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Career advice for job seekers

Want to take the plunge? How to take the risk out of job & career change 24/01/2012

What’s stopping you from taking the plunge and going all out for the job or career you really want?

Want to take the plunge? How to take the risk out of job & career change

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  1. Managing the risks of change
  2. What stops you changing?
  3. Do your personal risk and issue assessment
  4. Mitigate your risks and issues
  5. Fear you may not like the new job/organisation?

Managing the risks of change

Many people complain about their jobs and say they want to change but do nothing about it - for months, years or a lifetime. And understandably even the most optimistic of us worries about the risks, especially when the economy is in the doldrums.

Why not manage your career in the same way as your work. Do your own risk assessment and look at how you can mitigate the things that could go wrong.

What stops you changing?

These are the sorts of reasons I hear:

  • I might get made redundant soon after starting the new job with no rights to a pay-off and end up on the scrap heap
  • I’ll lose my pension rights
  • I’m not clever/experienced/confident enough...add your own.


And these are some unspoken ones that are often what really block people:

  • I fear I’ll be found out – others will realise I’m not really that good and don’t deserve to be in such a senior position ie the ‘imposter syndrome’, especially common in women
  • Although I work long hours and it’s hard work I am actually in my comfort zone here. I understand how things work, I know what to expect...
  • I’ve got into the habit of moaning and secretly quite enjoy the ‘pity parties’ with my colleagues
  • Fear of the unknown – what would it really be like doing that role, working in that company or working for myself?
  • ‘Unresolved ambivalence’ – you haven’t got to the point where you’ve thought realistically about what it would mean, or the implications if you don’t

Do your personal risk and issue assessment

So, if you really are serious about change and your urge to move on is stronger than your desire to stay, start putting your worries to the test – find out how realistic they are and what you can do about them.  This may take quite a bit of effort – detailed research and, more importantly, some work on yourself. 

Firstly, identify all the reasons you give yourself for staying put. Be honest and delve under the surface to find the underlying concerns. Think about how likely it is that risk will happen and how serious the impact would be if it did.  Or is it actually an issue rather than a risk ie not something that might happen but that IS happening already, such as your lack of confidence or fear of the unknown?

Mitigate your risks and issues

Here are some ways you can address them – these have worked both for me and for my clients:

  • Financial concerns – find out the facts about your pension and how you could minimise any potential losses; build up a financial cushion or ‘fighting fund’ to see you through any difficult financial times. Decide the risks vs rewards for you in the longer term.
  • You fear you may not be able to cut it in a new role or organisation

o    Dust off your CV and think about all your achievements of the last 5 years. Not the jobs you’ve had but the things you have contributed and the value you’ve added.
o    Get a career coach to help you with this – identify your transferrable skills, use your past record to develop your self belief and a positive mindset which notices what you have achieved, not what you haven’t
o    Get objective feedback on your performance, qualities, strengths and experience from as many sources as possible – your boss, boss’s boss, your colleagues, family and friends
o    Start to do the things that are done in that role – if you want to be an HRD, start volunteering for more, get on high profile projects, go to the meetings that matter….. When you realise you are actually doing most of the job it’s only a small step to the real thing
o    Network, network, network! Network with people in comparable jobs. Find out how well you measure up:  either you’ll find out where the gaps are so you can plug them – or you’ll discover just how awesome you really are!

When I decided I wanted to work for myself, I joined a network for self-employed business women: I volunteered to talk on subjects I was passionate and knowledgeable about and I learnt about being self-employed – it took me several years to actually take the plunge but by the time I did it was a small move forward in the same direction, not a great lunge off a cliff.

Fear you may not like the new job/organisation?

Network, network and network some more. Network with people from that organisation or that role. Find out what it’s really like to work there – get contacts through people you know, use LinkedIn, find a reason to visit the company – what can you offer that will make them want to meet you? Find out where they hang out and go there too.  I once got an interim job partly by going to my local CIPD meeting – having found out that the HR Director interviewing me next day was also attending I made sure I got into the same discussion group as her.  I showed my ‘best self’ and we greeted each other like long lost friends the next day.

  • Whatever happens – know that you will cope – ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’! And keep things in proportion – if 20% are unemployed, 80% of people do have a job.
  • Ask yourself some powerful questions – do I still want to be in this job when I retire? If I don’t change now, then when will I? What else will it take? What assumptions are stopping me?
Caroline Talbott, executive coach and ‘catalyst for change’

Caroline Talbott, executive coach and ‘catalyst for change’

Caroline develops leaders and helps them have the careers they desire. She has over 30 years experience in business including HR, OD, L&D and coaching. Her book on coaching for career transitions will be published by Routledge in 2012.