Biggest Barriers To Successful Career Changes

career change obstaclesThe economy is showing signs of life. And that means millions of people who have been stuck in jobs they hate will start looking for work. A 2011 survey indicated that 84 percent of Americans planned to look for a new job when the economy improved. And yet, the reality is that only a small percentage of them will be successful in changing careers. Here's why.

1. Social Media
For all the talk about how social media can help you network your way to a new job, the real truth is: It can also hold you back from one. About 3 out of 4 hiring managers admit to doing a search on a candidate before interviewing them. Of those who do, more than 50 percent say that they opted not to have the person in for an interview based on what they found. Like it or not, hiring IS discrimination. Thanks to social media, the discrimination now happens even earlier in the recruitment process.

2. Specialists-Only Mentality
Companies no longer feel that they have the time or money to invest in developing employees' skill sets. Moreover, with the unemployment rate still over 8 percent, they still see it as a 'buyers' market' for talent. Therefore, they only look for "specialists" who can hit the ground running on Day One of the job. If you aren't a "bilingual widget producer, with the ability to work with 72 types of proprietary widget software packages," you're considered a generalist and not eligible for hire.

More: Navigating A Career Crossroads


3. You're Either Over- Or Undereducated
With all the discussions around whether a college degree is worth the paper it's printed on, here's what we know for sure: Degrees are still used as a way to determine eligibility. Don't have one, and you can't apply. Have too many, and you won't be considered. Today, degrees are considered easy enough to acquire, making it the new high school diploma. At the same time, amassing degrees doesn't hold the respect it did because too many people have multiple degrees. In short, where a degree used to be a differentiator, now it's an eliminator.

4. You're Choice Challenged
Fifty years ago, your career options were usually pretty limited. But fast-forward to today and the career choices are endless. It's like going to an ice cream parlor that has 52 flavors. The line is out the door, but not because it's good ice cream, it just takes forever to pick a flavor! The same thing applies to careers. While you are debating whether to stay in the same career or jump into a new one, time passes. You become overwhelmed by the pros and cons of each career path. You can't help but contemplate what will happen if you pick one over another. And before you know it, it seems like too much effort to course-correct your career. At the end of the day, after all those ice cream choices, you stick with vanilla.


Even though changing careers today is harder because of the reasons above, it's not impossible. Ask any successful career changer and they'll tell you that once they got committed to the change, the rest fell into place. While there is no "career fairy" ready to make your career change dreams come true, there is the opportunity to use your focus and effort to make a career change happen. Especially, when you know millions of others won't bother!


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Filed under: Career Change
J.T. O'Donnell

J.T. O'Donnell

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J.T. O'Donnell is a career and workplace expert who founded the top-ranked career advice site, CAREEREALISM.com. In 2009, she launched CareerHMO, the first on-line career care membership site which specializes in curing chronic career pain.

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Suz Conlon

Choice-challenged.. I like your way of describing that! That very accurately reflects how I feel and why I've felt pigeon-holed in my search for the past decade. Any advice on how to break free of the tunnel vision?

March 19 2014 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brad McCarty

Ms. O'Donell, I have recently begun following your career articles and am finding them to be the most up to date and honest. This is another one. I like how your article explains why career searching takes so much time. We circularly cruise through social media, read over-specialized job descriptions, see that our education and skills are either under or over the requirements, then stare again into the sea of possibilities. Each day ends with the question "where will it end"?

December 14 2013 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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