Making a career change is a really great idea if you’re unhappy with where things are going right now. However, doing so does come with a few challenges. Several in fact, but there are a few that that can be rather stifling to the newfound energy you’ll be beaming with after finally pulling the trigger and making the decision to move on.
This post mainly relates to those of you planning to make a drastic change, such as going from a position you’re really experienced at and revered for, and starting all over in an entry level position of sorts.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to go for it (and you’d better, or else!) but knowing the following less-than-pleasant realities that come along with a job change will hopefully make the transition easier rather than agonizingly difficult and emotionally taxing.
Career change: Three bitter realities
1. Hello newbie! What’s your name again?
This applies mostly to those who have at least a couple of years experience to offer in their past job. Being a newbie always comes with challenges, but it’s particularly so if you’re used to being respected for what you can do.
Personally, in the past this was always the part about starting a completely new job that bothered me the most. I’d bring all the confidence of being a thoughtful, resourceful source of knowledge and ideas from previous positions to each job with me on the first day.
Twenty minutes after walking in the door, I was soon to realize that nobody in the new company knew me and thus, I was the dreaded “newbie”. That guy that doesn’t even have a clue how to tie a shoelace, let alone navigate the company database program or realize that you have to dial “8” before making an outbound call.
Forget about the skills and accomplishments you talked about in the interview with HR or the company manager. It’s very unlikely they had a sitdown with your coworkers and told them how experienced you are and what a great problem solver you can be. In fact, if they did, you’re likely to be dealing with the worse nemesis of all – see number 2.
2. You’re going to take their job, aren’t you?
This one is a fickle beast to deal with, and it doesn’t just apply to the 50-somethings that are closing in on retirement and want to make sure their company 401Ks are intact. Some will quickly note your experience, skill sets, glowing personality, or all-round intelligence and immediately feel threatened by you.
Perhaps they haven’t been doing a great job as of late and will go as far as to let paranoia about managements true intentions for you set in – ie., “She’s being trained to take over my position so they can phase me out.”
This problem can compound in several ways including those who’re threatened going out of their way to treat you like the most dimwitted newbie ever, to downright sabotaging your efforts to win both theirs and management’s approval by taking credit for your work or making up rumors and such about you to make you look bad.
If I could offer one bit of advice to avoid this scenario as best you can, it would be to learn the art of being humble. Leave your arrogance at the door and spend your efforts “doing” the work rather than “talking” about how talented you are. Cultivate relationships and be kind and respectful. By the time they all realize what a superstar (ie., threat) you’re capable of being, you’ll already have won them over with your great attitude and work ethic.
3. You’re mediocre dimwit
Sure, this sounds more than a little crass, but I didn’t label this post “The Super Duper Most Wonderful Realities of Switching Career Paths,” did I? However, this career change reality is merely part of the human condition, it’s not personal at all.
As far as the people at your new job know, you don’t know anything. In fact, if you sit down with most managers and ask them the best way to teach someone something new, most would answer “Teach them like they’re a dimwit / dummy / complete moron,” etc.
You haven’t proven yourself yet. If you know how to do something and someone is keen on treating you like you don’t have a clue, let your pride take a backseat for a while. Over time, as they all see how well you can handle yourself on a computer or whatever, they’ll start to see you in the light you want to be seen.
If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, teaching you stuff like you’re someone who only has 5% brain function is good. It’s better than treating you like you have the IQ of James Woods (the smartest celeb on the planet) and rifling off information to you a hundred miles an hour, preventing you from learning anything.
Much of the unpleasant realities that come from shifting career paths comes down to egos; your ego and your new coworker’s egos. Keep your ego and your insecurities in check and you’ll do fine. So many people get themselves into a panic after the first day or two, only to look back a few weeks later and realize how silly they were being.