Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. Then — Make that Career Change

If you're thinking about making a career leap, and feeling terrified at the same time, check out these nuggets of wisdom now.

I once had a plum job as a magazine editor. Big company, great benefits, reasonable stability for an unstable industry.

And I hated it. Really, loathed it. I hid behind the dumpster in the parking lot and cried at least once a month. Yet, I agonized for a full year before I finally quit. Why? I was scared, of course. Maybe there was nothing better out there for me. Maybe I had nothing better to give. I feared all the outcomes that you've likely feared, too, when you think about leaving something secure.

All these years later, I'm proud I left that job. It was an act of courage, and my fears played a big part in it. They weren't dragging weights; they actually helped propel me into a more meaningful and lucrative career.

If you're thinking about making a career leap, and feeling terrified at the same time, check out these nuggets of wisdom now. You'll see that, in fact, the fear is a huge advantage and that the leap may be easier than you think.

Think of fear as a GPS

Marie Forleo, she of the excellent career advice and luxurious tresses, doesn't see fear as a bogeyman at all. Rather she frames it as a navigation tool. If you want to do something that pushes you, first get clear on what scares you most — and then run right at it.

For real. "Fear is instructive and directive for where our souls want us to go," she says. Often, your soul wants to go toward something that's going to "make you grow as a human," i.e., something requiring big change, big effort, big commitment. Maybe the something is a position of power in your company; maybe it's leaving your industry altogether, or going whole hog on a side business. They are hard and uncertain. And the reason you fear them is, Forleo says, because you really, really want them.

Rather than assume the fear is telling you to stay put, entertain the possibility that it's alerting you to your next step, getting your systems up and running so you can go ahead and make the leap.

Pair fear with commitment

Fear pushes you forward, out of the familiar. There is an equal, complementary force to big career changes, too: the pull of commitment.

Forleo calls it finding your why (though she may have gotten that phrase from Simon Sinek). She counsels, "Get emotionally connected to why this dream is important to you — and then keep it front and center. It's not going to be easy, but if you stay present with why this change is important, you will get strength."

Your deep connection to why you're making this change pulls you forward. They both give you directions on where you most want and need to go in your career path. As Natasha Stanley at Careershifters writes, "Your fear is your 'push'. Your commitment is your 'pull'. You navigate, decision-make, and course-correct based on the directions they guide you in as a pair."

Build your big change muscles

Career expert Kerry Hannon recently spoke with meQuilibrium, an online resilience coaching platform, about how to make the big leap to a new job or career path. Hannon pointed out that big changes truly don't happen in a vacuum. That is, you don't wake up on a Monday and pivot your way to a new industry by Friday. (And if you are, why are you still reading? You're already a rockstar.)

You build up your resilience and reserves to make changes over time, in small ways. "Be open-minded," recommends Hannon. "The simplest thing is to make yourself do one thing every day that you really don't want to do. This builds into resilience: If you are complacent and interacting with the same group year after year, you're not prepared. I try to do one thing to build my network and continue to solidify it in a new direction every day. Push yourself, but break it into small moments."

With that idea, with that network, with that practice putting yourself in new situations and circumstances of small discomfort, you will be prepared when fear pushes you, and commitment pulls you, toward your wonderful new career.

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