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Afraid of changing jobs? How to challenge your fears

 
The new year means there will be many looking for a fresh start by starting a new role. But a volatile economy can cause many to feel anxious about changing jobs. While the job market can seem a little uncertain right now, don’t let fear get in the way of your career ambitions.  
 
Adopt a growth mindset and challenge your fears that may have been holding you back from making real progress in your career.  

Address your fears 

There are a few common reasons you might be holding back from changing jobs. The fear of the unknown is a human condition and starting a new job is full of unknowns. What will your new colleagues be like? Will you get on with your new boss? What type of organisational culture are you starting in? What will your usual day look like? Even if you’re not 100 per cent happy in your current role, it’s easy to get comfortable, and even complacent, with the job you already have. 
 
There can also be a fear of failure. What if the new job isn’t what you imagined? What if you’re not good at it? It’s hard to start something new and not be as good at it as you are in your current role. 
 
The decision to change jobs is a personal one, and you need to take your individual circumstances into account, but if the fear of change is the main reason you’re hesitating to move on, there are strategies you can employ to overcome these fears.

Talk to a mentor

It’s important to have a third voice and opinion regarding this challenge. It can help you move on from internalising the anxiety which can cause more unnecessary stress. If you have a professional mentor, discuss with them what steps you should be taking to move forward on your career path. Having a mentor can help guide you in these decisions and make change a less intimidating prospect. If you don’t have one, think about if you have a past boss or manager who you got along well with, who is higher up in a similar career. Ask them if they would be happy to help you out as a career mentor and catch up over a coffee or lunch. If you don’t have access to someone like that, friends and family are also valuable support pillars and will offer different perspectives that you might not have considered yourself. 

Create a pros and cons list

It sounds simple enough but creating a list of potential benefits and drawbacks of a job change can help visualise your decision-making process. It can be a tough task to begin, but a simple way to create one is by first of all, beginning with the decision you’re looking to make. Once that’s written down, you can start listing all the good things that can happen because of that decision and then list out all the possible consequences of that decision. These can be as simple as better pay, better culture, work/life balance or cons like further commute from home and not knowing anyone that works there. Weighing these against each other visually can go a long way towards making an informed decision. 

Research

Ensure you're reading job descriptions in detail and asking questions of the hiring manager once you're at the interview stage. This can remove some of the unknowns surrounding a new job. It can also reduce the chance of making the wrong decision and can help with any self-doubt you're feeling. 

Slow and steady

If changing jobs feels too overwhelming, then take smaller steps in the journey. For example, updating your resume might be a good way to get started, after that you can then start scanning for job opportunities while not applying just yet – whatever first step you can make to get out of your comfort zone. Setting goals for each step of the process can help the process move along at a steady pace.  

What’s behind the fear of change?

A study, published in the Harvard Business Review, discusses the deeper aspects of why people fear change within organisations and how just identifying the benefits of the change won’t get to the source of this fear. It sheds some light on how this applies to people looking to change jobs or careers as well.
 
They found that a source for this fear among employees, is that they do care for their organisations, and it forms a part of their identity. In regard to changing jobs, it can be difficult to not have this sense of continuity in our lives, especially during uncertain times, and for many, their job forms part of their own identity so changing that is much more than just slightly different work to do every day.
 

Two fairly straight-forward studies were performed that demonstrated this, first with 209 employees shown two organisational change plans, one including a vision of continuity, removing uncertainty within the employees’ mind. Results showed they were more effective at building support when showing the sense of continuity. The second study had emails sent out to 208 business school students demonstrating changes in the school curriculum. One of these however conveyed a vision of continuity and identity of the curriculum while also demonstrating the proposed change. The results of this were similar to the first study.

This is why change can be such a difficult thing for people to choose even if they’re not in a particularly good situation in their career. It’s hard to move into unknown territory when there isn’t a sense of continuation. 

Benefits and risks of change

Benefits

  • Opportunity for growth: Growth is what happens outside of our comfort zones. While a new role may offer formal learning pathways, any step outside of what we already know offers an opportunity to grow. A new job is a chance to take on new challenges, gain more responsibility and advance your career, instead of stagnating.
     
  • Better benefits: A bigger salary isn’t the only focus for employees. Instead, benefits are a critical focus which organisations have had to pay increased attention to. Making a change to a new job can mean better benefits for you, depending on what your goals and needs are. Important ones to look out for are the organisations flexible working policy, wellness or birthday leave days and paid parental leave. 
     
  • Giving you purpose: Finding an organisation that aligns with your own intrinsic values is helpful in giving yourself renewed motivation and purpose in the work that you’re doing.  

Risks

  • Uncertainty: Of course, the main risk is the uncertainty surrounding the position you’re moving into. You can ask as many questions as you can in an interview, but you never truly know what to expect from a job until your first day. This can include what your workload will look like, how your manager leads a team, if your co-workers are friendly and exciting to be around and if you feel like you belong in that environment. 
     
  • Loss of sense of security: There is a major benefit to staying in a job that you’ve been at long term, and that is financial security. If you’re secure in your job, you know that you can probably be financially secure for whatever events may occur in your life down the line. If switching to a new job, there’s a risk that you might not succeed and be left without a job, which puts you at financial risk. There’s even more of a risk to your financial security if you’re choosing to undertake a career change, which in many cases will mean you have to start at a lower salary.
     
  • Risk of regret: There is an inherent risk of regret that comes with switching jobs. You could have an emotional attachment to your current job stemming from being very close to your co-workers, an attachment to the work that you do at your current job. Maybe the location at your current workplace is really convenient and it would be difficult to give up. These are all things that you have to think about and weigh up. 
Challenging your fear of changing jobs or even a career change can be a daunting but rewarding process, with these strategies though, and knowledge of what is causing your fear, you can start taking steps to tackle them head on and take the next step in your career path. 
 

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