Avoid These Costly Career Change Mistakes
You don’t think about leaving your job when things are going well.
So if you find yourself weighing your career options, there are probably some serious indicators your current situation isn’t serving you.
But even when you’re pretty sure you need to go, it can be really hard to figure out how and when to make it happen.
Suddenly your job doesn’t seem so bad, and the devil you know seems like maybe he's not such a bad guy after all.
It’s one thing to weigh the options and decide against a career move. A conscious decision—even one to stay put—can bring peace and renewed acceptance.
What happens more often, and more insidiously, is deciding to change but acting in ways that undermine that decision, relegating you to a career transition limbo, where you’re acutely aware of the gap between what you want and what you have but are unable to change it.
You silently sabotage your career aspirations by deciding not to decide.
If you’re committed to making a career move, avoid these common career transition mistakes that keep you stuck.
Mistake #1 - You Don’t Make Time
Not making time for your career goals is a classic example of working in your career versus on your career.
When you prioritize your current job over your future plans, you’re saying where you are is more important than where you want to be. That’s fine, if it’s true.
But if you want to be somewhere else, why are you choosing to give 50+ hours a week to a job that doesn’t get you there? Consider reallocating a few of those hours to activities that do.
If you could dream your way into a new reality, I’d be a 5.0 tennis player, Avocado toast would not be a thing, and Michael Jordan would lead the Bulls to yet another championship.
These goals, like any worth having, take work. Think about your proudest achievements. How many were the result of half-hearted, sporadic effort?
If you’re unhappy in your current role, your most important task is to figure out your next step. Make it your job to create a career that fulfills and excites you.
To create and sustain an amazing career, invest the time and energy it deserves.
Mistake #2 - You Stay For the Wrong Reasons
Loyalty is a noble virtue, but staying in a job out of obligation to others is a lose-lose proposition that paves the way to resentment and missed expectations.
Consistently putting others’ needs ahead of your own is exhausting and ultimately does a disservice to everyone.
No, you don’t have to stay another year after receiving a promotion as a “thank you” to your boss. You earned it.
No, you don’t have to stay for your team. Leaving creates opportunities for them and makes room for a replacement who brings new energy.
No, you don’t have to stay to please your family, friends, or significant other. This topic deserves an entire blog post, but the bottom line is: your health and happiness are more important than anything you could get from a job you dislike.
Yes, give extra notice and transition well. Yes, recommend others who can step up. Yes, help attract or groom your replacement. Set a target date, lay the groundwork, then get the heck out of Dodge. Trust others to build the rest.
Maybe you have a boss you’d follow into fire. It’s hard to leave her despite knowing that the role and organization aren’t a good fit for you. How could you show your loyalty and gratitude without subverting your own career needs?
Great bosses recognize when it’s time for you to move on, encourage you to do so, and understand that professional relationships transcend time and place.
It's okay to be a little selfish when your career isn't working for you. Put yourself first, so you can get to a place where you can better help others.
Mistake #3 - You Settle For Less
You fear taking a step back in your career, so you settle for stagnation instead.
How is it better to stay in place while the world moves forward? Every day you choose a job that doesn’t serve you is a step away from a job that does.
As a risk-averse person myself, I understand that the risk of changing, even for the better, often seems too great. But there are so many ways to manage that risk rather than avoiding it entirely.
Real progress comes from the terrifying awesomeness of actually taking steps--whether they become lessons learned or wild successes--because you’re choosing not to settle.
Mistake #4 - You Ask Others For Permission
I have asked for permission way too many times in my career. One such time came near the beginning of my first (and only) semester in Design School.
I took the critiques exceptionally personally, and wildly extrapolated that I’d never have a successful design career.
You know folks are struggling to keep the criticism constructive when you get comments that strictly adhere to the facts. “I noticed that your book cover has words and pictures,” and, “Your book cover is evocative of a covering used to protect books,” and, “I really like teal.”
One day after class, I pulled my instructor aside and meekly asked if I had what it took to be a designer.
She mumbled a few uninspiring words about a different student, as we both struggled beneath the weight of my desperate need for reassurance. It didn’t come, and I left the conversation feeling simultaneously deflated and defensive.
I gave away my power and belief in what I knew was possible.
Why would I put my future in the hands of someone with whom I had zero professional relationship or personal affinity? Yet, at the time, I accepted her denial as if her opinion was the only one that mattered.
Here's what's really scary: I didn’t want to be a graphic designer. I wanted to be an interior designer but had settled for the graphic design program because I thought it would be easier to find a job. A job in a field that I didn’t love or care about.
What if that instructor had given me permission, pointing out my strengths and encouraging me to keep working at it? I actually might have become a graphic designer! Out there in the world, designing teal book covers with words and pictures that evoke coverings for books.
This is what happens when you settle and then look to others to justify it.
The only permission you need is your own. Grant it generously and often.
To Jump Or Not To Jump?
These are just four of the most common ways we self-sabotage. There are SO MANY OTHERS.
I get that it's hard to decide how, when, and where to jump. I have jumped into bad situations. I have jumped into great situations. I have jumped with thoughtful planning and out of fear. I have really strong calves.
I have also refrained from jumping many, many times.
But you must choose.
You know what’s best for your career. That might mean staying where you are for now. But once you decide to make a change, commit to it fully, and move into the future.
How have you sabotaged your career change in the past? What are you willing to commit to going forward?
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