Top 10 Reasons I Was Afraid to Switch Careers

I spent about 5 months thinking about my career transition before I actually made a decision. I think it is important to think through big decisions like this thoroughly, but one reason it took so long is because I was afraid. I felt pretty clearly that a career transition was necessary, but I couldn’t help but doubt myself. If you are going through something similar, I just want you to know you aren’t alone.

I was afraid…

1. I would lose friends.

To start, this concept of losing friends is simply irrational. Chances are if you don’t love your job, then you probably only have a few friends at your workplace. Even if you leave your workplace, if these coworkers are really friends, then you will not lose them. They will stick by your side and you will continue to communicate.

Since most of your friends are outside the workplace anyway, you really shouldn’t be concerned about losing friends. You will have all the support you need in your other social circles. I think you need to hope that the one or two people that will be sad you are leaving, trust and know you well enough to support your decision. If they don’t, then I would argue they probably aren’t the best friends to keep anyway.

2. I was making the wrong decision.

Since I had no systematic way of determine for sure if it was time to leave the job, or how to choose what was next, I was constantly questioning the decision. In fact, I was putting off the decision because it was just easier not to make it. I think this fear is probably impossible to eliminate for the average person. Decisions like this are naturally uncertain. On the flip-side, since this will naturally be a difficult decision to make, there is a certain amount of risk that has to be taken. If you are not willing to take this risk, then you will never switch careers and you will continue to be unhappy. If you can determine with certainty that you job really isn’t a great fit for you, then you need to overcome your fear and make the decision to start looking for another job so you can quit your current job. One way to overcome this fear is to seek guidance from older wiser people who have done this before, another is to read-up on blogs about career change and how to do it. Once you have a job lined up, a big part of this fear is alleviated.

3. To pass my work to someone else.

I spent a lot of time doing what I was doing over the past few years. I built new systems, relationships and programs. I have big plans for the future and I didn’t want them to be debilitated by the next person. I didn’t want to pass my baby onto someone else. In short, this is an arrogant attitude. Sure, maybe you have done some great things, but the person who comes after you isn’t going to change everything around. If you have set up a great program, they will take what you have done and improve on it. They are coming to the job with different skill-sets and strengths than you ever had. They will be able to take your systems and programs to a place you never could have yourself. Passing our work onto someone else should actually be exciting, not scary! So relax, your work-baby is going to be just fine, besides you are tired of watching over your work-baby anyway.

4. My next job would fall through.

What if they decide they don’t want me at the last minute? Then what am I going to do? I already told my employer I would be leaving and now my future employer changed their mind! I don’t think I need to say much about this one, this is an irrational fear. Sure there is always a risk when switching careers, but as I said earlier, if you are sure it’s time to switch then you need to take the risk. To make the risk less risky, I recommend getting something signed from your future employer that you will be starting on x day. If you are so concerned about your job falling through that you aren’t making the move, then perhaps you should set yourself up for two jobs, just in case. More than likely though, you just need to take the plunge.

5. That I wouldn’t like my new job.

I switched to a completely different industry. It was scary, I was going to be doing things I never expected to do in my life. What if I didn’t like these things? This was sort of silly, because I had just spent the last 6 months thinking about my current job and everything I did and din’t like about it. I got to know myself and my interests pretty well. Even though I was going to be doing things I had never done before, I had a pretty good idea that I would enjoy them, and I am btw. In addition, often the reason you dislike your job, has less to do with what you are actually doing and more to do with how the organization is run. I knew my new job was going to be better in this respect, there was no need to be concerned.

6. That I would miss my old job.

I was doing a lot of stuff I considered worthwhile. At my new job, I would not be doing as much that I would consider “worthwhile.” At least that’s what I thought. I also loved the people I worked with. On the other hand I didn’t love the hours and expectations. As you saw in 1., if you are actually friends with these people, then you are not going to lose them through the transition. As far as what I was doing being worthwhile, I have realized that getting paid to do what I thought was good for the world, actually took the fun out of it for me. Now I am able to continue doing things that are meaningful on a volunteer basis, and enjoy it even more than I did when I was getting paid for it. Since I have transitioned, I can say with confidence, that these things are true. I didn’t lose my friends, I am still doing great things and I have a better schedule and more reasonable expectations.

7. That I would have to start over.

As I said earlier, I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my job. I started as someone my employer questioned and proved myself to be someone my employer could trust. I knew if I switched careers, and especially since I was going into a new industry, I was going to have to do this all over again. Careershifters, actually has a great article on this topic. This would have been a good read, when I had this fear. While this may be true to an extent, that I would have to start over, the reality is, I already have experience proving myself. I know what it takes and what I have to do. This shouldn’t be a fear as much as an exciting challenge. I should have been asking myself the question, how fast can I prove myself this time around? If you are really ready to make a change, then this fear is not insurmountable.

8. That people would think I was crazy.

I was going into a completely new industry. That is crazy! My degrees, training and experience shaped me to be doing what I was doing. But I was moving into a totally different realm. Well, I guess I’m really the one who thinks I’m crazy. Really, probably everybody else doesn’t actually care all that much. Even if they do think about it, they will probably just think your brave, but not necessarily crazy. People often switch careers and do something totally different than they expected. We just need to understand that this is actually pretty normal.

9. That people would resent me.

This is partly related to the people I worked with, but it was also related to the people who worked for me (on a volunteer basis). I put a ton of work into what I was doing for a couple years, but now I am switching careers. I was afraid people might wonder if I actually ever cared, or if I was just doing it because it was a job. Again, people really aren’t going to be thinking about you that much when you switch careers. In fact, people are usually happy for people they know when they get to start doing something different, something they will presumably enjoy more. I cared deeply about what I was doing, but because I knew that someone else would come, pick up where I left off and probably make the systems and programs even better, I could leave without a guilty conscience.

10. I was leaving too soon.

This is one I am still struggling with, even after the transition. Because of all the effort I put into this career, I want to make sure it is passed to the next person well. I want to make sure that the systems and teams I built last and have good leadership. But now I have quit and there is still no one to take my spot. The team is without a leader and the systems are suffering. I am volunteering as much time as I can, but I can only do so much. On the other hand, if I had not left when I had, would my employer have ever felt the urgency of finding someone to replace me? I think the answer is probably no. This is just one of those things that has to happen, and any employer should be ready to make a new hire, if someone decides to leave. I can take some comfort in knowing that the winter months are a slower time of the year, so at least I didn’t leave in the summer. Even if there are some rough times, there will eventually be someone to take my spot and things WILL continue as normal.


Originally published at on March 12, 2015.

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