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changing careers

How To Overcome The Anxiety Of Changing Careers

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Dec. 12 2018, Published 3:00 a.m. ET

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Making the decision to change careers is far from easy, it can be downright traumatic for some while others will make the decision with little to no apprehension at all.

Fear is what holds most of us back from following a dream or passion. Fear of failure, fear of loss wages, fear of being at the bottom of a new career totem pole and the fear of loss of identity, all can induce paralyzing anxiety just from the mere thought of reversing direction and doing something entirely new.

Award-winning Director Ava DuVernay went to the University of California, Los Angeles and majored in English and African-American Studies. She interned at CBS News with a goal to have a career in journalism and while working on the O.J. Simpson case she realized journalism was not for her. At age thirty-two she picked up her first camera and although she never set foot in film school she made the decision to become a filmmaker. Today she reigns as one of the top directors in Hollywood because she was not afraid to stop in the middle of her career and change directions.

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Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Fear of failure can be so immobilizing that many of us choose not to even try. We choose not to open that bakery because there’s a good chance it will fail. We choose not to perform for open mic night because we fear people will laugh. We stay at jobs we hate because we fear were too old to start over somewhere new.  We convince ourselves our fear is not worth the risk of trying.

All my life I wanted to work for myself. When I was 30 I took a small business course on startups. I wanted to open a bookstore. I would go to sleep at night thrilled at the prospect of all the book club meetings I would host, the authors I would invite and the dreaminess of the aisles and aisle of books I would sell to my wonderful base of customers. It was my special fantasy that other than taking the class I never pursued. I was scared to go out on my own and I stayed rooted in my fear for another twenty years.

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At age 50 I was laid off and revisited the idea of starting my own business again. What did I have to lose this time, my job was already gone. I wanted to open a store for women of color to buy their natural hair and skin products. I wanted it to be a cute little boutique with me behind the counter whipping up shea butter and oils. I was nervous but I did the research. I took marketing classes at the Center for Women and Enterprise. I wrote my business plan made a kickass vision board.

In 2016 I opened Mixx Naturals with my daughter. At Mixx Naturals we make skin and hair products custom made right in our store. I wake up every day fearing failure. but it is all part of the process. I make a list of my fears, I tackle them and I feel better.

Our fear has a purpose and we can either let it overtake us as I did in my thirties or use it as our motivator.  Once I made the decision to not be afraid it got easier and I found a way.  I took the risk.

Ask yourself the question: Why am I afraid to follow my dream, to change careers? Write your answers down and make a list of your fears trust me it won’t be as daunting as your mind tries to make it. Feel the fear and do it anyway

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Redefining Identity

You will not earn the money you did as VP of Communications at Goldman Sachs when you choose to walk out their door and start your own photography studio.  However, if you were smart enough to be VP at Goldman Sachs you are smart enough to PLAN for any financial changes before you pack up your boxes. Be specific with your financial goals and plan on downscaling your lifestyle. For every goal, there is a lot of redefining. Go with it.

Not everyone will understand your motivation, but this change is for you. Be enthusiastic about your new path and draft a killer elevator pitch or motivational quotes because you will find yourself pitching to yourself more than anyone else. I have revised mine over a hundred times but it keeps me inspired to what my end goals are.

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The unfamiliar is frightening so get very familiar with your new mission. Go back to school, network with people who are already in your field, sign up for a mentor with your local SBA (try to schedule weekly meetings on every topic for starting a new business. It can be strangely therapeutic) and welcome that learning curve it will only move you closer to your success.

Your identity and self-esteem will feel tested because your career is often a part of how you identify yourself to the world. Your ego will take a hit when you are no longer the VP but the intern getting coffee. Trust your gut you are the same person at 50K a year as you were at 150K a year. Your worth is not in those numbers.

There will be days when everything is overwhelming and panic attacks will happen. Take deep breaths and measured steps till you feel in control again.  Fear is all part of the process. Know that others have conquered it and you will too.

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