I recently had a conversation with a young man who was referred to me as a career mentee. He is in college for computer science, with skills in programming embedded devices and an impressive passion for his projects. Despite the energy he had for the field, he expressed hesitation starting a career in it.
I was a bit shocked. My first instinct was to question why. My second instinct was to lecture him about experience, opportunity and whatnot. However, I began to reflect on his statement and realized this reluctance to commit is something that I and possibly many other entrepreneurs still experience. So what can keep someone from pursuing an opportunity in a career they are truly passionate and skilled in – arguably the “dream life”?
A number of things can get in the way of something we truly want or believe can launch us to where we want to go. I will name five that I identified while reflecting.
- Believing you must make the right choice first. While speaking with this young man, he mentioned not knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his career, which is a normal condition in college. That uncertainty, however, should not be a reason to take action in some direction. This is commonly called “paralysis by analysis.” It would be like staring at a beach while holding a shovel, afraid to dig because you don’t know exactly where the treasure might be. At the same time, you could be going over the sand with a metal detector. By favoring a bias towards action, you increase your odds of stumbling upon your treasure – in this case, a career path – from zero percent to a fairly strong “maybe.”
- Fear of getting stuck in a dead end. This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, except it involves an uncertainty of where you’ll finish, not start. Let me preface this by saying that one of the greatest career mistakes you can make is getting a whole lot of experience in the wrong thing. However, give a position some time and if it doesn’t work out, take the industry experience with you to find a better fit. Don’t fall for the sunk-cost fallacy that you need to stay somewhere to get back your investment. Telling an employer, “I left after six months because it didn’t fulfill my career goals,” sounds a lot better than, “I did nothing for two years because I was paralyzed with fear.”
- Doubting your skills. Many times, particularly in technology, a person will feel overwhelmed with the expectations of the career field. The wake-up call I have for you is this: You will never grow unless you are a little bit under qualified for your position. Never stop looking for skills and education in your field, and I encourage anyone to take a chance at getting paid to learn versus paying for the same. As your abilities aren’t exceptionally below your pay rate, you are probably looking at the best chance you have at refining the skills you want. Remember, while a realistic view of one’s skills is great, don’t let that become an unrealistic assessment of your potential.
- Losing passion once money’s in the equation. This is a hard one to address. A lot of people may have an opportunity to enter a career in something they are earnestly skilled and passionate about, but don’t want to risk losing that love once it becomes “work.” If this is your situation, you may be looking at the wrong career. It’s rare to find one position that lets you live out your dream-career scenario, so holding out for that perfect offer is playing a lottery with bad odds. If you feel that this may be the case, it’s probably better to find out sooner than later.
- Excuses, excuses. By definition, a job involves work, and getting ahead in a career will almost always involve working hard or working smart, and usually a bit of both. It seems great to imagine yourself in your fantasy position earning a perfect salary with your retirement plan nested away, until you factor in the effort it takes to get there. Being face-to-face with the opportunity, it’s not uncommon to have second thoughts about committing to the work it takes to succeed. My answer to this is: Jump headlong into the cold water. From there you can choose to swim to deeper water or back to shore, but either way, you’re forced to swim. The hardest part is always getting started, so make that first commitment so there’s no room for excuses or laziness.
In conclusion, don’t hesitate to get started in your career. When in doubt, stay biased toward taking action and keeping momentum moving forward, rather than staying still. While many questions arise along any career path, train yourself to take action at opportunities, and almost any doubts or concerns you have will be figured out or dispelled early on.
Devon Scott is founder and CEO of Blue Fission, LLC, a tech consultancy in Wilmington, N.C. Blue Fission focuses on strategizing digital technology decisions for startups and particularly enjoys working with health and wellness industries. To learn more about Blue Fission LLC, go to http://bluefission.com or call (910) 644-0977.