I’ve Changed Industries 4 Times – If You’re Unsure About Your Career Change, Here’s What To Do Next

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Kelli Thompson132
Women’s Leadership & Career Coach, Speaker
June 21, 2024 at 4:23AM UTC

In the early weeks and months of my new job at a healthcare technology firm, I sat around the table of leaders, wondering if they were questioning why they hired me. After working for 12 years at the same organization, I’d made a career change from financial services to healthcare technology — after finding an organization that was fully in alignment with my values and unique talents. 

 There was no doubt in my mind that I’d found the right fit, even though I had no idea what they were talking about with their healthcare acronyms, technology algorithms, and consulting expertise. Some days, I drove home thinking that they could have been blending a script from The Office and Grey’s Anatomy and I would never know that I was being punked.

Changing careers was harder than I expected. It was also confusing because I wanted the change and I loved my colleagues and my new role overseeing human resources. I was a beginner again, and that felt unexpectedly disorienting. I realized that my ego was very wrapped up in my former identity as an expert and a knower. In my old job, I’d worked in nearly every department of a regional bank over the course of 12 and made solid connections.

Making a career change is exciting, but it also flares up what the ego hates most: the discomfort of change. I know how scary it is to make a big leap. I’ve changed industries four times and left corporate for entrepreneurship. The imposter syndrome is real. Each time, I thought for sure I’d be “found out” that I wasn’t as good as they hoped.  

In the last few years, I’ve had career coaching conversations with hundreds of leaders. Over half of those leaders made a career change that brought a mix of hope, self-doubt, and uncertainty. 

After career changes, I’ve noticed that people tend to fall into one of three groups.

If you’re thankful for your career change

If you’re thankful for your career change, you might be thinking: “I am so glad I made this change, I love my job and even though everything is new, I have some coworkers I know and trust to help me through the changes. 

What to do

Stay present and continue to use your network. Celebrate that your career change has started smoothly while also preparing yourself for a bump in the road. Just because you experience a hiccup in your new role — whether it be a project that goes haywire or unexpected performance feedback — this is to be expected. Neither are career killers because perfection is unattainable. Focus instead on how you’ll remain resilient in the face of challenges. 

Ask yourself

How can I continue to use my relationships to deliver good results? How can I ask for support when a challenge arises?

If you’re unsure about your career change

If you’re unsure about your career change, you might be thinking: “I wanted this job and I like it, but I was not prepared for how disorienting it feels to be a beginner again. Some days, I feel behind and lonely.”

What to do

When you’re feeling overwhelmed because everything and everyone is new, remember that every new job is just the same old challenges — suggesting ideas, launching projects, solving problems, dealing with difficult clients/coworkers, leading unplanned changes, etc. — wrapped in a new package. Have compassion for yourself as you accept the identity shift of being a beginner again and check in on how you initially defined success. 

Ask yourself

What if my value doesn’t come from how much I know (i.e. process or acronym mastery) in your first few weeks, but how willing you are to learn and connect with others?

If you regret your career change

If you’re regretting your career change, you might be thinking “I made the wrong move, it’s not just the newness that’s unnerving. There seem to be missteps and mistakes at every turn.”

What to do

If you’re feeling some serious career change regret because you’re feeling miserable, overworked, or underheard in your new role — take time to reflect. Do your part in making sure that you have communicated your wants, project requests, and boundaries to your new team or leader. Ask for what you need. If you are quiet about them, people may assume you’re doing just fine. If you have clearly made asks for what you need and there are still major missteps, consider if your values and the organization’s values are a mismatch. 

Ask yourself

Do my values align with the company’s values (actual behaviors, not website values)? Do I agree with the way the company makes decisions or treats employees? If I’ve had the necessary conversations about this and there is a lack of alignment, how can I find my right next role that aligns with my talents and values?

Any career change can bring uncertainty, and with uncertainty, discomfort. Remember, discomfort is a part of growth. Instead of focusing on 90-day goals, your time will be better spent understanding the culture, connecting to others, and learning new ways of doing things. From personal experience, I can say that the results take over from here.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Kelli Thompson is a women’s leadership coach and speaker who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She has coached and trained hundreds of women to trust themselves, lead with more confidence, and create a career they love. She is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership Program, and a Stevie Award(r) winner for Women in Business—Coach of the Year. Her book, Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck, will release in Fall of 2022. You can follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for when you’re feeling unsure about a career change? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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