For the last decade I’ve been on a career shifting roller coaster. I have leaped into my future with gusto, often at the surprise of family and friends who now joke that I’m working my way through careers via a process of elimination.
And, to make these leaps I had to choose to believe in myself, and not the myths I was told by others about changing careers. And, in this post I am going to share with you the top 3 career change myths I was told and how I busted them wide open and you can too.
A little about me – I've changed career, a lot
So you’ve got a clear picture of just how much I’ve shifted careers since graduating from university in 2009 here’s a brief rundown of my own career changes: Antique jewellery expert for four and half years, publishing editor for two and half years and a corporate communications specialist for two and a bit years. And, for full disclosure I had seven different employers in total to boot and if you take promotions and role changes into account the total of jobs across all those sectors climbs to double figures. I am a self-confessed serial career changer.
So, if you’re in the process of thinking, dreaming or even planning a career change but are feeling the fear and the doubt, then I get it. I’ve been there. And, I’ve pushed through it and you can too.
I’ve learned important lessons along the way too which are often wrapped up in the myths that we’re all told about making a career shift. And what makes these myths seem so weighty, so real, is that they’re not just told to us by our bosses, colleagues, friends and families they’re believed by them too.
But if you’re going to make a change then overcoming the well-intentioned advice of friends and the condescending imparting of ‘wisdom’ from more experienced colleagues is one of the trickiest but also the most important things you must do.
I’m here to help separate the facts from the fiction. So, let’s get cracking, it’s time to bust the top 3 career change myths wide open.
Myth 1: You’ve got to stay in a job for a year, minimum
Look who’s talking: If I had a penny for every time I’d been told this I’d be living in the Caribbean drinking cocktails by an infinity pool rather than overlooking a damp and grey Birmingham skyline whilst I tap out my nuggets of wisdom on my laptop.
First things first, look who’s talking when they’re saying this to you as well as what’s in it for them if you stay or go.
If it’s your boss, the chances are they’re saying this for one of two reasons:
This sounds cynical I know but let’s be real because business is business. If your boss says this to you, they are conscious two things: The attrition rate of their department or business (high staff turnover is always bad), and the costs incurred to replace you.
If you leave it costs that business in time and money. To find, hire and train up your replacement. Which is why your boss (and colleagues if they’ll have to cover your role) will be keeping a focused eye on keeping you on-board: frankly, it’s their cheaper and least disruptive option.
Keep in mind though that this is not a legitimate reason to stay. If they had a better offer, a way to achieve their dreams would they stay stuck to help ease your workload?
My experience: So, each time I heard this I got a little better at handling it. And, happily I had a lot of practice.
Calm politeness but clear focus is essential in your professional repertoire at any time but on this one they really come into their own.
Early on I remember distinctly a boss of mine towering over me and saying I’d only been in the job 9 months and I was silly (yes, really) to even consider leaving before I’d done a year at the very least but really two years before I’d look even vaguely credible for other companies to hire me.
I simply said in reply that I respected their view, but I had evidence to the contrary with two other job offers and neither were worried that I’ve not been here a year.
If you feel you’re going to meet with resistance or people trying to undermine you then having an ace up your sleeve that supports your belief will do wonders for your career change confidence.
Even when it’s friends you need to consider who’s talking and why. Change can and does make many people uncomfortable – friends are no exception here.
No, they won’t have skin in the game the way your boss does, but they will have their own views on change, their own ideas of what they’re doing and why. You contemplating or making changes can reflect on them because it highlights that they are not making leaps or shifts themselves. Ultimately, you’re being brave and taking action and they’re not.
I found this happened a lot with friends who moan about their work but don’t choose to make any positive changes. The year-long myth is a strong one for people who are averse to change, because it enables them to lock into a situation that they may not even like on the basis that this year-in-a-job myth is actually fact. By believing in the myth as a reality they give themselves the option to opt out of choosing to change.
What you can do:
1. Test the water – send out CV’s and call and speak to recruiters.
2. Get comfortable talking about it – Be honest, positive and enthusiastic about the opportunity you’re interviewing for. When you believe others will too.
3. True friends will ultimately want you to be happy, and so will support you in the end, those that don’t aren’t true friends anyway.
Myth 2: You’ll have to take a pay cut
Ok, this one is quick and easy. Who on earth says you’ll have to take a pay-cut as though it’s carved in stone? Each situation is unique, and a pay cut doesn’t equal a bad decision or a wrong career shift.
My experience: I went through my twenties across multiple jobs and three distinct career options and not once did I take a pay cut. In fact (and not to sound like a Police record here) but every move I made I took a pay rise. Every move I made more money. By the time I was 29 years old I was earning four times as much as I was when I started out eight years before.
Now the myth isn’t totally skewed here. Yes, you may have to take a pay cut. If you’re a city banker on a high salary and you want to change careers to become a freelance goat herder then yes, the reality is likely you’ll be taking a pay cut. Whereas I starting out in the antique industry which is fascinating but not the highest paid sector was able to increase my salary by opting to move into bigger companies and transfer my skills.
The real issue I have with this myth is the presumption that a pay cut is a reason not to make a change. It’s not. And, if you’re committed to a new life of work, a new style of living and you’re not breaking the law or leaving your loved ones in penury then it’s a myth that presumes to tell people that happiness is born from a pay cheque and anyone who’s made or considered a career shift knows that’s just not true.
What you can do:
1. Get realistic. It’s time to ask yourself some big questions and be accepting of the answers. Financially, what do you need to live the lifestyle you are choosing to move to? Do you have any dependents that you need to consider? If a pay cut is a possibility, but you just can’t shake the dream of herding goats through the Cotswolds then work out what money you’d bring in doing that and live like it. Take a week’s holiday and see how far that reality of cash gets you and how you feel about it. Get as real as you can for as long as you can and make a judgement from a place of knowledge.
2. Weigh things up: One of the side-effects of career change I’ve noticed is that I ask myself questions and challenge ideas I’ve held almost without realising I had them. What does success look like? Does the corporate pay cheque make me happy? What do I want to do with my time? If you’re serious about making a change and your financial and lifestyle situations will be impacted, then you need to be comfortable with that. Weigh things up and give yourself time to think.
Myth 3: You can’t keep changing
Look who’s talking: The person that says this is either so change averse they must freak out when their cereal gets a rebrand or they’re so deliriously happy in their job for life they’ve slightly lost touch with reality.
Change as many times as you want. No experience is wasted and every time you learn to leap, find a way to adapt to a new business, understand new sector or a new way of working you’re strengthening your change muscles.
Just like training in the gym the more you do it the stronger your body becomes. It’s the same with change.
And by strengthening these muscles and increasing your adaptability you’re making yourself more aware, more conscious of what you like and don’t. And, ultimately each change will provide you with more insight and prove just how dumb this myth really is.
My experience: I’ve been told this before and I think I responded with an eye-roll. Not my most diplomatic response but it was succinct. Ultimately though, I’ve not stopped to consider that someone telling me that had the right to do so. I felt all the time that if the change made sense to me, then frankly that was all the consideration I needed. But I know it can be lonely when you feel judged. This all comes back to believing in yourself and committing to a change that you feel is right for you now. Regardless of how many incarnations those changes take.
What you can do:
1. Make a list of all the changes you’ve made before. It could be changing schools, going to university, leaving home, moving to a new house. The list of life changes you’ve already made is probably as long as your arm. And, at no point did anyone tell you you’ve done enough schooling now so rather than go to high school just stay here in primary and re-do your ABC’s. Physically write them down and see the changes you’ve already navigated and adapted to and question why you’d not be able to cope with as many changes as necessary to get where you want to go. Prove to yourself and then believe.
I continue to make career changes, though now I believe they’re closer to adaptations. Since setting up my own business a two and half years ago I decided that I can change, shift and adapt myself to new ideas and projects as much as I want. It’s liberating and exciting, scary and at times overwhelming but in flexing my change muscles again and again I always see the benefits of taking a chance on change.
To prepare for your own career change why not join me on my Career Change Workshops: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/career-change-workshop-tickets-88237301143?aff=ebdssbdestsearch in stunning central Birmingham location!