Changing careers can be intimidating. There are lots of excuses we tell ourselves. Reasons we tell ourselves that inaction would be better than action. Of course, an underlying theme is structural change to many career fields driven by a wave of technological advancements referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here five key culprits of our career change doubts.
Investment in Current Skills
You’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into developing the skills to succeed in your current career. Some are quite specialized skills that don’t seem readily transferable. It’s easy to feel like you’re stuck now. This will be your career going forward, otherwise it has all been a waste of time.
However, starting a new career journey doesn’t invalidate your previous investments in professional skills. On the contrary, it provides you with a diversity of experience, which is valuable. At times it seems that the world celebrates professional “thoroughbreds,” who have a wealth of experience doing just one thing.
However, history has taught us that adaptability is more valuable during times of change, than hyper-specialization. Having skills in two or more fields makes you adaptable. You’ll survive and thrive as the old systems evolve.
Value of Stability
It is understandable to value stability. Human history has been littered with wars and famine. We’ve been taught that stability is good. That’s often true. A desire for stability can work against you though.
If you're in a career field in decline (due to externalities, like automation) or you’re simply unhappy in your current career, a desire for stability can prevent you from making a change for the better. Seeking stability during times of change can be a trap professionally. Take the initiative to intentionally drive your change, rather than waiting for change to happen to you.
Admit Things Aren’t Going Well
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Maybe things will get better,” as they dread going to work each day or their colleagues get laid off due to automation? It doesn’t usually get better. To make a change—which better fits your personal and professional needs—you first need to admit things aren’t going well.
You might feel like that is admitting failure. In reality, it shows your awareness and foresight. The people who make a change in the face of career turmoil are viewed as impressive in hindsight. That change starts with people admitting to themselves, “This career, which I’ve worked so hard to build, isn’t working out.” It can be tough to admit, but it can also be liberating.
Wage or Title Reduction
It’s reasonable to expect a wage and/or title reduction, when pivoting career fields. After all, you’re not going to be as skilled at your new career (immediately) as your old career. Fear of the reduction can lead professionals to cling to careers that are in decline and/or make them unhappy.
There’s a logic to taking a step backward to move into a higher growth, more fulfilling career. Of course, it’s easy to give someone else that advance. In reality, we all have bills to pay and financial commitments. This one takes some planning. It’s advisable to make a personal assessment of what you can survive on in the near-term and how to advance in a new career field.
Remove ego from the scenario. That initial reduction can be totally worth it to move into a growing career field that makes you happy. For industries in decline, simply working to avoid getting laid off isn’t enjoyable. By definition declining industries have fewer opportunities to advance. People who eventually get laid off will generally wish they’d make an earlier change of their own volition.
No one enjoys rejection. So rejection avoidance is understandable, when considering a career change. You’ll go from excelling at one career to being a novice at another. To be honest, the change is going to come with rejection. Some recruiters and hiring managers may say that they’re looking for someone with more relevant experience. They may say you seem too expensive. They may not give any explanation at all.
The rejection involved with changing careers can be humbling, but that’s okay. You’ll survive and get your foot in the door somewhere. Once you’ve done that you have the opportunity to advance and excel based on your performance.
The best way to avoid rejection isn’t inaction. It is to stay hunger, keep learning, and leap at opportunities that others may overlook. Have faith in yourself and remember that others have been here. This professional challenge is an opportunity to prove yourself. A few years from now, people will talk about how impressive your career pivot was and how they wish they had the courage to make a career change. Stay hungry.
You’ll notice we didn’t specifically talk about cybersecurity careers. In the face of diminishing opportunities and joy from your current career, the most important thing is to be willing to make a change. Obviously, this newsletter focuses on cybersecurity careers, but there are a lot of opportunities to pursue your career ambitions and fulfillment.
Do you know someone pondering a career change? Please share this post with them.