• Joanna Blazinska

30 Tips for a Successful and (Fairly) Painless Career Change

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Career change is a mine field. Explore the factors to consider before you set out in the pursuit of your dream career.

My career change was supposed to be easy. That was the plan. I knew what I wanted to do. I have had the clarity since I was 21: I want to be an entrepreneur! Then, there would be a simple plan and a quick implementation. Execution. Done.

Having performed a few major life changes previously, this was just yet another change. This time, without moving countries, packing up frantically, trans-Atlantic flights. With interesting awards. No downsides in my mind.

That’s what I thought.

In practice, it turned out to be far from easy.

There were tears, self-sabotage, guilt, shame, perceived judgment, fear of failure and procrastination. Together with leaps of growth and incredible learnings.

Spoiler alert: I’ve changed careers and feel very happy now.

I’m happy now to be sharing my tips and lessons from the journey. Although some of the tips I share might not be understood now, once you are moving, you’ll know when the same thing happens to you.

Here are my 30 lessons I wanted to share with you. It was initially just 10 lessons… But eventually I came up with 30.

I want to be honest with you so you know exactly what to expect if you hop on this journey, but also where I believe you can do better than I did - so learn from my mistakes!

1. Forget the “shoulds”. Do it for yourself.

Forget who or where you think you should be.

Or what you think you should be doing.

Or what you think your family thinks you should be doing.

The chances are you are using someone else’s criteria or your perception of their opinion.

A career change is something you need to do for yourself first. Why?

It’s not selfish. It really isn’t.

But you need to do it for yourself. When you are happy, the rest will also be happy.

First of all, it’s your career. If you’re changing the field of work, you might as well change into something you’ll love spending time on. You’ll not create as much value if you work on something you are not excited about.

Secondly, on the way to fulfilment and achievement, there’s no point in living other people’s ambition. You’re not showing your family the best example even though you might think so. You will be most successful if you do it in alignment with your values and beliefs, and where you know your potential can be optimized.

Thirdly, you do not want to find yourself late in life… regretting. I know I did not want to.

I think - and I’d love your opinion on that - that we all have 2 options:

  • one career that is a logical, easy to attain choice.

  • the second one is what I’d call the “secret career”. Something you’ve always wanted to do, even just for the sake of trying. Your family and closest friends don’t know about it. You do not talk about it.

Which one will you choose?

2. Get your people on board

You do not want to convince people to be on your side. It takes a lot of mental energy, and those around you might not be on board. They might be projecting their own fears on you, or just not want you to flourish.

However, if you can provide more information for them not to worry anymore, do that. You want as many ambassadors and cheerleaders as possible, and as much positive energy around you.

If you cannot make someone see your point of view, move on. They will see the result, but won’t witness the journey. And that’s ok.

3. Raise self-awareness

This part of the process is a very interesting one. And this is where you do your inner research.

I am yet to determine whether there can be a shortcut to this, or a sure-fire way to get this done within a certain timeframe.

What I do know is that it’s best accomplished through questions. And counterintuitively, the answers will not always pop up immediately. Why?

For some of the questions, your breakthroughs will come through self-observation. You’ll notice what you say, what you’re drawn to, what you spend Sundays and every morning on. “Follow the effort, not passion” advises Mark Cuban.

Other answers will be thrown suddenly by your subconscious. Over time.

Other insights will come from questions such as “what do I want?” - you’re studying your preferences, but also deciding on them. You cannot go for it all at once.

“What is it that I am fearing to lose through this career change?” - research your fears and beliefs.

Study your values.

Another interesting part of this research is to get feedback from your family, friends, mentors - regarding your strengths. This might surprise you what blindspots you might have.

Similarly, if you hire a career coach to figure this out, you’ll have someone by your side, unconditionally, who notices your body language, challenges you and holds you to a higher standard.

4. Study your beliefs

As you learn more about yourself, one extremely important topic is your beliefs. You do not want to have beliefs conflicting with your new vision of yourself and your world.

They will just make any implementation impossible.

Over time you’ll notice how you react to certain ideas. When someone says “you’ll earn 1 million”, do you think “it’s not for me”, or “yep! When?”, “I’m ready”?

Both reactions imply a different set of beliefs. Choose the beliefs to support your journey. And work on embodying them. Earlier said than done - I know.

Remove any roadblocks. Depending where you are in your journey, you might discover mindset blocks. Make sure to give yourself time to heal and bid farewell to those blocks.

Time to replace them with a new set of beliefs and to reinforce self-belief. This is of paramount importance. If this is not nailed in your mind, it will be hard to move ahead.

5. Build your criteria set

When choosing your options, you might instantly know what to go for.

However, if you want to be more methodical, build a set of criteria to guide your selection process.

A scorecard listing your criteria, so what the new job or new career needs to have.

All this to guide your decision making.

How much calmer will you feel if you know you’ve got the clarity of what you want? And that your selection process is not an ad hoc random one?

You know what drives you: is it money, work-life balance, possibility of hybrid work, emphasis on wellbeing, high position etc. This criteria may vary over time as your priorities shift.

A set of carefully chosen criteria makes the whole process an actual process. Nothing happens willy-nilly. You’ll feel so much more confident, peaceful and clear. This is also a sign you’re treating yourself seriously, while increasing the certainty of getting to the desired outcome and decreasing a possibility of future regrets.

6. Instant vs. delayed gratification

Vs. building for delayed results.

When crafting your options, you’ll see these 2 groups will be popping in your mind.

The “should” option - the logical next step in your career. You’ve been around for a while so this should be attained pretty quickly and easily. And you think your family is expecting it of you. Instant gratification is involved here.

Or the “could” option. Not as straightforward, but you know you’re made to do it. You might have not mentioned it to anyone ever (I call this your secret career desire) as you’d feel embarrassed for even daring to dream that big. But you know you’d be very happy and good doing it. This is also a more risky option, not as logical, not the logical next step… There will be delayed gratification.

A couple of things here… This needs to be solely your decision, without consideration of anyone or anything, at least for the start. You will need buy-in eventually.

But you need to be clear what you want to choose and what’s important now.

Just make sure not to postpone the choice of the delayed gratification option for too long in your life. What’s easy to obtain will not make you happy for long.

Even if it takes you 3 years to get where you want to be, and you might not like to be seen starting from scratch, uncertain and insecure… Well, attaining your goal and level of satisfaction will make it all worth it. Accept the challenge!

7. Build skills.

Skills are the basis of your futureproof career.

Once you’ve got the option selected and a plan built on how to get there, you need to review your skills.

What top skills will you need to build? It’s worth getting feedback from others, self-assess and break down skill groups into specific skills you’ll need to develop.

Look, you don’t need to go totally academic. You might not need a M.Sc. for all the skills. Google and YouTube are perfectly fine sources of information. Depending on what you want to learn, you might want to hack the learning and seek out experts to learn from. Just make sure you get started and not hide behind getting a qualification.

In this day and age, it should take you 3-6 months to build a skill. And anyway, you’ll be able to achieve it mainly through practice.

Just remember not to feel embarrassed about being incompetent at the beginning. Especially if your entire professional life you were good at everything.

If you cringe at the idea of being judged by others, buckle up. Because you will. But it should not matter to you.

It’s your fight and your skills. No one is doing it for you.

And even if you change careers again in the future… You’ve got a new skill in your portfolio!

For me right now? I’m building content creation skills. I broke it down into chunks and the first skill to tackle is copywriting. You see, I can go through life whining about how as a foreigner I’ll never be able to dominate the field. I choose to strive for excellence.

When I started doing videos on LinkedIn last year, I got mocked in person. And you know what? No one cares. Those who mock do it because they feel like they are missing something. It’s not about me. So bye, haters! Back to practising my craft.

8. Be extremely honest with yourself.

This point is crucial. And not only for career change. But just for everything you do in life.

If you want to improve yourself and an aspect of your professional or personal life, you need to be honest with yourself.

What do I really want? Am I being honest with myself? What’s my secret dream?

Where do I suck?

What do I do amazingly well?

Why am I in a point of pain in my career?

What do I need to improve about myself?

Is it possible that I perform self-sabotage?

Why do I not proceed with change?

Who do I need to become to get into the next level?

What’s my next step?

It’s not a matter of self-flagellation, but tweaking and moving on. Let’s be practical, while honest.

If you see you need to heal, take your time to do so. You’ve taken the first step.

9. Get radically responsible for your results.

When we are in enough pain, we tend to desperately look for solutions. And often to overestimate the power of others to induce change in our own lives.

The truth is though… Seek as much help as you wish. But treat all the mentors, coaches and therapists as your support council. And remember: you perform the change. No one else.

There will be no hand-holding or done-for-you. It’s all up to you to figure it all out and take action.

10. Embrace reinvention.

This is the cool bit of the process. You might be in pain now.

But imagine… You can choose and create anything you want. You can become anyone you want.

If you think big enough, this reinvention process can be a super exciting event in your life.

Whatever you dream of right now, there’s a path and plan to get there. And once you decide, reach clarity and kick off the process, you can get there quicker than you think! And I hope you surprise yourself.

11. Embrace your strengths.

Your strengths will help you build further competence and new skills, then confidence in turn.

Embrace them because it will make the whole career transition easier. And it make the new career creation so much more effective and efficient.

And whenever you have days of lower confidence, or maybe impostor syndrome is kicking in, you’ll always have the evidence in front of you: your strengths, to convince you and your brain that you can and will figure everything out.

12. Do not look to the sides. Comparison is the enemy.

I’ll repeat that: comparison is the enemy.

As much as we get accustomed to corporate ladders, performance reviews, looking at other people’s results to understand where we are on our paths… the truth is…

There is no one path.

And it is not a cliche.

You should always be working on laying your own path, and executing to the best of your ability.

The rest: positions, titles, salaries and cars… It is all irrelevant in comparison. And definitely nothing to focus on.

Work on your fundamentals. Look ahead. Never look back or to the sides.

13. Focus. Hyper-focus. Clarity.

Once you’ve worked on your options, chosen an option to go for with the imperfect information at hand, you’re clear on what to do next. You’ve planned. You know what you’ll do in the next 3-6 months. Or longer if necessary. But the main point: you’re clear.

Now: focus. Actually, now. Deploy hyperfocus.

It’s that much that this is important.

You’ll find it incredible how quickly you’ll be able to see results when you focus on 1 thing at a time. And work on it obsessively. Experiment, try and test.

Even if you feel there’s so much to do, always practice focus. Your mind will become calm and your output will be of higher quality.

You’ll thank yourself.

14. Learn new habits and unlearn the old ones.

Another success factor: habits.

This is where you also need to be very clear on what the new ones need to be to get the result you want.

And where you need to be very honest on what old habits to unlearn.

And both learning and unlearning is essential.

I’d advise you to review this on a weekly basis. And kick off with a week of observation.

Unlearn first to create space for the new. Build the new as it will still take time.

Try to build new habits one by one. You don't build all in 1 week.

Use old habit triggers to stack new habits. As in… You love to start your morning with coffee (trigger!). You go to the kitchen and what you see on your coffee table is a journal. You can easily start journaling (a new habit!) as you get your coffee.

Mindset-wise - see how you need to approach this with yourself: do you need to be strict to yourself? Or create comfort to be able to unlearn the old and learn the new?

15. Forget the (online) success stories.

Yep, forget the success stories. If they are not inspiring you, forget them.

But also… if they are… you also need to remember not all of them are actually true. The Internet is full of people who fake their success, or do not reveal the truth about the entirety of their journey.

A coach who tells you they created 6 figures in their business in the first 4 months. But they for