Changing careers inevitably means stepping out of your personal and professional comfort zones. Even if you’re uncomfortable in your current career, it’s still a safety zone. It may be varying degrees of dreadful but you know the rules and the relationships and how to operate the photocopier.

From its outset, changing careers involves venturing beyond familiar places, people and perspectives. As a client remarked this week, “you have to do uncomfortable things to get where you want to go.”

Learning and growing happen just outside your comfort zone. This makes for scary and exhilarating, game changing times. You can tip the balance in favour of exciting over frightening by nudging yourself gently towards the edge.

Here are three ways you can build your skills and your tolerance for longer forays into the unknown.

Learn to love ‘the burn’

This is that painful, slightly panicky sensation we feel when we push our physical limits – think adding reps to a weights routine or distance to your regular run or bike ride. As this thought provoking article suggests, any boundary pushing activity exposes us to ‘the burn’.

What if we stopped seeing the burn as ‘a punishing side effect’ of extending our physical or social or emotional selves? Instead we could welcome it as evidence of courage and tenacity and (best of all) progress towards mastering something new or more advanced.

Reframing ‘the burn’ as intense and exhilarating rather than threatening and dangerous means you’re less likely to stop doing a challenging new thing. In physical terms you’ll do those extra reps or kilometres and grow your strength and endurance. In career change terms, you might set up an intentional conversation aka ‘a coffee chat’ with someone working in an area you’re interested in or reach out to someone you admire for their career change advice.


I definitely did this when I recently accepted an invitation to be interviewed on the breakfast TV show Sunrise (video will only play if you are in Australia). This was classic ‘burn’ territory and amongst the most nerve wracking, and rewarding boundary extending things I’ve done in a long time. Now I’ve stepped further in to the distance than I thought I could, smaller stress inducing moment like running an online workshop don’t look so scary as they once did.

Stop running from rejection

Changing your response to fear of failure and rejection can also help you stay engaged in challenging situations. It’s perfectly natural to want to run from the hurt and humiliation we instinctively feel when we’re rejected.

However, whenever you flee, you miss a great opportunity to learn some assumption busting truths. In this funny insightful TED talk, Jia ‘ Rejection Guy’ Jiang suggests staying engaged long enough to ask ’why’ you were rejected. Maybe the reasons have lots or little or nothing to do with you and what you‘re offering. You might come away with a referral to a potentially more fruitful contact.

Inoculating yourself against rejection takes energy and focus. Like lots of fears this one is often rooted in our childhood experiences. The lessons Jia Jiang learned during his ‘100 days of rejection’‘ project freed his inner six year old from decades of fear that stemmed from a painful classroom incident.

Start small


Most comfort zone exit strategies call for courage and lateral thinking. Not running from rejection and sticking with the burn can feel counter intuitive and unnerving.

If you tackle new things in smallish chunks at a level just beyond your current capability two things happen. Firstly you’re less likely to be overwhelmed and discouraged. Secondly you’re more likely to ‘find your flow’ and immerse yourself in mastering new stuff. Think of it as strengthening your bold muscle and each time the burn will be a bit less.

I recommend trying something new every week. For career changers, this will give you priceless clues about where your abilities and interests lie in a world full of possibilities.

Need a nudge out of your comfort zone? I can help.

By Jo Green, Career Change Coach

I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead! I can help you explore what meaningful work is for you. I’ll work with you to lessen the stress of changing careers.

Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.

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