In a recent Forbes post, I profiled management consultant-turned-journalist Archith Seshadri, who shared his lessons for making a radical career change. Archith mentioned that his colleagues were “supportive but also shocked.” Support and shock are common reactions from the people around you when a big career change is made. People will be happy for you but they will worry. They may project their own insecurities onto you and get critical. You have your own fears so the criticism hits hard. Here are 5 strategies to deal with critics and naysayers:
Don’t tell anyone
If you’re concerned about people’s reactions, make your plans in secret. Yes, admitting to a goal is a legitimate form of accountability that can help you stick to a goal. But for career change, which is a multi-stage, long and involved process, you don’t have to divulge every plan and certainly not right away. Experiment with your career change efforts on your own. Once you feel confident in your direction, you can share more liberally, and you’ll be in a better position to withstand any push back.
Don’t tell haters (or wet blankets)
Alternatively, you can share selectively. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, had an excellent term for naysayers – “wet blankets.” When you share your plans, only select the people who are your cheerleaders or natural optimists themselves. Steer clear of wet blankets, even if they are friendly overall.
Indulge the worst-case scenario
What if you have already told people, even wet blankets, and you’re steeped in criticism now? Play out the criticism. If someone warns you that leaving your job will prevent you from ever getting a job again, look at that possibility. What happens if you don’t work in that role again? Are there other roles? Are there other industries? Is that bleak scenario even true – can you find people who prove the opposite? When you actually look at the worst-case scenario, oftentimes it’s not that bad.
Practice other changes
What if you’re trying to overcome the criticism but still unable to move on? Move on with other changes – change in routine, change in physical exercise, change in diet, change in hobbies…Practice other changes so you get used to thinking, acting and being a different way. When you come back to career changes you want to implement you will be a more flexible, resilient person overall and better able to now incorporate the career changes.
Fight fear with fear
This is the strategy I used when I left my corporate job to be an actor full-time (actually I was unemployed and going to auditions full-time, but I did earn my union card). I was afraid of looking foolish. I was afraid of running out of savings. I was afraid of taking myself off a fast track and never getting back on (of course, I didn’t like the track I was on but I was still afraid of getting off). I was afraid of making the change. Then I became more afraid of regretting not having tried. When I looked at the alternative of not going for it in the lens of regret I was finally able to make the change. I fought my fear of change with fear of regret. I’m a fearful person so I may as well use my natural gifts!
Are you looking to make a big career change? What’s stopping you? What’s helping you get over your fears? I’ll be profiling more real-life career changes in my Forbes Leadership column. Tell me your story!