There are many mistakes that you can make during career change. These pitfalls can waste your time and hinder your progress. It is inevitable that you will make some mistakes along the way, but you can minimise these by avoiding the pitfalls below.
1. Focus on the destination rather than the journey (i.e. focus on the end goal rather than enjoying the process)
I have tackled this on the blog before, but it warrants re-iterating. When you focus on a destination you are liable to ignore the many possible paths leading to that destination.
It might be that you are a super-highway kind of person that wants to get everywhere fast, and that’s ok. But it also means that you might not have considered alternative routes, or whether you’ll like the destination once you actually get there… you might have taken far more pleasure from a slow meander along the scenic route.
I’m really labouring this metaphor here. Let me wend my way back to normal language (groan…).
Change can be difficult. That’s an uncontroversial fact. If you are making any kind of change there are risks and costs attached. You don’t know for certain if you will like the change once you have made it, you may incur financial costs along the way, and change by its nature makes you emotionally vulnerable.
With all this in mind you might think that the quicker you make the change, the better. But, the question you have to ask yourself, is why you are making a change in the first place? Why take the risk? Presumably it’s to get something better than what you have now.
So it’s also worth examining why, rather than kicking the can of improvement down the road to some future point, the change process itself can’t be a part of that improvement? Focusing on a future better self or situation makes it seem distant and unattainable.
Instead: recognise that you can change your outlook immediately, you can experiment with making small changes to figure out what you like and what you don’t. By doing this, you not only gain immediate improvement to yourself and your situation, you also reduce the risk that you’ll hate the destination when you get there.
2. Only focus on external measures of success (pay, travel, prestige)
Focussing on external success measures is commonplace and ingrained in our culture. If you focus on things like wealth, impressive job titles, foreign travel, or working for prestige companies, you may be ignoring what you would enjoy most in favour of what looks best to the outside world.
Plenty of people with these external markers of success are unhappy and dissatisfied. External measures of success are no guarantee that you will like your job.
What happens when you reach a prestigious goal? External goals aren't about who you are, and what motivates you within your job. External measures change and grow and are not intrinsically satisfying. This is because they are dependent on the perceptions of other people. They change according to your life stage. For example your salary goals in your twenties might make you look impressive to your peers, but once you've reached those goals you need new goals befitting of your age and stage in life. Your external goals will be different in your thirties, forties, fifties... so it will be almost impossible to ever be as successful as you want to be. Focussing on external goals sets up a pattern of striving, where the goalposts are constantly moving.
Obviously money and prestige are nice to have. But they also may have costs associated with them – like long hours, and being away from home, and having to maintain an outward appearance of gravitas at all times.
Chasing external measures of success can mean that you can never fully enjoy those successes, because you are forever moving on to the next, bigger, better reward. So your satisfaction is always some distance away in the future even as you reach your next milestone.
Instead: when considering what success means to you, try to take a more holistic approach. Think not only about the kinds of rewards that carry external caché, but also the kinds of intrinsic rewards that you get from enjoying your job. Consider what will sustain you on a bad day like good colleagues, interesting projects or getting to do what you are passionate about.