Episode #39: How to Overcome Career Change Barriers, and Fears

Career Change Barriers

Welcome to The Confident Careerist Podcast for professionals just like you who place a high value on their career development and strive for success while also seeking work-life balance.

My name is Teena Evert and I am delighted to be your host. I’m a careerist myself and career development, leadership, and life coach. I love what I do and I hope that you enjoy the creation of this podcast and allow it to be an important tool in your toolbox that will help you to accelerate your success, gain greater confidence and happiness in your work-life.

Today, I am talking about Career Change Barriers, Fears, and Strategies one of my favorite topics!

Since graduating from college, I have changed my career many times and have negotiated even more life transitions! 

Early in my career, I felt that there were more barriers to continue with my work living in remote Alaska as a Fisheries Biologist, so I sought out a change. I was also fearless and optimistic in my 20’s and really didn’t let anything get in my way. I also didn’t have any real strategies in place or any kind of formal guidance. As a result, my career path was 100% determined by happenstance. 

Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out. – Art Linkletter

John Dwight Krumboltz was an American psychologist who made an important contribution in the field of occupational and vocational guidance. In his book, Luck Is No Accident, he encourages his readers to prepare for the unexpected and to take advantage of chance events in order to make the most out of random “happenstances”. He states that unplanned events and chance occurrences more often determine life and career choices than all the careful planning we do. This was true for me. I experienced chance meetings, seasonal jobs, sudden job loss, and many hobbies that led me in unexpected life directions and career choices.

Today, over 20 years later, I am proud to say I am a passionate career and life coach who has had the honor of helping a lot of people navigate life transitions, especially when it comes to changing careers. This can be a difficult process, especially if you don’t know what you don’t know and if you don’t have guidance or a strategy in place.

William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, talks about the difference between change and transition. He describes ‘change’ as something that is situational and can happen quickly. It could be an external event taking place, a change in leadership, or a new strategy or product. When change occurs the focus is typically on the outcome that the change will produce.

Bridges describes a transition as the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. He describes the starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome, but the endings that people have in leaving an old situation behind. If the change is actually to work as planned then being able to negotiate the transition process is essential.

Nancy Schlossberg, researcher and author of many books on adults and transition, defines transition as any event, or non-event that results in changed relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles. Schlossberg emphasizes that perception plays a key role in transitions as an event or non-event, and meets the definition of a transition ONLY if it is so defined by the individual experiencing it. In order to best understand the meaning that a transition has for a particular individual, the type, context, and impact of the transition must be considered.

Types of transitions

  • Anticipated transitions, which occur predictably, such as a graduation from college
  • Unanticipated transitions are not predictable or scheduled, such as divorce, the sudden death of a loved one, or a job loss.
  • Non-event transitions are expected but don’t occur, such as failure to be admitted into medical school or not receiving a job offer.
  • Context refers to the relationship with the transition and to the setting in which the transition takes place.
  • Impact is determined by the degrees to which a transition alters one’s daily life.

Many of the people I have coached came to me for help because they were ‘stuck’ in a career transition and their career development was blocked. I’ve worked with people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, where some are wondering if it’s time to make a career change and others who are already experiencing it.

I will be using both the terminology of a career change and career transition to describe the process that one goes through when they’re experiencing a change, shift, or major pivot in one career that impacts all areas of their life.

We all run into barriers when we experience significant life and career change. Let’s look at some of the most common barriers that can challenge our ability to negotiate this process.

  • Practical Requirements. The practical requirements of life can become barriers, such as needing money, having a roof over your head, raising a family, not being able to take time off from work or take a long break if laid off to look for the right job, or not having the right skills, or being in your 50’s and wanting enough money saved for retirement.
  • A Gap. A barrier to finding “Ideal” work is that there can be a huge gap between where you are now to where you want to be. For example, if you dream of being an engineer or getting out of law school there can be some tension built up – think about it like a rubber band and your ideal work is so far from where you are that the ideal is like the tension in the rubber band. My work in career development and as a life coach is to lessen the tension of this rubber band through mindset, opportunity, and choice so that you can see the steps to reach your goal.
  • Not Feeling “At Home”. Another barrier is never quite feeling “At Home” in your career. Some people, particularly women may feel unfulfilled in their career in the administration field because they feel they never have enough clout and fear that their life has passed them by.
  • Transferable Skills. If you have been laid off or you’re in a dying career field a barrier to moving forward can be an inability to translate your job skills to a new career.
  • Fear. Fear can become another barrier, as we all know, it can hold us back and keep us from taking action. FEAR stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. It’s important to realize that fear is present for everyone and it has the potential to serve as a catalyst for growth – if we’re not paralyzed by it.

What are some of the biggest fears you are facing? 

What are the indicators that fear is in control? What strategies do you use to help move through the fear?

These are important questions to answer for yourself. There are several things that happen when we make a change, whether it’s by chance or by choice.

I think it’s true that people tend to feel uncomfortable about what they are giving up, they often hyper-focus on what they’re giving up, they can also feel alone and start to isolate themselves.

People also have different levels of change readiness and may have a perception of limited resources. This often causes them to revert back to old behavior and settle back into where they were comfortable.

What have you experienced before when you made a significant life change?

What slowed you down? What helped you make the change?

Strategies for negotiating a career transition

It’s important for people who are negotiating a career transition to know that they are not alone. Many people wonder where they fit in challenging economic times. As a career coach, I help people get going by strategizing about possible barriers, both internal and external, and what is really holding them back from making changes. Coaching helps them gain more ideas, be more creative, become less anxious about the future, and become more confident in building the life and career they choose.

Nancy Schlossberg is an expert on how people cope with transitions. Her interests include adult development, adult transitions, career development, and adults as learners. She believes that everyone experiences transitions, which alter our roles, relationships, routines, and assumptions.

Schlossberg was interested in understanding the variables that make the difference between how people negotiate a transition. Through her extensive research, she identified four major sets of factors that influence a person’s ability to cope with a transition. They are known as the 4 S’s: situation, self, support, and strategies.

The first S in the context of the Situation itself.

What precipitated the transition? Is the transition considered “on time” or “off-time” in terms of your social clock?

For example, if a transition occurs during a terrible situation, where there are many things happening in your life at once and this consumes all of your time and attention, then this will make the negotiation process much more complicated than if the context of the situation is less chaotic. So be aware of the complexity of your situation.

What aspect of the transition do you perceive as being within your control? Is a role change involved and if so, do you view it as a gain or a loss?  Does this seem permanent, temporary, or uncertain?

What is your experience with a similar transition and how effectively did you cope? Are there other sources of stress present in your life? Who or what is seen as responsible for the transition, and how is your behavior affected by this person?

The second S is Self and what you bring to the transition.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty?

You are a potential resource in the negotiation process that strongly depends on how you manage your mindset.

According to Schlossberg, there are several factors that are important to consider in relation to the self. Personal and demographic characteristics affect how a person views life, such as socioeconomic status, gender, age, stage of life, state of health, and ethnicity. Another factor is the psychological resources including ego development, outlook, and commitment, and values.

The third S is Support.

What support do you have in place? Key areas of support are your intimate relationships, family unit, network of friends, institutions, and communities.

If you don’t feel as supported as you would like to be, what do you do to compensate for this? Do you become fiercely independent and try to go it alone? How do you self-sabotage?

The fourth S is Strategy.

What are your coping strategies? How flexible are your coping strategies for dealing with the process of a transition over time?

It’s important to develop new coping strategies so that you can continue to move along your growing edge and not fall into old habits and patterns that not only keep you comfortable but also stuck.

Start with the ending

The Transition Model developed by William Bridges states that a transition starts with an ending. This is really the first phase that we must go through where we identify what we are losing and learn how to manage these losses. It’s a process, where we determine what is over and being left behind, and what you will keep. This may include relationships, processes, team members, or locations.

Navigating the neutral zone

The second step comes after letting go and is referred to as the neutral zone. The neutral zone is when people go through an in-between time when the old is gone, but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what the new roles will be, but it’s in flux and doesn’t feel comfortable or familiar quite yet. William Bridges refers to it as the seedbed of the new beginnings that are sought.

Experiencing new beginnings

The final phase is where people experience new beginnings. Beginnings involve new understandings, new values, and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction and they are an expression of a fresh identity. The well-managed transition allows people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. They are reoriented and renewed.

Creating Meaningful Work

This leads to the creation of meaningful work. The core of my career coaching model embodies meaningful work. The phrase “meaningful work” means different things to different people. It is work that adds value, significance, and purpose to an individual’s life. It is customizable and unique to every individual that aligns with the true interests, values, and skills of that individual. Meaningful work can bring a positive sense of self, is often engaging and exciting, and creates a sense of balance and ease.

If you are thinking about a career change or in the process of one and would like to be coached through the process to ensure you negotiate it in the best way possible, please reach out to me by scheduling a Free Consultation where I will have the opportunity to learn more about your situation and provide you with some recommendations and support.


If you are thinking about a career change or in the process of one and would like to be coached through the process to ensure you negotiate it in the best way possible, please reach out to me by scheduling a FREE Consultation where I will have the opportunity to learn more about your situation and provide you with some recommendations and support.