Three Reasons We Struggle with Career Transitions

… and how to overcome them

Three Reasons We Struggle with Career Transitions

You want to make a career transition, but you just can’t seem to take meaningful steps toward your career goals.

Even after soul-searching, clarifying your career values, and identifying potential leads, you keep putting off doing the work necessary to make the transition.

Whether you’re considering a transition to a new career entirely or just want to pivot within the same industry, making a career change can be daunting. Here are some psychological factors that could be getting in the way of your career aspirations.


Limiting beliefs about career transitions and changes are pervasive, including ideas that it is too early or too late to change, that a pay cut is inevitable, that you’ll be settling for less, that you’ll let others down, or that this means you failed in some respect.

We tend to be most susceptible to believing such myths in times of low confidence and when we try to ignore the confusing and overwhelming feelings that can accompany change. Instead, let yourself feel the full range of emotions, which may include fear, sadness, guilt, or excitement.

Be kind to yourself and allow those emotions to come. Avoidance of emotions can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, which, in turn, can make these myths seem more convincing.

If you find yourself allowing career change myths to take up precious mental real estate, ask yourself: where are these ideas coming from, and whose voices are asserting them? Make peace with the fact that your choices will not please everyone.


Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and fear of change can keep people trapped in their current situations. Career transition can spur fears regarding job security, losing status or a sense of identity, self-doubt about one’s abilities, or even fears about disruption of a routine, among other things.

It’s important to recognize that having worries around career transition is completely natural, and also to acknowledge that desire for stability can cause you to miss out on a more rewarding career.

Accepting that change typically can’t happen without at least some distress can lead to a more welcoming outlook; but also remember that worrying about change can cause more anxiety than the change itself!

Fear generally has a purpose, so listen to what it is alerting you to: maybe more research can provide clarity, maybe breaking down tasks into manageable chunks can bring calm, maybe you need to engage in self-reflection around your identity as separate from your work-identity, or maybe you need to acknowledge the skills and capabilities that have gotten you where you are today.

Instead of imagining all possible negative scenarios, visualize a successful transition. What does it look like?

Perhaps, most importantly, be motivated by your fears. Why should you fear staying in your current role? Maybe you’re unfulfilled, burnt-out, or longing for the next challenge — imagine not acting on those downsides, and let the fear of inaction inspire your next move.


If you have perfectionist tendencies, there’s also a good chance you engage in a healthy dose of procrastination. When it comes to career transitions, a perfectionist might think their transition must be perfect and they have to have everything planned out, continuously delaying taking actual steps.

To overcome the perfectionism-procrastination loop, try going for good enough. Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect to get started. Start small and do a bit at a time. Seek out mentors and arrange informational interviews, but don’t worry about having all the right contacts. Make an appointment with a career counsellor. Surround yourself with supportive friends and colleagues, as well as others considering a career change.

What is one step you could take today to advance your career goals?