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Career Development

4 Career Change Lies We Tell Ourselves – and How to Find the Truth

General Assembly
May 9, 2024
4 Career Change Lies We Tell Ourselves - and How to Find the Truth

There’s been a lot of change over the last two years. Not just turning living rooms into shared offices, but a total reprioritization of how people want to spend their lives and, subsequently, their careers.

In fact, 20% of American workers have changed jobs since the pandemic began—the majority being millennials and Gen Z, who’ve been working long enough to know what’s not working for them. 

But changing your career can be one of life’s most frustrating, emotionally exhausting transitions. If you’ve been doing your soul-searching, hitting endless “Apply now” buttons, and you’re drowning in automated rejection emails, you’re not alone. 

No matter how hard it gets, don’t let these four lies hold you back:

#1. “I’m Not good enough.”

The biggest obstacle to career change? You. 

I don’t know enough, I don’t have the right skills or degree, I’m a hack. The stories you tell yourself determine how you present yourself, which can poison the interview process—or prevent it from ever happening. 

“Motivation was not an obstacle for me, but imposter syndrome showed up sporadically and whispered mean things in my ear,” says Sierra Wren, a teacher who pivoted to content design after completing General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive. “Some days I felt more vulnerable, and I allowed myself that. Other days, I told it to shove off.” 

But they say just act confident, right? How often does that work, especially for underrepresented populations? Rather than faking it till you make it, you can become more confident through some behind-the-scenes prep work. 

Here are ways to help silence the self-doubt in your head:

  • Find your career cheerleaders—a mentor, career coach, or friend. Ask them to go over your resume with you and practice interview questions. This process will force you to voice your doubts out loud, while getting feedback and encouragement. 
  • Write out your “I” statements. List your accomplishments at each of your recent jobs and practice sharing them. And remember, it’s “I”, not “we”. Emphasize your role in each achievement. 

#2. “I’m not connected to the right people.”  

It’s hard pounding the pavement with no contacts. But how do you network if you don’t know anyone? Personal connections are the best way to get noticed by hiring managers. Employee referrals are a win-win-win: the recruiter avoids wading through hundreds of resumes, the referrer might get a sweet referral bonus, and you might just land a job. 

The good news is, you have the power to grow your network.

It took Wren around seven months to search and land a full-time UX content design job while completing her bootcamp and taking some short-term contracts. “Much of the tech industry is networking, and a lot of this happens on LinkedIn, Slack, and various meet-ups,” she recounted. “Teachers don’t usually participate in any of those channels, so I had to build up my network and learn how to cold call people at companies I was interested in.”

Here are a few things you can do to build your network for referrals:

  • Attend in-person or virtual meetups in your target industry.
  • Leverage alumni directories or past co-workers to connect with people at your target companies.
  • Search LinkedIn for people with similar positions at your target company. Invite them to meet for an informational interview, then ask if there are any openings and whether they can refer you.

#3. “I don’t have the right skills.” 

It can be hard to trust that your past experience will be enough to fuel your next career. It’s even possible to feel both under- and over-qualified at the same time. Talk about pressure. 

“The biggest obstacle for me was getting people to picture me in light of the new role, rather than what I had done before,” said Priya Venkatachalam, who pivoted from consulting to corporate accounting. “Sometimes it’s challenging to get folks to look past a job title. Learning how to re-package your skills and market them is key!”

Your resume can be easily dismissed if it doesn’t follow the prescribed path for the position you seek. Learn how to tell your non-linear story in a concise and authentic way. 

Here are some tips:

  • Everyone loves a story. Don’t be afraid to share what drove your previous career track, what you learned, and why you’re looking for a change. Keep the conversation moving.
  • Don’t discount your soft skills! Emphasize things like critical thinking, public speaking, and teamwork. 
  • If you’re lacking technical skills, show initiative by including any courses, certificates, or self-paced learning. 

#4. “Changing careers is financially impossible.”

Career change often involves a pay cut, more training, or going back to school. Even if you’re taking all the right steps, money talks and it can be very convincing. 

Financial insecurity can cause a lot of uncertainty and sleepless nights, especially if you have a family to consider. That also compounds the emotional insecurity that accompanies a career shift.  

While your current workplace may be crappy or toxic, it’s also familiar. Who knows what challenges a new work environment will bring—not to mention the time and energy of re-skilling and job-hunting. 

Here are a few strategies to help weigh the opportunity cost:

  • Make a vision board of your dream career path with goals and aspirations. Put it where you can see it, like your bathroom mirror.  
  • List your current job’s shortcomings, such as salary, environment, or advancement limitations. Set a reminder to review it in a month. Don’t let yourself slip into saying, “it’s not so bad…”
  • Work with a loved one or financial advisor to plan how you’ll navigate any income gaps. Then determine your estimated earnings after you pivot.  
  • Find a fellow career-changer buddy to stay accountable. Check in once or twice a month on re-skilling, job applications, and more. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lean towards inertia.  But if you stay where you are, imagine how you’ll feel five years from now.

Why spend more working years in the wrong career? Striving starts with a few small steps. 

Build your network and your confidence, recruit those cheerleaders, and stay accountable with buddies. 

Wren found one set of supporters at her General Assembly bootcamp cohort: “Members of my bootcamp cohort and I were able to pass along roles and share insights. We also had career coaches who helped us prepare for interviews and review our resumes, cover letters, and portfolios.”

Having that network helped her overcome some tough obstacles, including completing five rounds of interviews for a role she ultimately didn’t get. But after that, she found her fit as a UX Content Designer for Spectrum. 

Changing careers can be tough—but you don’t need to be an island. 

Start by attending an information session on one of the top four tech careers ideal for career changers like you: 

And reach out to a General Assembly admissions counselor when you’re ready to take the next step.

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