Skip to main content

How to get started:

Feel like you’re at a crossroads? Ellevate 101 introduces you to the community that can give you a career kickstart.

We’ll walk you through some light intros and give you space to connect about shared career experiences. You’ll also learn how to use your Ellevate program to continuously make moves towards success at work.

Our next live welcome session is .

Register here for your chance to get started

4 women lined up supporting each other

Ten Fears Keeping You From Achieving The Career Of Your Dreams

Ten Fears Keeping You From Achieving The Career Of Your Dreams

Several years ago, I worked with a very talented media professional who wanted a career change. But she had a senior role and bristled at starting over again. She was the breadwinner for her household and worried about imposing on her family. She was already overworked at her job and couldn’t fathom the additional work required to bring about significant change. Frankly, she worried that the change she thought she wanted and needed might turn out to be worse than where she was. So we worked together on a plan to get going, but she never implemented it. 

Her story is actually pretty common with aspiring career changers I’ve met who dream big but don’t execute. A lot of what holds people back is fear. The media client above had fears of starting over, of disappointing her family, of the struggles ahead, and possibly regretting the change. 

[Related: Five More Excuses Keeping You From Making A Career Change]

What fears are holding you back from achieving the career of your dreams? The best first step in moving past fear is to name your fear and confront it. Are one of these ten fears keeping you from achieving the career of your dreams?

Fear of failure

You take the steps towards the career of your dreams, and you fail at it – your start-up goes under, you can’t get hired in the new field, or you do get hired but you’re not good at your new gig or you don’t like it as much as you thought you would. If you try, you might fail, so you’re stuck at the point of not trying.

Fear of loss

If you do go after the career of your dreams and it doesn’t work out, now you’ve lost your other job. You’ve lost all this time and effort making an enormous change with nothing to show for it. You probably have lost money too – hard-earned dollars spent on classes, conferences, networking events. You might even still owe money – for school, for your start-up loan. You’ve also lost the credibility you built up in your earlier career. How much are you willing to lose?

Fear of embarrassment

A big career change won’t go unnoticed. Even if you’re just in the beginning stages, your friends and family might worry for you. They might think you’re having a crisis (mid-life, quarter-life) or going through a phase. You might look foolish, as you make your trials and errors at achieving the career of your dreams.

Fear of disappointment

It’s not just what people will think, but some people depend on you, and you can’t let them down. What if your career change means a pay cut and then you can’t support your household? In addition to disappointing others, you might also disappoint yourself. Who wants to be that person who can’t get it together?

Fear of the unknown

Maybe these fears already mentioned you don’t quite match what you’re feeling, and that’s the problem -- you don’t know what it is but some unknown thing scares you. Or you want to achieve the career of your dreams but you don’t know where to start, and that unknown first step scares you.

Fear of struggle

Maybe you do know where to start but you know you’re going to need some new skills, additional expertise, a significant stretch of time where you’ll be juggling the current job you hate with the changes you’re trying to make. This is going to be a lot of work for an uncertain outcome, and doesn’t it make sense just to stay where you are and skip the struggle?

Fear of change

You don’t fear hard work, but you do like your routines. You like knowing what your typical day, week, and month look like. When you make a career change, you change your activities, your schedule, your work environment, your colleagues, your boss, your compensation, your lifestyle, your credibility – that’s a lot of change.

[Related: How to Manage Changes and Transitions Successfully]

Fear of starting over

When you make a career change, you change your career credibility. You’re a beginner in what you’re doing now. Your start-up is new and doesn’t have a reputation. You haven’t been in this industry or line of work for long so you are not the expert. Your colleagues see you as the newbie. Do you really want to start over and rebuild your credibility all over again?

Fear of not being enough

Can you start over and ever build up as much success as you had before? Are you too old to learn something new or too young to be taken seriously? Are you missing a degree or over-educated and wasting the ones you have? Are you too unskilled to get hired or too over-qualified to be given a shot? Much is required in making a career change, so there is a lot of fear around falling short.

Fear of regret

Will you achieve the career of your dreams and find out it wasn’t what you thought it would be? What if you regret the hard work, the money spent, the emotional upheaval, the imposition on the people you care about? What if the dream isn’t worth it?

Use the above list to clarify and name your fear or fears. Play out the worst-case scenario for each one so you feel the fear and live with it, even just for a few minutes. Get to know your fear, and get comfortable with it emotionally.

As you learn more about your fear, see if you can take steps to minimize or eliminate any tangible downsides. For example, if you fear a financial loss, build a savings fund specifically earmarked for your dream.

Finally, find a motivation bigger than the fear. I’ve made multiple career changes – from arts to business, from employee to entrepreneur, from big company to start-up. I used fear to quell my other fears! I looked at the fear of regret, in my case regret of not making a change, and I used that as my motivation past the other fears. You might use a compelling vision or a powerful why as your motivation. Find something that encourages you to move forward more than the fear keeps you staying behind. Let me know when you achieve the career of your dreams!


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business expert who has launched several companies and writes a weekly column for Forbes (where this post originally appeared). Her latest venture is

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.