10 Real Reasons You Don't Have To Be Afraid To Change Careers

Illustrated by Alex Marino.
You’ve found yourself stuck in a career rut, and you’re itching to make a switch. But, there’s one big problem: Every time you so much as think about changing course, a giant lump lodges itself in the back of your throat or you break out into a sweat.

Yes, the thought of making a major shift can be intimidating for anyone — I know because I’ve been there, too. Halfway into my two-year stint as a consultant, I knew continuing on that path wasn’t for me, but every time I started to explore new options I felt overwhelmed by all of the choices. What if the next move wasn’t the right one? What if it was as unsatisfying as the place where I was?

But, as I learned through two pretty big pivots — working in global health and founding The Muse — your career isn’t set in stone the second you accept your very first entry-level job. Far from it, in fact. These days, many career paths aren’t linear — meaning that you absolutely can make that change you’ve been dreaming about. And, the best part? Doing so doesn’t need to be a terrifying experience that makes you feel like an undependable, noncommittal job hopper.

If you’re in need of a little more convincing and reassurance, here are ten good reasons that you don’t need to be scared to change careers (because, trust me, it’s totally something you can do).
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Rewind a few decades back, and it was common for people to commit to one career for the rest of their lives — and even stay in the same job with the same company that entire time. But, today? That’s not even close to the norm. Instead, frequent changes are becoming more and more accepted. The average American stays in a role for an estimated four and a half years before moving on to something different — and for millennials, the stats bump up to four jobs in 10 years.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
There are those occupations that have pretty much always been around — think doctors, teachers, lawyers. But then there are those that have only just cropped up in recent years, such as social media managers and app developers. They are super common roles at a wide variety of companies today, but, just a few years ago, they didn’t exist at all.

Just as some jobs become obsolete over time (um, when’s the last time you needed a typewriter repaired?), completely new roles — and even entire new industries — are always on the horizon. Some of these, like product managers or data scientists, are growing faster than many traditional careers. These new positions often attract people from all sorts of different backgrounds simply because they aren’t yet long-standing jobs with a structured list of requirements.

For example, a close friend of mine was able to move into Product from a liberal arts background by teaching herself the basics — and in this day and age, that isn’t unusual anymore! The job landscape is always shifting, evolving, and adapting — so it’s understandable (and, honestly, even expected) that your own career would follow suit.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Let’s face it — careers aren’t so cut-and-dry anymore. While you previously needed to satisfy a laundry list of specific requirements to even get your foot in the door, more and more jobs and companies are benefitting from people who have a wide array of skills and employment experiences under their belt.

This is especially true at small companies and startups, where employees are often required to wear many hats. (Just ask our second employee at The Muse, who handled marketing and sales and partnerships and social media when she joined the team!) In those cases, the fact that you bring a variety of previous positions or an unexpected background to the table can actually help you excel. Similarly, the skills that I’ve gained working in very diverse contexts — consulting, global health, even theatre — have been critical to surviving as The Muse has grown from a small organization of three people to a business serving over 50 million people annually. If I’d focused on just one industry or skill set earlier in my career, I might not have been able to keep up!
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
In the past, you needed to squeeze your entire career history and future ambitions into a one-page resume in order to tell an employer all about yourself — not exactly an easy feat if you were a career changer.

But now, job seekers can make use of personal websites, LinkedIn profiles, social media accounts, even side gigs — tools that all provide a pretty amazing chance to position yourself for a new field. (For example, you learn how to make a personal website in one week here.)

With so many different tools at your fingertips, you’re now better able to draw parallels between your existing skills and experiences and the career you’re eager to break into. One of my favorite stories: Jennifer Dewalt, a former artist who taught herself to code (and promoted it to the world) by making 180 websites in 180 days — then used that experience to launch her career in software engineering.

Sure, connecting the dots can still sometimes present a challenge, particularly if you’re making a big leap. However, having additional outlets aside from that traditional page of bullet points gives you a much better chance to prove you’re a good fit.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Sometimes, the best part about a new hire is the fresh, unbiased perspective and the diverse skill set that they bring. And that’s especially true when that hire comes from a completely different industry. For example, your years working as a writer could be really useful in a new field like marketing (or even healthcare!). Your boss will be patient in teaching you the skills you need to excel in your new position while you’re bringing a whole new stellar set of skills to the team.

For example, Google X-powered Project Loon credits its productivity and innovation to its impressive team made up of diverse skill sets. In order to bring internet to the world’s disconnected, they encourage people with different backgrounds to work together towards one common goal. So shift your mindset, own your skill set, and know that while you’ll likely have a lot to learn, there’s also a lot that your future team will learn from you.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Nothing is permanent these days, so if you’re really feeling like it’s time to explore a new career, it probably is. The worst thing that happens is that the new career isn’t everything you imagined it to be, and the good news is your old career will be waiting for you. You won’t necessarily go back to the same company, but interviewers will be impressed that you took a chance on a new job only to realize that your original career actually suited you well. In fact, they’ll likely have even more assurance that you’re there to stay. And know that you’re not alone. According to a recent survey published in Fast Company, more people are returning to their old employers and there may even be some unexpected benefits in doing so.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Gone are the days of having only one job. Nowadays, more and more people have two, three, or even four jobs! If you work as a coder by day, you can run your lifestyle blog on the side. Or if you’re a marketing executive who has a passion for wellness, you can be an entrepreneur and start building your own company outside of work hours while still working full time.

It’s easier than ever to have a dual career if you want, or to have a side hustle you happily run along with your full time gig.
It’s no easy feat to juggle multiple jobs, but being able to spend quality “working” time doing something you love is worth it for many folks.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
It used to be that if you hadn’t received a certain title by 30 or a corner office by 40, you weren’t likely to get one. Now, there are more and more programs designed for people mid-life to change their careers. Grown-up internships are a thing, there are countless resources to learn a new field, and many people reach the pinnacle of their career in their 50s. One of my favorite examples is a woman in her late 40s who agreed to be a “strategic volunteer” within Harvard medical after taking several years off to raise her family. Her adult internship later became a full-time role, and she states, it’s “the best job in my career.”

So don’t let age be a factor in finding the best job of your career.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Work doesn’t always need to be, well, so much work. Sometimes, people are able to translate their passions into their careers. If you find yourself loving the Saturdays you spend volunteering at an animal shelter, or find that you get immense satisfaction from talking through life goals and ambitions with friends, you may be able to turn those activities into your next career. According to Deloitte’s Center For The Edge, 88% of the workforce lacks passion in their work, and the productivity associated with it. Passion enables employees to respond more proactively to challenges, and to feel more satisfied with the work they are doing.

So make sure to pay attention to those interests and feelings — they are likely indicative that you have skills and talent in those areas.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Feeling satisfied at work isn’t only important because it increases the quality of your work (studies show that happy workers are 12% more productive), but also because it improves the overall quality of your life. Because the lines between work and life are more blurred than ever, people are spending such a big portion of their lives working. If you find a career that truly feels like your life’s work, it will start feeling less like a job, and you’ll end up being happier all around.

The thought of making a big career jump can undoubtedly inspire a bit of anxiety — and that’s totally normal. But, in reality, making a big shift isn’t as scary or taboo as you’re likely making it out to be, and it doesn’t have to be so scary. In fact, look at it the right way, and it might even be a little bit exciting.
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