What’s Stopping You from Making the Jump to a New Career?

From procrastination to negative thoughts to paralyzing fear, here are 11 things that hold people back from taking a chance on a fresh start. Check the list to see if you’re letting the wrong things keep you stuck.

Four people dressed in business suits jump together enthusiastically.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We have all seen the headlines about available jobs, but not enough people are applying for them in these COVID-challenged times. Why?

“Sarah,” a 10-year HR veteran in the IT staffing field, has a theory. As she told me, “When asked, ‘Why don’t you want to come back to work?’ so often we hear, ‘I just want to do something else, but right now, I don’t really know what, and I’m a bit afraid of doing much of anything outside of what I know.’”

Sarah admitted, “I also feel that way and just wish there was a by-the-numbers guidebook on steps I can take to start my own company. Dennis, have you got any suggestions?”

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I do indeed and just finished reading a timely prescription for anyone who wants to make that jump from one career to another, or to becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, that is the title of best-selling author Kim Perell’s new book, Jump.

Laid off at her first job out of college at an internet startup that went bankrupt, Kim began a journey as an entrepreneur from her kitchen table with a $10,000 loan from her 80-year-old grandmother, and grew her digital marketing company to over $100 million in annual revenue.

I asked Kim, “When thinking of the people who want something better in their lives — to literally jump out of where they are now — but just don’t, what are the biggest mistakes they are making?”

1. They wait until they are ‘ready.’

The reality is, you will never be ready! You will never have 100% of the skills you believe are necessary to take that ideal job. If you have at least 70%-80% of the qualifications needed, STILL apply for it! Believe in yourself, trust in your ability and take the risk.

2. They wait for the perfect opportunity – the perfect time.

If you do that, you will be waiting forever. There is no perfect time. Right now there are a record number of job openings in the U.S. It’s likely that a number of those who could be applying for new opportunities are waiting for the right time, too.

3. They think, ‘I don’t have time to look for a different job or start a business.’

Really? There are 24 hours in a day. After accounting for sleep and work, there are still several free hours. Use the time to make this exploration a priority! Excuses will only keep you where you are; action will bring you closer to success.

4. They allow their fears of the unknown to be paralyzing.

Be brave. There’s no growth or challenge in your comfort zone. While your fears and anxieties may be valid, they should not stop you from moving forward. Use your fear as fuel, not an excuse.

5. They fail to ask: ‘What is the worst that can happen if I don’t make a change?’

If you do that, you will stay stuck. You will never truly learn your potential for growth if you keep doing the same thing and expect to feel different. Avoiding change will stifle your happiness and growth.

6. They think, ‘I don’t need a plan. I will figure it out.’

Success doesn't happen by accident. The absence of a plan can be detrimental to achieving your goals. You would not go on a hike in a forest without a map, and the same applies to planning for a career change. Without a clear plan, you are more likely to get lost, distracted and off track. With a clear plan, and specific action steps you need to take, you will be setting yourself up for success.

Establish a success plan of one year, two years, and so on.

7. They think, ‘I can do this alone!’

Consequences: You will not be able to leverage your network for help or find a mentor to guide you. Most people want to help. The majority of employers want applicants who are referred by people they trust. Begin by asking your friends and family for connections or if they know of job openings.

8. They think, ‘I don't have a choice.’

If you truly believe this, you will stay stuck. The truth is you do have a choice. It may be a difficult one to make, but that doesn't mean you don't have one. It’s always scary making a change, but regret is far scarier.

9. They think, ‘I am too old to make a change.’

Let this negative type of thinking hold you back and you will miss out on chances for future success. Belief in your abilities and competence is critical. It’s never too late to venture into an area where you have the basic skills needed to succeed. Inspiration and innovation can come at any age. The world is changing faster than ever, and no matter your age, you can evolve right along with it.

10. They think that belief is enough to get your business started.

Not true. Simply believing there is a market for your idea or product isn’t enough. Do your research, educate yourself on the competitive landscape.

11. They fail to assemble the right team.

You need honest people who will level with you, and this includes an experienced business lawyer and accountant. Your chances for success diminish greatly without them. Life and business are team sports.

Concluding our interview, with a broad smile, Kim says, “I even tell my kids, I want you to jump instead of standing still!”


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."