When it comes to making major life decisions, fear can be a very motivating factor. Making a career change is one of the most stressful events that anyone can go through, and much of that stress is rooted in fear of the unknown. Relocation to a new city, economic uncertainty, and even simply adapting to a new work culture are all common causes for concern for candidates. And COVID has added new stressors for job-seekers all over the world - the fear of getting sick, of getting on a plane to interview, and of risking a stable job in such an uncertain time, even for an exceptional opportunity.
When I first considered making a career change from sales to executive search, fear almost convinced me to stay where I was. I was in a good position, I enjoyed my job, and I was making good money, so the idea of leaving that behind for a new adventure was highly stressful. But I knew that the career opportunity represented a lot of growth potential, a great learning experience, and a challenge unlike any I would face in my sales role. After a difficult debate, my courage overcame my fear, thus allowing the career change to be, behind faith and family, the best decision I have ever made. So while fear can feel very powerful when there are huge decisions to be made, giving in can create challenges and prevent progress, while overcoming that fear can potentially lead to the greatest opportunities of your life.
Be Open to Opportunities that Require Relocation
Relocation is probably the biggest driver of fear in someone’s professional life. Candidates have concerns about leaving behind family and friends, moving their kids out of schools, and starting over in an unfamiliar town. All of that is understandable, and of course no one is required to relocate if it is not the right situation for them or their families. However, when strong career opportunities arise and relocation is a part of the deal, it’s important that candidates give those opportunities fair consideration. Despite the many real concerns that someone might have about moving, there are also many exciting opportunities - the chance to see new places and meet new people, transition to stronger school districts, and of course, grow your career in ways that might not be available in your current location. So don’t immediately dismiss the idea of relocation because it sounds stressful - think through the opportunity, discuss all of the pros and cons with your family, and make a balanced, informed decision based on what’s truly best for you at the time, not on fear alone.
Protect Your Professional Integrity
From the first mention of a potential job opportunity to the final offer, there are many opportunities for fear to play a role and create problems for candidates. The simplest solution is this: at every stage, simply do what you said you would do. If you agree to give an honest look at an opportunity, stand by that. Have open conversations and give it strong consideration. If you agree to speak with a hiring manager or set up an interview, follow through - don’t cancel at the last minute when stress rises. Once you make the decision to pursue a job opportunity, stick with that commitment. This does not mean you have to accept any job offer you receive, but if everything lines up perfectly, the hiring manager meets all the requirements you laid out, and you know the opportunity is strong, then stand by your word. Accepting counter offers or backing out of opportunities at the last minute not only prevents you from moving forward in your career, but it can be frustrating for employers who worked very hard to meet your needs, and it can damage your professional reputation.
Fear is an understandable response to a stressful situation, and making a career change is never easy. But don’t let fear inhibit your career growth. The best thing for your career, both now and in the long term, is for you to give an honest look at opportunities that present themselves and then honor your commitments throughout the hiring process. Then, whether you decide to make the change or stay put, you know that you did what was right and didn’t let fear win.