Fear of Change & Careers: The Negative Impacts

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Fear of Change Can Hold You Back in Your Career

We all know change is inevitable in life, but when we’re faced with it, it can be hard for almost all of us, whether we’re uncomfortable, anxious, or totally terrified. This is especially true when it comes to our career. Change confronts us with uncertainty, and a natural reaction to that, is fear.

When it comes to careers, though, that fear of change can extremely damaging. The inability to deal with change effectively can limit career growth by making you less likely to take on new challenging assignments or pursue a promotion. If you’re unhappy in a career, the fear of change can limit you from exploring new possibilities, enrolling in further education, and taking the step of moving in a new career direction. All of this leaves you stuck and stagnant in a role with little room for career advancement or satisfaction.

The fear of uncertainty, change, and the unknown that is keeping you where you are – can actually cause you to end up more dissatisfied than you would have been if you actually made the change. What are some of the downsides that could happen?

  • You might miss out on a promotion (along with the increased salary that goes along with it)
  • You might not get assigned interesting projects that will help you get valuable experience to grow your career.
  • If you don’t like your current job, company, or boss – you might just suck it up and stay rather than risking the change of a new job and unknown environment.
  • If you aren’t enjoying your career and are thinking of doing something else entirely, fear of change can dissuade you from even attempting to change careers.

Types of Career Change

Career Advancement

Advancing your career comes with new challenges and that brings the inevitable… change! If you’re not ready to adapt and take on change, you might end up stagnant in a role rather than advancing your career. That means you’ll be missing out on new opportunities, salary increases, career growth, and career satisfaction. If you aren’t willing to take on changes in your responsibilities, you won’t be advancing your career. And you’ll also be less versatile and able to adapt to changing times. In the long term, this means if you happen to lose your job, you’ll have a really hard time adjusting to figuring out what’s next.

New Job

Ever heard the saying “Out of the frying pan and into the fire?” If you hate change, this phrase might be your go-to refrain keeping you from taking the plunge into a new job. The fear and uncertainty of the unknown in a new job (different boss, new co-workers, unfamiliar work environment, new responsibilities) makes you decide to stick with the familiar situation, despite any faults or problems. After all, things could always be worse in a new job… right? Rather than take the risk, you’ll just stay stuck in your current role where you know what to expect.

New Career

If you’re not feeling satisfied with your career, you first need to figure out why. Maybe you need a new job or maybe you need a whole new career. But if you realize you want a bigger change – a career change – you’re going to have deal with any fear of change. A career change is one of the biggest changes you can make – and it can be one of the most satisfying – but it’s definitely scary. If you let your fear of change take over, you’ll end up backing down from making any major type of change in your career. It’s simply easier to stick with what you know – even if it isn’t satisfying or if you actively dislike it.

Day-to-Day Change

Even just simple day to day changes in the workplace can be hard for someone that dislikes change. Workplaces are constantly evolving and new things are going to take place, whether it’s a new software, a new and improved process, new team members with new ideas, or anything else.

You might feel yourself resisting change in the workplace, such as not responding positively to a new software or new processes being introduced. The problem is that your resistance to these changes (which we’ve already established – are inevitable – they’re going to happen!) won’t necessarily be perceived well by your managers and teammates. You might be seen as difficult to work with or not open to new technologies or developments – which can hinder your career progress.

Do any of the above situations sound familiar to you? Even if you’re not typically scared by change in other areas of life, if you’re faced with change in your career, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by any of the above changes when it comes to your career.

The good news: there’s a lot you can do to help yourself manage your fears and deal with change effectively, so it doesn’t impact your career negatively.

How Can I Deal With Change More Effectively?

No matter how much change stresses you out, there are lots of ways you can learn to deal with it more effectively. Increasing your awareness of change and how it affects you can help you understand what’s going on so you can react more strategically and manage your emotions.

Knowing the 4 stages of change can help you plan and navigate any change in your career.

Stage 1: Anticipation

This is the stage where you realize a change is going happen and start to think about what can result from this change. Depending on the circumstances, this stage can feel exciting – but for many people, it can be extremely anxiety-inducing, stressful, and scary.

What to do in this stage: To help yourself manage the change, at this point, it can often be easiest to focus on the positives. You haven’t yet had to encounter the difficulties involved in the change, so think about your goals and WHY you want to make a change. Write down your purpose and why you need this change to happen… maybe you want to make this change to find career satisfaction and a job your enjoy or increase your earning potential.

Stage 2: Regression

So this is the point where things start to get a bit more scary, stressful, frustrating, overwhelming, etc. This is when you start to focus on the uncertainty and the unknowns involved in the change. Change is never easy and at this point, things might even feel like they’re getting worse before they get better.

This stage is where it gets TOUGH – it’s where people can give up on making a change altogether and return to the safety and security of the “known.”

What should you do at this stage:

  • Manage your expectations – remind yourself that change isn’t going to happen overnight and that the regression stage is going to be challenging.
  • Think back to the first step and remind yourself of your why. Remember when you wrote down the positives that might come out of the change? Well, now is the time to start thinking about those again and focusing on the end result.
  • Identify your support systems such as friends, family, etc. and use them to help you navigate this tough time.
  • Let yourself feel vulnerable, face your fears, and push through. Remember it’s okay to be feeling this way and normal to not feel great about change. Just reminding yourself of this can help you get through.

Stage 3: Breakthrough

This is the positive part! You’ve stuck with it and you’re starting to see the benefits and the positive outcomes of your change!

When it comes to careers- maybe you’ve finally landed that job offer you were hoping for or successfully got a promotion to a management position.

Remember: it can take a while to get past that tumultuous Stage 2 of regression and land in the breakthrough stage. It’s normal for change to take time, so don’t expect to get here overnight.

And once you get here: Reward yourself – you made it happen!

Stage 4: Consolidation

It’s inevitable – nothing remains the same forever. So now that you’ve successfully navigated that change… eventually that change will become the norm. Even though you’ve gone through the challenges of regression and overcome them – this new change is now old news.

What does this look like? Well, after getting a promotion – a couple of years later you might start to feel bored and restless in your new job. After making a successful career change, you get used to your new career and start to think about what’s next. Maybe after your company overhauls its internal systems and software, you get used to it and the company realizes another new technological innovation needs to take place to keep up with the competition.

In the end, the cycle of change starts all over again as you think about the future and begin to plot your next move. Change is inevitable, but using these strategies can help us manage emotions and make the best of change.

Thinking about a career change?

Take the career change quiz to get clear on why you’re not happy and learn what you should do next.

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