Deciding to change your career can unleash loads of energy and emotion. Maybe you channelled this into random Google searches for intriguing jobs, doing every imaginable online career test or reading a pile of career change books.
But now you’ve exhausted this first flush of excitement perhaps you’re stuck on how to actually figure out the complex business of changing your career.
Although you’re keen to take some decisive career change action, you’re blocked by analysis paralysis.
Analysis paralysis causes us to overthink everything we know that may have a bearing on decisions little and large. It drives us to take refuge in research as a substitute for action.
I’ve grappled with analysis paralysis as a career changer. Although I knew I needed to do something different, I didn’t know how or where to make a serious start. I worried about the end as well as the beginning. How would I recognise the right career if or when I found it?
My brain whirred like a hamster on a wheel. The mass of career information I’d gathered spun round and round in my head, but it didn’t lead me anywhere. It made me so anxious I wanted to scream.
If analysis paralysis is undermining your career change momentum, these four tips will help you stay on track.
Get out of your head
You’re a smart person. If you could have figured out your career change in your head, you would have done it by now. You certainly wouldn’t be reading this article. So since you’re here, why not change your approach?
The number one thing to do to break out of analysis paralysis is to act.
Talk to someone
As soon as you realise you’re spinning your wheels or stuck in a cyber maze, yell for help. If you have a career change cheerleader, call them or book lunch with a friend or a colleague or a session with a coach.
Organising your thoughts to present to someone else helps you untangle the mess in your mind. Bouncing ideas off your sounding board stops them ricocheting around your exhausted brain. Getting clear, constructive feedback can give you the confidence and clarity you need to make your next move. Very importantly talking to someone else will bring in some much needed new information into your brain.
Act don’t think
Switch off the spin cycle of old information in your head. Treat your overwrought brain to some fresh ideas and different perspectives. Get off Google and out into the real world. Tap your networks for new contacts, volunteer, ask to work shadow. Open your eyes to careers you didn’t even know existed. Learn new things that spark you up and show you what’s genuinely possible (as well as what won’t work).
2. Take small steps
It’s easy to be overwhelmed when your brain is awash with career change ideas. If you’re drowning in ‘to do’ lists linked to exploring your options, try this. Ask yourself,
‘What’s the smallest practical thing I can do today to keep my career change exploration moving?’
Maybe it’s sending a quick email to someone you are keen to talk to. Perhaps it’s compiling a hit list and contacting five organisations where you could offer to volunteer. How about signing up to support a local event where you’re likely to meet people who share your interests.
Think of all the small, quick or even quirky ways you could try out a new career. Besides shadowing, volunteering or pro bono work try giving it a go with a friend. If a career in fitness is on your list, offer someone a personal training session in your garden. If fashion or design appeal to you, host an evening of wardrobe swapping and restyling.
Pick a thing and do it even if you don’t feel ready or you’re worried about a less than perfect outcome. Done is better than perfect. And you’ll only know if something is right if you give it a go.
3. Trust your gut
Sometimes this is a matter of making an instant, intuitive choice before analysis paralysis sets in. Other times it’s a way out from under the crushing weight that comes with overthinking. If you find it tough to trust your instincts in the information era, here is a tip from Malcolm Gladwell whose book Blink makes a case for the power of split-second decision making.
‘The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.’
Understanding comes from the kind of ‘thinking without thinking ‘ we do all the time. This is called ‘thin slicing’ – it’s our hardwired capacity to rapidly filter out what’s important in any situation. Thin slicing is the opposite of overloading our brains with data. It’s intuitive and innate and the reason why so many apparently spontaneous decisions work out better than carefully considered ones.
If you‘re stuck for a way to make a data-driven decision and drowning in ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’, go with your gut. Focus on each of your options and note the first thing you feel and the impression it made on you before anxiety or disbelief set in. Maybe you had a split second image of yourself thriving in a new role before fear of failure hit. Maybe you felt a moment of doubt about pursuing a lead your head tells you should be ideal.
4. Work with whatever happens
However and whatever we decide there are no guarantees that things will turn out as we would like. Any decision is a first step and so much of what happens next is beyond our control. The ultimate ‘rightness’ of our decisions depends largely on how confidently we handle the consequences whatever they turn out to be.
Try to approach career change exploration as a chance to try something out. You won’t know if a career is right for you until you try it. Immerse yourself in as many career environments as you can, without anticipating or judging the outcome of your experiments. If you find that it’s not for you, that’s a win, one less on the list. Use this vital insight to refine your next decision and reset your direction.
Caught in career change analysis paralysis? Let’s talk about getting you out of it.
By Jo Green, Career Change Coach
I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead! I can help you explore what meaningful work is for you. I’ll work with you to lessen the stress of changing careers.
Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.