How To Say Buh-Bye To The Three Biggest Career-Change Barriers

Back in January I surveyed 250 professionals. The focus was — no surprise coming from me — the scope of their 2017 career plans.

The 72 percent interested in pursuing a new professional direction in 2017 were given several choices to complete this sentence: “I’d like to make a career change, but …”

The number one response? “I like the security of my current work.”

The second? “I am not sure what I want to do.”

And the really close third: “I have no idea how to make a change.”

Let’s break down these three perceived barriers and identify the best ways to show them the door.


1. “I like the security of my current work.”

Ah, security. We know the job, we know the routine, we know the people, and we appreciate the steady income. We might not love the work, the pay, our boss or the (lack of) feedback we receive for our performance, but there’s a lot of comfort in the known, the safe and the familiar.

Security in regard to money is incredibly important, especially if we want to cover our basic needs; have others who depend on us; and when we’re determined to live a certain lifestyle. Making a big switch to a new field sounds like it might come with a big pay cut.

But before you convince yourself that security’s where it’s at, here are a few points to consider:

  1. You have no evidence your new job or career will pay less or provide less security.
  2. If you learn more about what matters to you most, you might realize security isn’t as big a factor as you thought.
  3. And life is short. Consider what you want your legacy to be: the safe route or the strategic route that took you on a path of smart career change and work that lets you make a difference.

If these three points entice you at all, dip your toe into change by exploring the first two steps of successful career transformation: Discovery and Research. No commitment required. Let’s look more closely at these steps now while we examine obstacle #2.


2. “I am not sure what I want to do.”

Oh yes, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” Had we all taken that sentiment a little more to heart, there’d be a lot less unhappiness today.

The first step toward figuring out what you want to do is looking inward, deeply. The Discovery step, which I mentioned above, sets the tone and foundation for your entire career success path. It centers on you discovering the type of issues you care about most, the type of activities and work you are excited to engage in, and the type of skills and talents you have that you really enjoy using.

This step also involves the incredibly essential exploration of your personal mission, values and goals. Perhaps most importantly, it involves establishing a focused and positive mindset and a look at what might be blocking your success and how to overcome barriers.

The second step is Research, which involves looking outward, intensively. Along with identifying a personal budget, this step involves learning as much as you can about different sectors, companies, organizations, types of jobs, specific jobs, locations, positions and market factors. You research what’s out there in terms of salaries, benefits, work style and more. You connect with as many people as possible to learn more about what they do to see if their work connects with your strengths and goals.


3. “I have no idea how to make a change.”

Knowledge is power and the more you know about something, the less your stress and the greater your comfort, control and success.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know the precise steps to take for an effective career change. Or sometimes people know most of the steps but they skip some and slide through others out of impatience or a sense of urgency. Knowing what the actions are and when to take them reduces the chaos and distress that naturally accompany a change of any kind.

Believe me, I know. If only I’d had a clue what in the world those steps and actions were much, much sooner …

I Didn’t Always Love Monday.

Many years ago I had a job that paid really well but was increasingly fraught with tension and pressure. My position slowly morphed into something that didn’t allow me to do what I did best and enjoyed most. Team meetings became painful, blame was thrown freely, badmouthing became the norm and trust melted. I started DREADING Monday.

I came to dread Monday so much that it killed my Sunday. It even made my Saturday not so wonderful because just as I was settling in for a good time, the thought of Monday popped into my head and lodged like a lump in my throat or a boulder in my stomach. I began to experience a whole host of physical symptoms and started subconsciously finding ways to sabotage my success.

Do These Obstacles Sound Familiar?

But as I said, the pay was great. When not under duress, my boss and coworkers were fantastic. My commute was short. The work could be incredibly rewarding. Besides, I had no idea what else I wanted to do or how to make a change. Sound familiar?

Obviously, I eventually did make a change, but it wasn’t smooth. I explored all types of work, some of which I loved, some that weren’t a good fit, some that paid exceptionally well and some that didn’t pay well but gave me great joy. For some reason it never occurred to me to take a strategic approach to career change and to find the help I needed.


From Loathing To Loving Monday.

I never forgot what it felt like to dread and actually loathe Monday. And I remember precisely how it feels to flounder. No one benefits when another person flounders, and I wish that on no one. The good news is, all those experiences, misfires and stumbles taught me many invaluable lessons.

I know exactly what it’s like not to know where you’re headed; how crappy it feels not to be using your strengths; and how sad and frustrating it can be not to identify, pursue and attain your biggest professional dreams. These realizations are what inspired and prepared me to become a career coach and to teach career success at Indiana University.


Working with so many students and so many professionals eager to love their work — along with the lessons learned from my own career-change pains — led to my developing the seven-step career change system I use today.

My seven steps provide a clear roadmap for those interested in finding work just as I have, work I’m excited to do every single day. As I mentioned earlier, the seven steps begin with Discovery, and they culminate with on-the-job Thriving. When tackled with passion and energy and in the right order, the steps help you say a firm goodbye the three “I would but …” statements we’ve been discussing in this article.

There were several different points throughout my multiple professional experiences that I could have and clearly should have made a change sooner. I didn’t have a plan or a vision of what I really wanted. I wasn’t empowered with a proven strategy. But I am now, and you can be, too! No commitment required.

UltimateChecklistCoverP.S. If you’re even a wee curious about what a career change might entail and look like for you, download my free checklist at called “7 Steps To Exceptional, Burst Out Of Bed Career Transformation: The Ultimate Career Changer’s Checklist!”

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