Overcome Your Fear of Career Change
Unleashing the Power Within

Are you afraid to change careers or change jobs within your field?  If so, you are not alone!  Just about everyone who embarks on career change experiences fear and anxiety at some point during the process.

Any big change we face in life will bring a whole host of fears to the surface.  And, fear can be a good thing.  Really!  It means you’re moving towards something big.  It means you’re on the cusp of exciting new changes in your life.  This module shows you how to effectively manage fear, so it doesn’t control you and your decisions. 

Every client I’ve helped make a career change had at least one significant fear to grapple with throughout the process.  Common fears amongst those in career transition include:

  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Scarcity


For example, let’s look at Samantha’s story.  Samantha is a management consultant in Northern Virginia.  She was fearful of not finding a job that paid as much as her current position.  This fear was preventing her from even taking baby steps with her job search.  When we identified the fear – fear of scarcity – she was able to see it wasn’t based in any fact. 

She had actually been offered other jobs in the past year at a rate higher than her current salary.  Also, in that coaching session, she came to understand even if she receives a job offer in her new field that doesn’t meet her salary requirements, she is free to turn it down and keep looking.  These realizations allowed her to overcome the procrastination her fear was creating.

As you can see, successfully managing your career transition requires effective fear management.  At some point during your career transition, you’re going to have to give yourself a psychological wake up call to deconstruct and dismantle your fears.  This involves naming your fears for what they are and shining a light on them to force them out of the shadows. 

In the coaching profession, we have a name for these “fear monsters.”  We call them gremlins.  This term comes from the book Taming Your Gremlin by Richard David Carson. 

Gremlins are the self-sabotaging voices of our inner critic.  These voices tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, fast enough, etc.  This negative self-talk, if not proactively managed, leads us to throw our hands up in utter frustration and brings any progress we’ve made to a complete standstill. 

Attempting a career transition is ripe with opportunity for the gremlin to rear its ugly head because it presents challenges to one’s ego and self-esteem at every turn.  The key is to take it just one baby step at a time.  The very first step is to simply explore.  Exploring your career options doesn’t risk anything.  It also doesn’t cost anything or hurt anyone.  And you never know, it may just lead you to the job of your dreams.

To help you overcome your fear of job change, I lay out five specific strategies in this module.  These strategies are:

  • Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It
  • Fill In the Blanks
  • Don’t Worry About Disappointing Others
  • Derail the Worry Train
  • See the Consequences of Not Changing


I address the issue of fear early on in this program because in order to make a successful career change, you have to effectively manage your fears.  If you don’t get you’re fears under control, they will eventually completely stall your progress.  So let’s review each of the five strategies to help you overcome your fear of career change.  

Strategy One:  Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It

I have heard too many smart and savvy professionals talk themselves out of making a career change that would be good for them.  Their inner dialogue of negative self-talk is so strong it prevents them from making positive changes.  They drown themselves in the “what ifs” and the “yeah, buts.” 

See if any of the following language sounds familiar to you:

The “What Ifs”

  • What if the new job turns out to be worse than my current position?
  • What if I don’t make as much money in my new job?
  • What if my partner doesn’t support me in making a career change?
  • What if I don’t click with my new manager?
  • What if my parents don’t like it?
  • What if my friends aren’t impressed with my new career choice?


The “Yeah, Buts”

  • I could look into changing careers, but I don’t know where to start.
  • I could transition into an exciting career, but I have no idea what I want to do.
  • I could apply for that interesting job, but I’ll probably be rejected.
  • I could get started with just one simple action step, but I feel so overwhelmed I can’t bring myself to begin.
  • I could change jobs, but I’d lose my seniority and be forced to start from zero building up my reputation.


Do any of these sound familiar?  Have you felt overwhelmed by the “what ifs” and the “yeah, buts?” 


The following is an example of how the fear gremlins are very skilled at using the “what ifs” and the “yeah, buts” to talk you out of creating career change:

Picture a smart, successful professional languishing in bed on a Monday morning.  Their inner dialogue goes like this:

“Ugh!  I don’t want to get out of bed.  I can’t stand my job.  I don’t enjoy the work anymore.  I don’t even like the people any more.  I feel totally stuck.  I wish I had a job that inspired me and made me feel good about myself…

I could look into changing careers but I’m just not sure where to begin.  I could start with doing some internet research.  Or, I could get that book someone recommended.  What is the title again?  Maybe I should sign up for a class.  But I don’t know what direction I really want to go in.  Oh, forget it!

Besides, I’ve got a ton of things to do today and not enough time to do them.  Ahhh!  Ok, here we go – time for another frustrating and mundane work week.”

Does this negative inner dialogue feel familiar?  I hear similar lines of thinking from my clients all the time.  As you can see, you have some pretty big reasons to explore your career options.  Not the least of which are your mental and personal health! 

Don’t let your fears and the “yeah buts” and “what ifs” have all the power.  If you dislike your job, you are certainly not alone.  It doesn’t make you a bad person and you do not have to suffer in silence.  You can take proactive action today to move towards your goals.  Let’s move on to strategy number two:  Fill In the Blanks. 


Strategy Two:  Fill In the Blanks

The next step in overcoming your fear of career change is “filling in the blanks.” 

Chances are you have a lot of questions about the new career options you’re considering.  There are probably a lot of aspects that seem like a mystery to you.  Most likely you feel as though there are a lot of blanks that need to be filled in. 

Unfortunately, a lot of people let this lack of information completely stop them.  They are aware they have questions and concerns, but they haven’t taken the time to identify and write down the specific things they want to know.  Sometimes, they aren’t even sure how to articulate what they want to know.

I help professionals in this situation get clear on what blanks need to be filled in so they can move forward.  I help them brainstorm the specific set of questions they need answered. 

For example, you may want to know information such as:

  • What do people in this line of work do on a day to day basis?
  • What is an “average” day like? What is a “non-average” day like?
  • What types of jobs in this profession are currently in demand?
  • What additional training would I need to transition into this career?
  • What is the salary range for this profession?

Years ago, when I was considering becoming a coach, I had many similar questions.  The field sounded fabulous to me and I felt very drawn to it.  But, I didn’t have enough information to decide if it was what I wanted to do or if I would be any good at it.

So, I made a list of all the things I needed to know.  For example:

  • What are the good coach training organizations?
  • What does it take to be an excellent coach and truly help people achieve their biggest goals and highest aspirations?
  • What does a typical “day in the life” of a coach look like?
  • How do coaches stay on top of the latest advancements and technologies in the field?
  • What are the best ways to maintain a healthy work/life balance while running a successful and impactful coaching business?

Now that I had this list of written questions I knew what I wanted to know.  The next step was to figure out how I was going to get these questions answered.  I made a list of all the coaches I knew and then started reaching out to them. 

I conducted about a dozen informational interviews.  Each coach gave me their unique perspective.  Additionally, each coach provided valuable information about aspects of the field I didn’t even know to ask about.  They also gave me recommendations for additional resources to look into and more people to connect with. 

And, most importantly, each person was more than happy to talk with me.  This is so important for you to realize.  Most people are very generous with their time and will gladly talk with you and answer your questions.  You do not need to feel hesitant to ask because most people are very willing to help.

Of course, informational interview aren’t the only way to get your questions answered.  Here are some other resources to explore:

  • Professional Associations
  • Trade Journals
  • Books and Websites on the Industry
  • Universities and Training Organizations

Filling in the blanks is a powerful step that will help you overcome your fear of career change.  Once you get your questions answered, you’ll be empowered to know whether it is the right career for you.  Or, at least you will have enough information to move on to the next step. 

So for now, your immediate next baby step is to schedule an appointment with yourself to identify the questions you need answered about the career options you’re considering.

To learn how to conduct informational interviews, see Program II Land Your Ultimate Job, module eight “Strategic Power Networking.”  This module reviews everything you need to know regarding informational interviewing, including sample questions to ask and instructions for politely and effectively following up with your new contacts. 

Your immediate next baby step is to complete the following power activity and identify the questions you need answered about the career options you’re considering.

Power Activity:  Career Exploration Questions

When considering a new career area, identify the questions you need answered about the field in general and the industry overall.  What blanks do you need filled in so you can decide whether or not this a viable career option for you? 

Brainstorm the specific set of questions you need answered.  For example, consider the following:  day-to-day duties, required training, salary potential, job opportunities, the future of this field, etc. 

1.)  _____________________________________________________

2.)  _____________________________________________________

3.)  _____________________________________________________

4.)  _____________________________________________________

5.)  _____________________________________________________

6.)  _____________________________________________________

7.)  _____________________________________________________

8.)  _____________________________________________________

9.)  _____________________________________________________

10.)  _____________________________________________________

Strategy Three:  Get Over Your Fear of Disappointing Others

The fear of disappointing others can be very powerful.  In fact, many people let it completely paralyze them.  For those in career transition, this common fear tends to manifest itself in one of two ways:

  • Fear of Disappointing Your Current Manager
  • Fear of Disappointing a Potential Future Manager


Let’s tackle both of these fears right now.


Fear of Disappointing Your Current Manager

A lot of individuals are concerned about letting their current boss down.  Even though they may be unhappy in their job, they still don’t want to hurt their manager’s feelings by moving on.  Feeling this way is of course completely human, especially if you have a particularly close relationship with your supervisor. 

For many employees, the workplace provides a surrogate family structure.  For some of us, managers can take on an almost parental role.  So, as a natural consequence, some workers feel reluctant to leave their jobs because they don’t want to disrupt this family dynamic.  

However, you do need to put yourself and your needs first.  You wouldn’t expect other people to base their major career decisions on how you feel, would you?  You work at the pleasure of your employer.  You could be let go at any time for any reason.  Do you want to choose a lifetime of career dissatisfaction because you want to avoid potentially hurting someone else’s feelings? 

It is natural to feel you don’t want to let your manager down.  However, you are not responsible for her feelings.  Also, there are ways to break the news to her gently and make the transition as easy as possible on her.  What’s more, I’ve noticed a lot of times when my clients give their two weeks notice, something very interesting happens.  Often times the boss reveals she is also planning her exit strategy!  The same thing often happens with her colleagues, who start confidentially sharing with her they are looking for a new job too.

In addition to the fear of letting a manager down, many professionals are also reluctant to leave a job because they don’t want to feel as though they’re letting their colleagues down.  Many workers become very close with their co-workers and view them as part of their extended family. 

Sometimes these feelings of closeness cause people to make career decisions based on how they think they’ll be perceived by their colleagues.  They subconsciously hold themselves back in their career because they don’t want to betray their workplace family.  An extreme example of this is when one of my clients told me she didn’t want to receive a salary increase because she didn’t want to make her co-workers feel bad by making more money than them.

As you consider leaving your present position, a lot of emotionally charged questions may be swirling around your head, such as: 

  • Will my relationship with my boss end if I change jobs?
  • Will I completely lose touch with my co-workers?
  • Am I going to make new friends at my new office?
  • Will I receive the social support I need at my new job?

Of course, you can still maintain the relationships you have with your current colleagues after you move on.  In fact, in many cases these friendships will be enriched and deepened after you no longer work together.  You’ll find you can discuss things you couldn’t when you were direct co-workers.

With a little bit of effort, you won’t lose these important relationships.  And actually, you’ll gain an extended professional network of friends and associates to support you as you move forward in your career.

Some specific strategies you can use to maintain relationships with former managers and co-workers are:

  • Send periodic emails to your professional network with warm greetings and updates on your career and personal life.
  • Arrange a monthly happy hour to reunite friends, deepen relationships and assist your colleagues in making connections that will support them in their career goals.
  • Use the online professional networking platform LinkedIn to stay in touch. For an example of how to set up a successful LinkedIn presence, see my profile at com/in/Skylar-Saint.  Feel free to send me a request to be added to your network.  I’d love to be connected with you and have you in my online network. 
  • If you’d like personalized guidance and coaching on how to create an impactful LinkedIn profile and how to effectively promote it amongst your professional network, I can provide you with step-by-step consultation and direction. Click here for information on my private coaching services.


Power Activity:  Self-Assessment

I’ve laid out some of the reasons you may be feeling reluctant to move on from your current job.  This probably helped you discover resistance you didn’t even know you had. 

If you find you are feeling conflicted about leaving your current job, identify the things that are bothering you. 

Here are the specific fears we’ve discussed: 

  • Fear of Losing Touch with the Boss
  • Fear of Losing Touch with Co-Workers
  • Fear of Disappointing the Boss
  • Fear of Hurting Co-Workers’ Feelings
  • Fear of Not Making Friends at the New Workplace
  • Fear of Not Receiving Adequate Social Support at the New Office


Now, take a few moments for some self-introspection.  Ask yourself:  What’s making me uncomfortable with the notion of moving on?  What’s causing me to feel fear or anxiety about changing jobs?

1.)  _____________________________________________________

2.)  _____________________________________________________

3.)  _____________________________________________________

What will I miss most about my current job?

1.)  _____________________________________________________

2.)  _____________________________________________________

3.)  _____________________________________________________

Now that you’ve completed that self-inquiry, what do you make of your results?  Are these surmountable challenges? 

Chances are, now that you’ve actually identified your fears, you realize they can be easily remedied.  Now that the challenges are clearly defined, you can take proactive steps to address each one and free yourself up for the true career fulfillment you deserve.


Fear of Disappointing a Potential Future Manager

Many people are reluctant to apply for a new position or attend a job interview if they’re not 100 percent sure they want the position.  They don’t want to risk disappointing anyone along the way. 

But how can you know if you really want the job without going on the interview, meeting the team and fully assessing the opportunity?  Of course, you cannot.

Many people feel panicked at the prospect of turning down a job.  They don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I am here to tell you:  It is ok to turn down an offer.  You are not beholden to accept a position by virtue of the fact that you interviewed for it.  

If you turn down an offer, the hiring manager will understand it was simply a business decision on your part and not a personal insult.  In fact, the hiring decision maker doesn’t want you to accept the job if it’s not right for you. 

It is a big risk for a manager to take on a new employee and it’s certainly in their best interest for it to be a good match for all parties involved.  The last thing they want is for you to accept a job you have misgivings about, only to leave a few short months later.

It reminds me of an Oprah show in which a recently divorced woman revealed that on her wedding day, while walking down the aisle, she said to herself:  “Well, I guess it’s too late now.” (The Oprah Winfrey Show, “How Happy Are You?”)  She didn’t want to hurt her future husband’s feelings by turning down his marriage proposal.  She stayed in that unhappy marriage for over thirty-seven years!  Her entire life would have been different if she hadn’t based such an important decision on the fear of disappointing others.  

Please don’t fall into this trap.  Stay true to yourself – as a result your career will be that much more satisfying.  Have the courage to make your long-term personal happiness a priority!


Strategy Four:  Derail the Worry Train

Most of us are familiar with the “worry train.”  You are stuck on this train of thought when your mind is racing uncontrollably with fears and anxieties.  These worries create an endless chatter of negative self-talk that can seem impossible to tame.

To slow your worry train down and get you on the right track, ask yourself the following powerful questions:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • What’s the worst that can happen?

When you name your fears and see them for what they truly are – merely roadblocks you can circumnavigate – they lose power over you.  A lot of times when we name our fears out loud they seem silly and the strangle hold they once had on us evaporates in an instant.  It literally zaps all the energy right out of that fear monster.

Please take some time to get real with yourself and identify your fears.  You’ll find once you define your fears, you’ll be able to create proactive solutions to reduce anxiety and move forward with finding the right career for you.

For example one of my clients, Linda a communications director in Phoenix, was invited to sit on the board of directors of a charitable organization.  It was an excellent networking and professional development opportunity as well as a rewarding way for her to give back to her community.  However, her self-sabotaging voices said things like: 

“Don’t sit on that board. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Everyone else on that board is so much more knowledgeable than you.  The chairperson of the board is five years older than you and she wears glasses.  She looks very serious.  You couldn’t possibly be as competent as she is.”

Of course, Linda knew the eye glasses comment was ridiculous but her gremlins had convinced her it was true!  And when she heard herself say it out loud, she saw clearly how unfounded these fears really were.  Linda realized she did indeed have a lot to offer the organization and agreed to join the board after all.

Remember, fear gremlins are about the “not enough’s.”   They tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, fast enough, etc.  As a result, our inner critic sweeps us into a “downward fear spiral” – which is indeed a very unproductive place to go. 

For example, one of my friends was considering applying for a new job when her own personal “worry train” starting whirring down its detrimental track.  She was reluctant to apply because she was convinced her application would not be favorably received.  As she explained her anxieties to her husband, he had the best reply.  He said, “I know you haven’t even applied for this position yet, but why don’t you call the company and let them know it’s just not going to work out.” 

He was making a spoof on that hilarious movie from the 90’s called “Swingers.”  If you’ve seen the movie, you may remember the scene in which one of the main characters calls a woman he met the night before to ask her out.  He leaves her a series of voice mails expressing his interest in seeing her again.  But with each successive message, his fears grow in intensity until a full-on “fear spiral” takes hold.  By the end of a chain of increasingly neurotic voice mails, he hangs up after stating:  “You know what.  I’m sorry.  It’s just not going to work out.” (Swingers, Jon Favreau) 

For someone contemplating career change, it can be easy to let the gremlins lead you down your own “fear spiral.”  For example, here’s a common inner-dialogue I’ve heard:

“I’d really like to apply for that interesting job.  However, when I think about writing the cover letter I convince myself I’m not fully qualified.  What experience do I have that they would be interested in?  Why would they even call me for an interview?  And, if I did go on the interview, I’d probably just make a fool of myself anyway.  Oh, forget it!

The problem here is, some of us tend to put the cart before the horse and play out the entire scene in their head.  Just like my friend in the above example, they write the entire script before the story even begins – being sure to construct an unhappy ending. 

I implore you not to engage in the fruitless exercise of trying to predict the future.  The truth of the matter is you don’t know how things will turn out.  Maybe things will work out just as you’d like.  On the other hand, perhaps they won’t.  Either way, you owe it to yourself to at least try. 

To ensure your gremlins don’t take you down your own personal “worry train,” I offer you the following brief exercise. 


Power Activity:  Identify Your Career Change Fears

I invite you to get very clear on your career change fears.  Right now, take thirty seconds to brainstorm your fears.  Be completely honest and don’t hold anything back.  This is for your eyes only – so there is no need to censor yourself. 


Career Change Fear One:








Career Change Fear Two:








Career Change Fear Three:








Good job!  Bravo for getting those fears out of your head and down on paper.  Now, take an additional 30 seconds (really, that’s all it takes) to brainstorm a counter argument for each of the above gremlins.  For example, in the “eye glasses” story I shared earlier, Linda came to realize she did indeed have a lot of knowledge and expertise to offer by sitting on the board of directors. 

For each of the fears you just identified, craft your counter argument by asking yourself:  What’s the worst that can happen?


Counter Argument to Fear One:






Counter Argument to Fear Two:






Counter Argument to Fear Three:





Strategy Five:  See the Consequences of Not Changing

Remember that old Dunkin Donuts television commercial?  I’m referring to the one with the weary donut-maker who begrudgingly gets up at the crack of dawn each morning to go to work.  As he reluctantly shuffles down the hall to get ready, he wearily mumbles:  “Time to make the donuts…” 

Do you ever feel this way on a workday morning?  Many professionals feel exactly like this as they make their way to a job they hate.  One client even described it as feeling like “doing time in prison.”

Even though the pain of their current career situation is so intense, many do not take action to make their lives better.  Even though things are achingly bad, they opt to drone on in the same negative situation.  It is important to note that doing nothing is still a proactive decision.  By doing nothing, you are actively keeping yourself in a negative situation.

There are myriad reasons why people stay in less than desirable careers.  I’ve outlined some of these reasons above.  And, indeed, sometimes it is better to stay where you’re from a practical standpoint.  However, many times it is not.  To help you know the difference, consider the following powerful question:

When I say “No” to job change, what am I saying “Yes” to?

There are always tradeoffs in life, right?  When you choose to stay in a career that is not right for you, you’re actively choosing the negative consequences that go along with that decision.  For example, you may be saying “Yes” to:

  • Boredom and frustration.
  • Feeling bad about yourself because your talents are not being utilized.
  • An uninspiring professional life.
  • A mediocre daily existence.
  • A general feeling of pessimism.


Change can feel scary, but you must also see with sober eyes the pain of not changing.  There are costs of not changing, and many times, those costs are quite steep.

Some follow-up questions to consider are:

  • What are the risks of staying in my current job?
  • If I do nothing with my career and stay here, what will happen?
  • If I do nothing with my career and stay here, what won’t happen?
  • What will my life be like in a decade if my career situation doesn’t improve?


Power Activity:  See the Consequences of Not Changing

Use the space below to explore these powerful questions:

When I say “No” to job change, what am I saying “Yes” to?




What are the risks of staying in my current job? 




If I do nothing with my career and stay here, what will happen?




If I do nothing with my career and stay here, what won’t happen? 




What will my life be like in a decade if my career situation doesn’t improve?





Final Thoughts on Fear 

Indeed, your fears can help you identify the valid concerns you have about making a change.  As I discussed at the beginning of this career success guide, whenever you create change in your life, big or small, you will have concerns that need to be addressed.  This is a completely natural part of the process. 

The key is to understand your concerns and distinguish the legitimate reservations from the unfounded anxieties.  Appreciating the consequences and pitfalls of not changing will help you plan your future from an empowered position rather than from a place of fear.   

Use these five specific strategies to help you overcome your fear of career change.  This process has broad applicability and can be used to help you achieve other big goals in your life as well.

Again, the five strategies are:

  • Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It
  • Fill In the Blanks
  • Don’t Worry About Disappointing Others
  • Derail the Worry Train
  • See the Consequences of Not Changing


Here are the highlights from each strategy:

Strategy One:  Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It

  • Make your career and personal fulfillment a priority.
  • Don’t let the “what ifs” and the “yeah, buts” prevent you from taking proactive action towards your goals.


Strategy Two:  Fill In the Blanks

  • Make a list of all the things you’d like to know about the new career you’re interested in.
  • Conduct research to get these questions answered.


Strategy Three:  Don’t Worry About Disappointing Others

  • Make your long-term personal happiness a priority
    • Ask yourself
      • What makes you feel uncomfortable about changing jobs?
      • What will you miss most about your current job?


Strategy Four:  Derail the Worry Train 

  • Identify your top three career change fears
    • Ask yourself: What am I afraid of?  
  • Create counter arguments for each of these fears
    • Ask yourself: What’s the worst that can happen?


Strategy Five:  See the Consequences of Not Changing

  • Ask yourself
    • When I say “No” to job change, what am I saying “Yes” to?


Please remember, it is absolutely natural to feel fear.  You are not alone in being afraid.  All professionals feel fear at certain times throughout their career.  Give yourself permission to feel these feelings.  However don’t let the fears stop you from being your best self and meeting your full potential.

Consider this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt As I Knew Her, Mollie Somerville)

Don’t relegate yourself to a lifetime of career misery simply because you’re afraid of taking the next step.  Implement the strategies outlined in this guide and change your life for the better! 

If you need help sorting through your career change fears, feel free to schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me.  I will help you identify the fears that are holding you back and create a plan to overcome them so they won’t prevent you from achieving your goals.

Often times, our fears can seem muddled in our mind and it’s helpful to talk it through with someone who can guide you out of the confusion and into focused clarity. 

Click here to schedule your personal coaching session.

Now, let’s move on to your Career Success Guide to Your Overwhelm-Free Career Transition

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