Have you been feeling stagnant in your career? Found yourself dreaming of a passion outside your 9-to-5 role?
If you answered “yes,” to either (or both) of these questions, a career change is on the horizon. However, if you haven’t made any moves to kick off this transition, your mindset might be holding you back. Taking those first steps toward a new career direction can be scary and overwhelming. Fear of failure and the unknown, leaving the safety net of a career you are comfortable in (but don’t love), can keep you running in place.
Shifting your mindset can get you to a place where you feel confident and empowered to take that leap. That’s right: you can control your mind to achieve your goals. Positive thinking isn’t just a buzzword or fluffy theory: research supports it as a powerful tool that can help you open your mind, build better relationships, and achieve optimal levels of well-being, resilience, and yes, success.
Ready to give it a shot? Let’s walk through some positive thinking exercises that will catapult you from “no, I can’t” to “yes, I can.”
Step One: Recognize Negative Self-Talk
Have you ever heard your inner voice whisper that you’re not good enough, or that something bad will happen if you take a risk? It’s more common than you think—most of us hear this voice sometimes. Your inner critic tends to speak up in the moments when you’re most vulnerable: after you make a mistake at work, when you fear that your coworker is going to get that promotion you want, or when you want to try something new, but it feels risky.
While being self-aware and recognizing your flaws and weaknesses can be a good thing, spiraling into negative thoughts that hold you back is not. Negative thoughts can narrow your worldview and prevent you from recognizing the opportunity in front of you. The first step to harnessing the power of positive thinking is recognizing which one you’re doing: acknowledging a true area of improvement, or falling victim to negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk commonly shows up as, “I can’t.” I can’t do that because I’m not good enough. I can’t do that because I don’t have the right connections. I can’t do that because I don’t know how. I can’t apply to that job because I don’t have a college degree. If something seems impossible or overwhelming to achieve, take a step back. If there are steps you actually could take to make something happen—even if they’re challenging or hard—you’ve just identified negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk can also appear in other forms, such as when you feel like you don’t deserve an achievement or opportunity, or that you’ll never be enough.
Now that you know how to recognize negative self-talk, let’s talk about how to combat it.
Step Two: Cultivate a Positive Mindset
Once you recognize negative self-talk, you can start to correct it. There are several positive thinking exercises you can pursue to leave negativity behind.
Try to respond to negative thoughts with a positive affirmation. Repeat an affirmation to yourself like a mantra when negative thoughts try to invade.
Here are some examples:
- “I can’t leave my job because I’ll be broke.” ➡ “I have the power to attract abundance in all forms.”
- “This job is all I have.” ➡ “My identity and self-worth aren’t tied to any job.”
- “What if I fail?” ➡ “I am on a journey of evolution and receive the lessons that will help me grow.”
- “I didn’t finish school, so my options are limited.” ➡ “I am creating a new reality that feeds the future version of me.”
- “It’s too late.” or “I’m too old to change careers.” ➡ “I am right on time in alignment with my greater good.”
Ask How You Can vs. Say Why You Can’t
Another exercise that fights negative self-talk is to actually think about how something can be achieved instead of all the reasons it can’t.
Setting goals can be a helpful way to make your desired future state tangible. Obviously you have a big goal—like switching careers and starting a new job—but establishing milestones to achieve along the way can help keep you motivated. Goals should be measurable and tied to a specific timeframe.
For example, if your long-term goal is to have a new career by 2024, your milestone goals might look like:
- By July, I’ll complete a coding bootcamp that teaches me the skills required by my dream tech job and have a portfolio project completed.
- By August, I’ll have updated my resume and reached out to three of my dream companies for informational interviews.
- By September, I’ll have applied to at least ten new jobs.
Write Down Positive Achievements
Our brains have a funny tendency to remember our mistakes and embarrassing moments more vividly than anything else. One thing you can do to make sure you aren’t biased by these negative memories? Write down the positive. This could mean daily journaling of your achievements, positive feedback you received, or even just something positive that you experienced.
Meditation is literally the practice of controlling your mind. It’s used by many successful leaders to enhance their ability to focus, build resilience, improve time management and relieve stress—and it can help your career, too. Mindfulness meditation teaches you techniques to let go of negative or disruptive thoughts so you can focus on your priorities. It can also help you manage any anxiety you have around changing careers.
Step Three: Get in Motion, and Stay Motivated
Gaining a positive mindset, visualizing the life you want to achieve and setting measurable goals are great first steps on your career change journey. However, for many career changers, obstacles and setbacks are inevitable. You might struggle to land interviews at first, or you might make it to the final round of your dream job only to not receive an offer. You might completely bomb an interview or two.
These types of setbacks can crush your motivation, and even send you back into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. It’s important to stay motivated during this period of transition, and instead of letting it get you down, continue to harness the power of positive thinking to overcome obstacles.
Easier said than done, right? As you encounter blockers on your path to career bliss, adopt a growth mindset to stay positive and motivated. Startups and entrepreneurs often fail many times before they find success, and you might too. Instead of thinking of failure as the end, think of it as an opportunity.
When you adopt a growth mindset, you learn from failures and quickly move on to the next. If you totally blew an interview, which questions should you practice so you can crush the next one? If you aren’t getting callbacks from the jobs you apply to, how can you shift your approach to be more successful? If you didn’t get the job, what feedback can you apply for the next application?
While consistently practicing positive thinking exercises will help you through this transition, this is also where a mentor, like the dedicated career mentors we pair with graduates from General Assembly, can help tip the scales. A mentor can help guide you when you stumble, and provide advice when you need to pivot your approach. They can provide an unbiased perspective that can keep your negative thoughts from spiraling.
Ready to get started with your career change? Sign up for one of General Assembly’s upcoming workshops or info sessions to learn more.