I had coffee a few weeks ago with a woman with nearly a decade of work experience with a popular international retail brand. A mutual friend connected us because she was interested in making a career change and wanted to know more about working in marketing and communications.
As she shared her story and I shared mine, I wondered how long she had been thinking about this career move. A few months? Years? I couldn’t help but remember the dozens of similar conversations I’ve had over the last few years with people who wanted to make similar moves, but needed a ton of courage to make the leap.
- Most of the people who were in my cohort in graduate school (back in 2013 or so) were – ultimately – looking for a change or at least a path toward advancement. They paid for an entire graduate degree and worked for thousands of hours to get there.
- At Goodwill, I talked with people who, despite facing tough challenges often related to economic mobility, chose to take advantage of educational opportunities and set goals for themselves. For many, graduating from this three-month class meant they earned the first certificate they had ever earned in their lives.
- As part of The Iron Yard, I talked with tons of graduates who, looking back on their choice to leave jobs behind and invest in themselves, said to me time and time again – “I wish I hadn’t waited so long.”
And that’s really the point, isn’t it? We wait too long, because we’re afraid of failure. I could feel the apprehension from my new friend as she talked about going after a job in marketing because she didn’t speak the language of marketing (which can be super intimidating. understandable). But I assured her of this: none of us knew the language 10 years ago, because none of this even existed 10 years ago.
This woman is incredibly smart and talented in so many ways, and luckily she’s already taking action to overcome her fear – she’s reaching out and talking to people who are in the industry in which she wants to work.
And there are a million little actions we can all take to conquer the fear of the career unknown. We can watch free online tutorials, read articles and books, we can attend Meetups or events or conferences, we can take a class or email an author or join a Facebook group.
I had lunch with another friend last week, and over chips and guacamole she brought up something about an LLC. I mentioned that I have one. And then spent 20 minutes convincing her that yes – it really is possible for you to do it, too.
I’ve been unemployed twice so far during my career. The first time I was laid off in 2009, I was absolutely devastated. But today, I’m more thankful than ever that it happened because it taught me one of my greatest career lessons to date – You and I can overcome fear of career failure and fear of the career unknown. I promise. It is scary, and it is risky, and you will never know until you try.
Don’t wait until something happens – you lose your job, for instance – to take action. Otherwise you might find yourself decades into your life, wishing you had done something about it earlier.
Just thinking about that makes me sad, so don’t do it. Not sure how to take action for yourself? Please reach out and I’ll help you figure it out.