Four ways women can confidently make a career change

Time for change / Wall / Stairs

Blurb: Thinking of making a major career change? Here are four ideas for overcoming imposter syndrome to achieve your goals as a woman in business.

The Great Resignation is looking more and more like The Great Reshuffle, as many Americans change jobs looking for better compensation, advancement opportunities, and work-life balance. Recent LinkedIn data found job transitions for women, in particular, have skyrocketed during this time, while a 2021 MetLife survey found that more than half of women (56%) said they’ve thought about a career change during the pandemic—double the amount who reported feeling this way the year before.

As a Latina woman who has reinvented herself professionally many times over, this trend really hits home. And I know firsthand that making a major career change isn’t for the faint of heart—especially if, like so many women, you’re grappling with the crippling self-doubt known as imposter syndrome

But I also know that, with the right support and tools in your belt, overcoming imposter syndrome to achieve success is possible. 

Overcoming imposter syndrome in my career

When I started out, I was a young, inexperienced single mom without a formal degree (and often the only Latina in the room). I began my career in the Texas Welfare-to-Work Program and worked my way up, first serving under two powerhouse Texas iconic women, Ann Richards & Kay Bailey Hutchison, then serving under Governor George W. Bush in Austin, and then as part of his White House team when he became president.  career change

When l learned that it was Bush’s idea to consider me to join his DC team,  I almost fell out of my seat, shocked that my name would even come up. His chief of staff at the time, Clay told me if he were elected president he wanted me on the team. Never in a million years did I believe this was a possibility, and I didn’t know a thing about serving in a presidential administration. But if I hadn’t overcome that doubt and taken the risk, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I thrived at the federal level, after my White House post was completed, I moved up into a senior management position in the U.S. Treasury Department, before making the jump to the private sector and eventually entrepreneurship as the co-founder and CEO of my own company. 

Despite the deck stacked against me, including my own self-doubt, I worked hard at overcoming imposter syndrome and made several significant leaps to expand my career. I advanced to the point where I could stand toe-to-toe with the most highly educated and respected experts in the world, and still hold my own. But it wasn’t by accident, and it wasn’t always easy.  career change

For other women looking to take that next step, whether pursuing a promotion, reinventing themselves and making a career change, or taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, here’s how to overcome the imposter syndrome that’s holding you back and successfully make the jump.  career change

1. Calibrate your emotions

Even though studies show women are not more emotional than men, we can still get labeled that way—especially when we’re in positions of power and influence. That’s why, especially before making any big career changes or decisions at work, you have to learn to capture your thought process before it becomes a heart issue.

If your emotions are running high, take a walk or put some positive music on—whatever works for you to harness your power, find your confidence and avoid mishandling opportunities. I’m also a big believer in the process of meditating on your career goals and then journaling your thoughts before making any changes. Sitting with your thoughts and journaling your vision, helps to disconnect emotion from your decision-making, ensure what you’re doing will drive your passion, and hold yourself accountable for doing the right thing for your life and career.  career change

2. Plan for success

When I transitioned from the public sector to consulting, I didn’t make the jump on impulse. And when I left behind that steady, high-paying job to launch my own business, I certainly wasn’t making a shoot-from-the-hip decision. I not only spent a lot of time sitting with my thoughts, journaling, praying, and doing my research beforehand, but I also talked extensively with my husband and my top mentors. career change

Any time you want to make a big shift in your life or career, it’s essential to discuss your idea with more than one other person in order to thoroughly think it through, plan out your course of action and cultivate a strategic move that’s right for you. Choose people you trust—whether family members, mentors, friends, or colleagues—who can act as sounding boards or key strategists offering sound advice. Whether they have more experience than you in an industry, or perhaps can simply provide an objective opinion on your situation, getting the input of those you trust will play a critical role in your ability to feel confident about your career move.

3. Exude confidence (whether you feel it or not)

There’s a reason “fake it til you make it” is such a popular phrase: it works. If your self-doubt is evident in your demeanor, people wonder if you’re really right for the role. Confidence generates confidence.  

When I served in the U.S. Treasury Department, I was one of maybe two women and one of the few  Latinas on a management team dominated by former Wall Street players. I could have allowed myself to be intimidated by those I saw as more “deserving” of being there than me—but instead, I walked in confidence knowing that I’m good at what I do and that I had earned my seat at the table.

However, exuding that kind of confidence takes intentional effort. The next time you need to stand tall and strong, here are a few tricks to help boost your self-confidence:

You might have people who see potential in you and pull you up—but you might also have to pull yourself up. That’s why you need to love yourself more than anybody else loves you. Learning to love who you are, your skillset, and what you bring to the table will help you walk in confidence.

4. Embrace risk

When it comes down to it, one of the biggest hurdles to making a career change is simply the willingness to take action in pursuit of your goal. Once you’ve pinpointed your passion, planning your strategy with research and discussion, and found methods to boost your confidence, just jump out there and do it. Otherwise, how will you ever know it’s going to work?  career change

Yes, you may fail. But as John Maxwell famously advised, if you do, fail forward. Learn from your failures, pick yourself back up and persevere. Start over if necessary, or simply regroup and take a different path to get to your goal, but keep moving forward. The worst that can happen isn’t that you fail in your career change—the real tragedy would be looking back one day and wishing you had taken that leap. career change

This article is written by Rebecca Contreras, author of Lost Girl – From the Hood to the White House to Millionaire Entrepreneur

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