Common Fears about Pursuing Your Dream Career

Why do people pursue certain careers? I suspect that many choose their careers because they are familiar and safe. Maybe they grew up in an area where there weren’t a lot of career options, so they chose something they knew. They are held back from pursuing careers that interest them because they have fears, some of which are very legitimate and some that are not. Some common fears that hold us back when choosing a career:

1. Being judged by friends, family, and society
. If I quit my job/change my major, what will people think? This is what I thought several years ago when I was pursuing a career that I knew wasn’t right for me. I was worried about seeming flaky and worried about what other people would think. Changing from a seemingly interesting and secure career path would seem crazy. I was worried entirely too much about what other people thought and not enough about my own future happiness. People change careers all of the time and many college students change majors several times. Stop worrying so much about being “normal” or following a conventional career path. Often, judgmental people have many regrets themselves and are jealous that you have the courage to make a change or do something unfamiliar.

2. Not finding a job in your chosen field. I admit that this is a legitimate concern because demand is declining rapidly for some careers and other jobs have very few openings. If job security is something you value highly in a career, you shouldn’t pursue one of these careers. However, don’t let demand be the sole criteria in choosing a career. Research careers and how many openings there are annually. Also, how long and rigorous is the training? Jobs that require a professional degree might have a small number of openings per year, but they also have a smaller number of qualified applicants per position. Talk to people working in the areas that interest you and see if they are confident about demand and growth. If you are willing to move where the jobs are concentrated and choose a field with growing demand, chances are you can find employment in your chosen field.

3. Not making enough money to live comfortably. This is another legitimate concern. You have to be realistic when choosing a career. Decide what the minimum amount of take-home pay you need for basics, savings and a few extras you really enjoy. You should also have enough to pay off debt and have some left for emergencies. Making a modest salary in a job you love will probably be worth giving up some luxuries. Also, having a high paying job might not be worth the trade-offs: poor health, stress, and lack of personal time.

Some links to help with your research :

  • Student Loan advisor (based on expected salary after graduation)
  • Payscale.com

What if you determine that your dream career isn’t realistic? Find the next best career based on your skills, interests, personality and values. Take career tests and look for careers that are always near the top. Talk to people currently in those careers and do some job shadowing. You dream career might make a good side income and you may even be able to pursue it full-time someday.

4. Failure. Fear of failure should never hold you back. Failure means different things to different people, so redefine what failure means to you. As long as you keep pursuing your goals (and these goals may change over time), you haven’t failed. When you first start out in a career, you won’t have a lot of experience and you may feel overwhelmed. This is common, especially among perfectionists who want to be the best at everything. Feeling incompetent and overwhelmed when you are starting out in a position does not mean you’ve failed. In many professions, there is a steep learning curve where the keys to doing well are practice and persistence.

Fear can be paralyzing and can prevent us from reaching our goals. Don’t let irrational fears hold you back and address your legitimate concerns by conducting extensive research. Regrets from not pursuing a career that’s right for you can last a lifetime.

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