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ATD Blog

Career Development Is Not for Wimps

By and

Tue Sep 18 2012

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Since July, ASTD has been collecting stories from members about the scariest but best career moves they’ve made. A simple analysis of themes helped us summarize key ideas from the data collected. 

CATEGORY

#

%

Changing field or industry

14

26%

Relocating

6

11%

Seeking further education

5

10%

Taking on a new role/responsibilities

5

10%

Changing sectors

4

7%

Going freelance or starting own business

4

7%

Leaving a job with no alternative employment

4

7%

Leaving a long-term position

3

6%

Taking a position with less pay, benefits or security

2

4%

Taking initiative with networking or interviews

2

4%

Turning down an opportunity

2

4%

Becoming a teacher

1

2%

Joining the military

1

2%

TOTAL

53

100%

 

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Who would have guessed that changing one’s field or industry would be the top scariest move to make? Stunningly, it’s twice as scary as making a physical move, three times scarier than starting one’s own business, and 12 times scarier than going to war! 

Jack Zenger—who is always one step ahead—foreshadowed this sentiment in his recent Click on Careers interview. He advised people to choose wisely because the vast majority of us will end up in the field we first select. And, now we know that the source of the inertia may be fear. 

But those who felt the fear (yet made the industry change anyway) were rewarded in a variety of ways—large and small. 

Liberation and learning: Transitioning to a new industry creates a wide-open playing field. The absence of established mental models and “rules” enables us to approach learning in a new and unrestricted fashion. This respondent says it best: “I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that allowed me not to be intimidated and learn my way.”

Confidence: Doing something scary is one of the quickest ways to build self-assurance and discover what we can do. “It proved to me that there is more than one way to use your skills and experiences,” said one respondent.  

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Satisfaction and happiness: Playing it safe is comfortable. But working through the fear, trusting our instincts, and taking that leap can lead us toward a future we never dreamed possible. According to one, “It turned out that L&D was my dream.” Adds another, “\[I\] found a field that I absolutely love now.” 

So, tell us your story. What scary career moves have you made and how did you benefit? 

(And special thanks to the 53 people who logged on and generously shared their experiences of facing fear and trepidation to achieve something better.)

This guest blog post celebrates the launch of the authors' new book_, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want._

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