Switch It Up
When faced with a decision that feels risky or just unfamiliar, our first instinct is often to avoid it at all costs. Whether the choice calls for a big change or greater responsibility, puts more demands on our time, or just makes us a little uncomfortable, it can be scary to say yes. Here are eight scenarios that you might want to shrink away from — and how to take them on with confidence instead.
Relocating for a Job
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: Fear of change and loneliness can be major factors in turning down a faraway gig, even if it's a great career move. And these fears are valid: Relocating will be a big change, and without knowing the city or anyone there, it might be hard to find a community at first, says career coach Jessica Sweet, LICSW. If you’re married or have kids, uprooting your whole family can be another deterrent.
Why you should do it anyway: Sweet says that taking a chance on a new place can not only change your life from a personal standpoint as you make new friends and become more self-reliant, but it will be fantastic for your career in the long term. Given our global economy, “exposure to other countries or ways of doing things — even just another city — is essential," she says. Future employers (or higher-ups at your current job) will be impressed with your wider experience and perspective, and relocating shows that you’re adaptable and up for a challenge.
If you have a family, the bonding experience of moving to a new city together can bring you closer. If you’re moving internationally, a cultural change will challenge you to learn a new language and unfamiliar customs, which can especially benefit kids, as they’re exposed to a different way of life.
How to make the change: Make the transition easier by inviting your new coworkers out for coffee, joining a local alumni group to meet other people from your alma mater, or signing up for a class you’ll enjoy. This way, you can surround yourself with other people — perhaps with similar passions and tastes — who could graduate into friends. Realize that feeling alone will just be part of this process, and as time goes on and you put yourself out there, it will pass.
If you have kids, help them acclimate by joining a local parents’ group, through which you can meet other families, or by signing them up for sports teams and group lessons so they can interact with others their age. Encourage them to keep in touch with family and friends via Skype and social media.
Signing Up for a Race Even Though You’re Not a Runner
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: The two biggest stumbling blocks to challenging yourself physically are fear and perfectionism, Sheila Swanson McIntyre of Abundant Life Coaching says. Besides, it’s easy to come up with excuses to avoid something new, even if it sounds fun or interesting.
Why you should do it anyway: Working toward a goal like running a race will not only make you stronger and healthier physically, but you’ll see changes in other areas of your life. Training teaches you dedication and endurance, among other important life skills, and crossing the finish line can give you a newfound feeling of accomplishment.
How to make the change: Instead of imagining a time in your life when you’ll be less busy or more motivated, try to recognize that there will never be a perfect time, McIntyre says. You can decide that now is the right time and just start running. And if you’re a total newbie, an app like Couch to 5K ($2.99; for iPhone and Android) helps you get into gear.
Leaving a Stable Job for a Lower-Paying Startup You Believe In
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: Following your heart rather than the bottom line takes guts, says certified professional coach Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That. Not only is it unsettling to join a fledgling company and take a pay cut, but you may be afraid of how others will judge your choice. Fear of failure and not being able to support yourself and your family are other common worries that keep people from making the change, Scherwin says.
Why you should do it anyway: “While it's always a risk to take a job that pays less, the overall benefits to the contribution you can make to society and to your personal growth and development can outweigh the loss of income," says career, leadership, and life coach Teri Coyne. Finding a role that really means something to you will give you a deeper sense of purpose and contribute to your overall well-being more than money ever could.
How to make the change: Before taking a pay cut, you’ll need to check in with your finances and adjust your budget. If you're concerned about the lower income, Coyne suggests freelancing or consulting on the side.
And if you really can’t make the number work, consider volunteering for the cause first to be sure it’s something you’re truly passionate about. You could even delay the transition so you can save more aggressively for six months or so, as this will make the financial shift less of a shock.
Accepting a Promotion That Makes You Your Friends’ Boss
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: Being tapped to manage your current colleagues, especially your work BFFs, can bring on imposter syndrome and make you feel vulnerable. And the changing power dynamic can be fraught: Career coach Chris Delaney says your new subordinates may know your weaknesses, be jealous, or still see you as a peer, not a boss.
Why you should do it anyway: Turn your close relationship with your colleagues into a positive — and a reason to take this opportunity instead of shy away from it. “Your experience with your colleagues means you know their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and abilities," Delaney says. A stranger wouldn’t have this info, but you do, and you can use that insight as a tool to lead more effectively.
How to make the change: Career coach Laura Simms says that it's important to remember that you are not changing, but your responsibilities are. You’ll need to set some new boundaries with your pals, though. That means nixing those afternoon coffee runs that often become gossip sessions, as well as happy hours with the crew while you make the transition from friend to boss.
Quitting Your Job to Travel
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: Having the means or opportunity to travel is a luxury that most people would jump at — theoretically. When you're the one contemplating taking a leave of absence from work (and your life in general) to gallivant around the world, it's easy to worry that you're making a huge mistake. What if you can't find a job when you get back? What if you miss out on amazing professional opportunities? How will that gap on your resume look? What if all of your friends forget about you?
Why you should do it anyway: As time goes on, these kinds of opportunities come up less and less, says wellness counselor Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC. The more roots you lay down, the harder it gets to pick up and leave. And, as cliché as it may sound, changing your routine in a major way can change your whole life. "The benefits of change include gaining self-awareness, strength, development, learning that will last a lifetime, and more happiness," Scherwin says.
How to make the change: Taking time to travel doesn’t mean ignoring your future when you return. If you're worried about a resume gap, you can turn your trip into a volunteer mission, or use the trip to do research for a future professional project. And if you can’t bow out of the workforce entirely during your trip, you can likely consult or freelance while traveling. As for keeping in touch with friends? That’s what Facebook is for.
Becoming the Office Social Chair
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: When an email goes around asking for a volunteer to plan team-building events, you're intrigued by the prospect of being in charge. But you already spend enough time at work, so why would you want to take on additional, unpaid labor? Planning events for colleagues can also be a huge headache: Everyone has an opinion.
Why you should do it anyway: Despite all these things, being the office social chair will pay off. The visibility you'll get from this role will allow you to create a lasting reputation that extends beyond how much fun everyone had at the recent rock-climbing event or the holiday soiree. "When applying for an internal promotion, you will be the one who stands out from the crowd of applicants, as you'll have already have created a positive opinion about yourself that extends beyond your job role," Delaney says.
How to make the change: Make friends with your company’s HR and finance teams — you’ll need approval from both of them for anything you plan. And above all, remember that you simply can’t please everyone. If anyone complains about the cake flavors or snack options, smile and say, “‘Beats the vending machine!”
Leaving a Corporate Job to Freelance
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: While you may not love the job you have, Coyne says, it's hard to complain about the stability of regular income, benefits, and paid vacation. Striking out on your own comes with more responsibility — it all comes down to you.
Why you should do it anyway: The idea that your corporate job is 100 percent secure is more of an illusion than reality. "The days of being able to put in 20 years at a job are over," Coyne says. As companies look to cut costs and streamline, they often bring in freelance consultants to replace full-time employees. "Removing the illusion of stability in a traditional job puts you in the driver’s seat and forces you to make choices about what is best for you,” she says.
How to make the change: Before quitting your current gig, reach out to potential clients or employers to feel out the possibilities. You might even apply for a few freelance or consulting gigs that you could take on in the evenings or weekends to see how viable this option is for you, and to ensure you won’t be starting with a blank client roster when your last steady paycheck comes.
Volunteering When Your Schedule Is Packed
Why you'll try to talk yourself out of it: You may feel a desire to give back, but you already feel overwhelmed trying to balance work, family obligations, and that ever-elusive personal time. How can you find room on the calendar?
Why you should do it anyway: Volunteering puts your own life in sharp perspective, sparks feelings of gratitude, and creates a desire to continue giving back. Research shows that volunteering reduces stress and can even have a positive effect on your physical well being — including your longevity. If you have the urge to help, it's worth making space in your life to do so.
How to make the change: As McIntyre points out, it seems that we always find time to do the things we really want to do. It's simply a matter of making volunteer work a priority — and doing it because you truly want to, not because you feel obligated or you think it will boost your resume or reputation.