You decide it’s time. After several years in your “chosen” position, you’re itching to make a career change. Whether you’re seeking to find something more meaningful, less stressful or with greater opportunities, you’re hopeful that it will all fall into place. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities. Making this type of decision requires conviction: “I know I’m ready for and I can do this well.” You embark on the “adventure” with optimism — even if, from time to time you wonder how it’ll be. Your strong drive motivates you to take action.

decision to make a career change

Fast forward a month. You’ve sent out more resumes than you can count. You’ve gone on a handful of interviews. You’ve received zero offers. The confidence and excitement you felt are quickly being replaced by doubt and discouragement. It’s tempting to throw in the towel and stay put. After all, it’s comfortable and secure. You begin to second guess yourself, thinking “Am I skilled or experienced enough to take this leap?” … “What if no one gives me a shot?” … “How will I ever be able to demonstrate my capabilities?”

Then comes a phone call from an HR rep at a global conglomerate. It’s a company whose ranks you’ve wanted to join for as long as you can remember. She invites you into the office for an interview. You’re thrilled to accept. This one feels right, you think to yourself. Your confidence begins to rise as you think of all the ways you can optimize your talents and find joy in the workplace. That confidence dips when a week goes by without word. The process of making a career shift — even of finding a new job in the same career — can feel like an emotional roller coaster ride.

From hope, excitement and confidence … to apprehension, frustration and panic … and back up again, a career change can elicit many emotions — often simultaneously. You may even question whether there’s a seat belt strong enough to protect you from the emotional highs and lows of the journey. Following is just a sampling of feelings that often accompany a career shift, and the thoughts that trigger them:

  • Excitement: What’s out there? What will I find? A career change will unleash all kinds of new possibilities for me.
  • Hope: I’ll find a place where I can grow. I know there is a career that will allow me to bring together my talents, skills, and experience. I can (re)discover meaning and joy in my career.
  • Motivation: A change will be hard, but it’ll be worth it.
  • Strength: I know I’m ready. I can do this.  
  • Apprehension: How will it be? Even though I’m unhappy now, will my new job or career be as good as I have it now?
  • Uncertainty: Am I skilled or experienced enough to take this leap?
  • Shaky confidence: What if no one gives me a shot? How will I ever be able to demonstrate my capabilities? What if I’m not as good in my new career as I had thought?
  • Frustration: I’m not finding ‘it’. There’s no match out there for me. The things I like to do don’t translate into a real career. I can’t make a living doing what I love to do.
  • Confusion: Am I focusing my efforts in the right area? I thought this might be it … but no … again, this isn’t the right career for me … or is it? 
  • Lost: If not this, then what?
  • Sadness/Despair/Panic: I’ll never find anything!

emotional volatility of change

8 Ways to Manage Your Emotions During a Career Change

Fastening your emotional seatbelt helps you prepare for — and survive — the inevitable volatility that accompanies any type of change. How can you mentally brace yourself for a career transition?

1. Normalize the range of emotions that come with change. Expect them as part of the process. Accept them without judgment.

2. Visualize your “finish line.” Just as an Olympic athlete envisions themselves winning a competition, mentally rehearsing all the steps that propelled them to the front of their race, imagine your own victory. What will it look (and feel) like — and what specific steps will help you reach your goal?

3. Mitigate the mental “noise” of nonproductive thoughts and mood states emotions through behaviors that cultivate and support a more expansive, helpful mindset.

Related: Honing your inner game will drive your performance to new levels. The first step is developing greater awareness around your thoughts, moods and perspectives. Our Accountability Mirror™ and MindMastery™ workshops will help you explore the ways you might be standing in your own way, train you to break nonproductive patterns and facilitate success. The transformation is real, and the results can be game-changing. 

4. Do one small thing every day to avoid overwhelm, particularly at the beginning of the journey. If the thought of blocking off an entire weekend day to research careers and apply for positions sounds like too much, try creating a daily “career-shift habit.” Set aside 10-15 minutes every day to make a phone call, connect with three people on LinkedIn or research a company that piques your interest.

one small step toward change

5. It might be tempting to skimp on sleep or indulge in junk food, but maintaining your physical wellness — particularly during a career (or any type of) transition — promotes peak cognitive performance and emotional stability. Eat well. Sleep well. Get out in nature. Engage in physical activities like exercise or yoga, which can be particularly grounding during times of change.

6. Breathe. You don’t have control over what question your interviewer might throw your way, when you get a call back for a second interview or the other candidates competing for the position, but you always have control over your breathing. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most effective ways to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

7. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to reflect on what’s working, and where you need to make adjustments. If you’re open to journaling, use a special notebook to record your thoughts, goals and action steps.

8. It’s easy to become sucked into the emotions of the peaks and valleys, but try to maintain a bigger-picture perspective. Neither one triumph nor one setback defines your entire journey. Change is rarely a linear process.

Looking forward to Mondays is within your reach once you identify a career that aligns with your talents, interests and natural abilities. If you’re struggling to find that right fit, our certified career coaches can help you explore your options through the use of a proven, proprietary process — designed for career professionals like you.

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Microhabits: Small-but-Mighty Agents of Change