5 Ways to Actively Conquer Career-Changing Fear


Are you reconsidering your career path?

The thought of taking on a whole new career can be terrifying—especially when it requires that you take a few steps backward to get there. Feelings of self-doubt are normal as you go from expert to student again, working hard to learn the new skills that will help you transition to a more fulfilling career.

Doing work you are passionate about is worth the hard work it takes to get there. With mindfulness and mental health practices, you can squash the very normal feelings of fear and doubt that come along with change. 

We’ll walk you through five helpful ways to conquer the fear of career transition and provide actionable steps to help you feel confident and prepared for whatever is next in your career journey.

Step 1: Acknowledge how you feel

Chances are, if you are in a job and you are constantly feeling sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, it may be suitable for your mental health to find a new position or career. Change is scary and hard, but acknowledging your feelings will help make your decision to change careers more manageable.

Dig deep into your feelings to better understand why your job is making you feel the way it does. Are you stressed and feeling overworked? Is there a toxic environment that’s making you anxious? Examine the entire situation and acknowledge your emotions to help you feel more prepared to determine the next right move for your career.

After you evaluate your feelings is also a good time to evaluate your values. Is your current career serving your values? Your values are the driving force of your day, and understanding how you can align your values with your work will help you decide if it’s time to make a career change and also help you understand what your next career should be.

Step 2: Reframe your relationship with fear

Fear is nothing but a feeling, and it can only hold you back if you let it. The less power you give your fear, the less power it holds over you. 

In the instance of a career change, fear often comes from the unknown. You are exiting a comfortable position, risking your stability, and putting yourself out into a whole new world. Fear is not synonymous with failure. Rather, the fear you may feel is a reminder that you are growing and preparing to face new challenges. 

Lean into fear when you feel it rather than letting fear paralyze you. Embrace the unknown and potentially hard road you have ahead. Use fear as a reminder that you can overcome any obstacle with your skill set and work ethic. When you play to your strengths and face your fear, you can’t fail—you can, however, learn and grow stronger.

Step 3: Create a clear vision

Before you embark on a career change, create a clear vision for where you want to go, how long you expect it to take to get there, and how you plan to pivot if you run into a roadblock along the way.

Keep a journal and write detailed answers to these questions:

  • Why do I want to change my career?
  • What career path do I think is going to align with my values?
  • What career will align with my future?
  • What steps do I need to take to get into this career path? What must I learn?
  • What is the time frame this change is going to take?
  • What is my financial plan?
  • Who is going to support me on this journey?

When answering these questions, it’s important to be honest with yourself. The more honest you can be, the clearer your vision will become. To conquer career-changing fear, you must become comfortable with getting uncomfortable.

Answering these questions helps you create a path to a new vision and, ultimately, to a new career. It’s not a bad idea to also create a roadmap for a backup plan. Perhaps you suddenly realize your new vision isn’t quite what you hoped it would be, or you understand it will not work out financially as you expected it to. Having a backup plan as a safety net will help you feel more comfortable as you set out on your new journey. 

Step 4: Hold yourself accountable

When you set out on your new career path, having a support system is important. Friends, family, or mentors who encourage you when you get discouraged are essential. However, no one can hold you accountable. Only you can do that.

After you’ve created a clear vision, make a plan to hold yourself accountable. One way to do this is to make your journey public through social media to document your progress. An audience may make you more inclined to follow through with each step in your journey if you have people eager to hear updates. Another option is to create a timeline of goals you want to achieve and revisit each day, week, or month to see if you are where you want to be.

Remember that there is only one way to eat an elephant—one bite at a time. A career change is, for lack of a better term, a huge undertaking. Break down your tactics and goals into digestible pieces and focus on each of them one at a time. If you have to pass a course to get into your chosen career, stay focused on the ultimate goal to keep yourself accountable to complete each assignment, pass the class, and move closer to the career you’re dreaming of.

Step 5: Find a mentor

As you head out on this journey, create an environment for yourself that promotes change, drive, and motivation. One way to create this environment is to engage a mentor. A mentor can look like someone you learn from virtually through videos or blog posts, or it can look like someone you meet with personally for check-ins and advice.

Remember, a mentor is giving a lot to you. How are you going to give back to them? Make sure your relationship with your mentor is a two-way street, one where you are both adding value and making the other feel appreciated. This makes sure that the relationship between you and your mentor is sustainable.

Fear can’t stop you 

Learning new skills can be scary. Putting yourself out there can be scary. Remember that you have the skills and strengths in your toolbox that will help you conquer fear and accomplish your career goals. Fear will never stand in your way if you are prepared to get uncomfortable and stay open to new learning and experiences.

Keep these five steps in mind as you consider your career move:

  1. Acknowledge how you feel
  2. Reframe your relationship with fear
  3. Create a clear vision
  4. Hold yourself accountable
  5. Find a mentor

You may not enjoy every single step of this process. Some steps will be hard and leave you feeling uncertain about the path ahead. Be patient with yourself, and don’t give up when fear creeps back in. Kindness and self-compassion are vital in achieving great things and overcoming fear. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as they say, and they, too, must have had setbacks. The path to success isn’t linear, but by believing in yourself, having a clear vision, leaning on your support system, and holding yourself accountable, you will find success. 

With the right mindset, you can be on your way to a new, meaningful career. If you’re considering a career change but don’t know where to start, download our Career Changer’s Guide to Doing Something Different

Disclaimer: General Assembly referred to their Bootcamps and Short Courses as “Immersive” and “Part-time” courses respectfully and you may see that reference in posts prior to 2023.