3 Worst Mistakes To Make When Changing Careers

Test your ideas by talking to people and get out of your head

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You're miserable in your job, you were fed up with your previous job and you're slowly coming to the conclusion that the industry you chose for yourself as an undergraduate isn't working out the way you'd hoped.

You've decided it's time to make a career change.

Many people grapple with how to make a successful career change and make a few common, avoidable mistakes. If you're considering a career change, here are three errors you should watch out for:

1. Keeping your struggles in your head

This is the most common mistake I see as a career coach. It's made so often I've coined a name for it: early dismissal.

Here's how early dismissal works. You come up with an appealing career idea, like being an architect. You initially feel optimistic and hopeful about your future life designing buildings. You happily imagine all the wonderful aspects of the job.

And then, just as quickly, doubts begin to creep in. You start to wonder if you're cut out for all that schooling. You recall that your uncle, who worked as an architect, often complained about his job. And you never were great at drawing. With a sigh, you mentally cross off the possibility of going down this career path.

The following week you run through the whole process again with a new profession.

The symptoms of early dismissal are frustration and confusion about your career direction. There's also a distinct lack of any action in the real world. Everything occurs in your head.

The solution to early dismissal is to get out of your head, talk to people and test out your ideas in the real world. (Click to Tweet!) Give yourself the opportunity to get as clear as possible about what your day-to-day life would be like in the profession you're considering.

By doing this, you'll get a more accurate understanding of whether or not you're on the right track. Plus, by connecting with people in your desired field, you'll naturally set yourself up for being able to network into a job.

2. Confusing short- and long-term goals

What do you do when you want to leave your job right away and make a bigger career change?

People frequently get confused in this situation. They know they want to make a big career change, but they also know they can't immediately make the jump to a new field. After all, making a career change can take some time. You might need to go back to school, work at an entry-level position to gain experience or learn the ropes of running your dream business.

When you're faced with a lengthy timeframe for making a change, you might wonder if you should ditch your bigger dream entirely since it won't happen right away.


It means you should approach leaving your job and building your new career path as two separate tasks. First, handle the short-term goal of finding a new job you're qualified for. Then tackle the long-term goal of building toward your career change.

3. Trapping yourself with a negative outlook

Nobody's positive all the time, but if you find yourself getting Eeyore-ish about your future prospects, it's time to take note. Your negative thoughts influence your actions. If you're constantly thinking, "No one will ever hire me," you might not bother to apply for jobs.

There are two main warning signs that your thoughts are impeding your progress. One, you feel discouraged, stuck or hopeless. Two, you aren't taking action toward your goals.

Step back and notice what you're thinking. Write down these thoughts and look at how they're impacting the way you're feeling and acting. Doing this will decrease your attachment to unhelpful thought patterns.

Next, try to find a perspective that feels more empowering and motivating. You can change your mindset from "I'm not experienced enough for this job" to "I am capable of learning how to do this job." Choose a thought that feels better and that you actually believe, and look for evidence of why this new thought is true.

It's possible to make a career change, but it does take a willingness to try new things, patience and a positive outlook. This may sound like a tall order, but remember that the reward of a new, better-fitting career will be worth it.

Have you gone through a career change? What helped you through it? Leave a comment below!

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I was a Social Worker, Career Counselor, and Admissions Coordinator, all careers that resulted in my having a Master's Degree in Counseling. I liked counseling, but I wasn't working with the populations I really wanted to work with so. So I decided to try teaching instead. I did very well in the course work, but didn't survive student teaching.
I very briefly went back to Social Work, but I didn't stay in it. I began to write. I had actually been writing since childhood. And I had a great passion for it. So I continued to write and supplement my income with part-time jobs. I had to keep the part-time jobs because i had a daughter to support. My then husband mostly supported us, but we needed extra income to give our daughter a middle class life.
The writing continued throughout the years. Some years I made a good living and some years I didn't make much.
I still write to this day, but I no longer made what I once did. But with my daughter grown up and with a family of her own, I don'trequire as much income as I once did. I downsized. I sold the family home, I am divorced, and live with my boyfriend in his home. So with fewer bills, I can make it, but barely. I go on nice trips with my boyfriend once a year and I buy fewer new clothes than I once did. Sadly, my mother passed away so I no longer need to communte back to my home state to visit her.
So writing continues to be part of my world.

September 26 2013 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Never let ANYONE undermine your self confidence. Also, always keep on top of your current career until you have a new opportunity locked in. Once it is locked in, do not burn any bridges and do not discuss your career change with your current co-workers or you may end up leaving sooner than you want to.

September 26 2013 at 5:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment

Great advice Bill! Thank you!!!

September 26 2013 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angela J Shirley

I enjoyed reading your article!

With the "worldwide" recession still with us - we are sometimes forced into making a career change. The secret to surviving these days is being "flexible" and being willing to learn new skills.

I have been able to survive in spite of being 55 and laid off since 2008. What helped me was Nicholas Lore's book "The Pathfinder" - maybe you could feature him on your site. He also runs the Rockport Institute which has an AWESOME "Career Change" program.

September 25 2013 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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