which I did just 3 months later.) I also needed that dose of reality to snap me back into the real world, which I had taken a vacation from for a bit too long. I learned that regardless of how great you once were in a role, the world works in a “what have you done for me lately” capacity, so you have to continue to bring it even when you don’t feel like it.

When I was considering leaving my job a few years ago, I was trying to decide between taking on a different role at another company or going on my own. I mulled this decision over for months, agonizing over which one would be the right move. I weighed the pros and cons of each, consulted friends and colleagues, and stayed awake at night tormented with the fear of making the wrong move. I ultimately decided to hop to the new company since I didn’t feel 100% confident going solo at that point in time, plus it seemed like I could gain valuable experience working for a larger, non-startup company.

If there were ever a wrong move in my career, it would have been that one. But - you guessed it - it didn’t end up being the wrong move at all. Although I absolutely hated that job, I was able to grow my network tenfold, I learned what I didn’t want in a company culture, and best of all, it’s what motivated me to create the Career Experiment. Had I gone out on my own back then, I would have missed out on those valuable lessons, meeting the incredible people that I did, and who knows, the Career Experiment may not exist.

Listen, I’m not trying to tell you to leap without a net, throw all caution to the wind, and make any move, that’s the opposite philosophy of the Career Experiment. What I am saying is weigh your options, and then pull the damn trigger. Don’t wait so long to make a move that you end up sticking with something that makes you unhappy, life is way too short to hate your job. If you’re having trouble narrowing down the various things you’d like to do, I put together a free little career guide that might help.

Nothing is forever, good or bad, and you are never stuck. Quit procrastinating and hiding behind the “wrong move” excuse, the worst that can happen is you learn from your experience and are better for it. Go get ’em, tiger.

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Baily Hancock is a woman on a mission to help people to find happiness in their careers by figuring out their best next move. She teaches workshops and an online course called, “
The Career Experiment”. Download her free career guide for Multi-Passionates here.