The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

Career changes are tough. As adults, there are many factors that impact our decisions – family, finances, life partner, or the labor market. As you analyze and plan, it’s easy to fall victim to your own preconceived notions and jaded assumptions.

You may even talk yourself out of the change and stay where you are as you get stuck in your loop of thoughts and worries. Instead, I urge you to understand the emotions attached to change and apply this work skills list to help manage the emotions that come with your next career transition.

Get ready to peel back the layers, do some inner work, and exercise your mental tenacity to embrace your desired career change.

Recognize the Emotions of Change

While individual reactions to change will vary, there are some common emotions that you’ll likely experience as you embark on a career change.((University of Exeter: The Change Curve))

1. Fear of the Unknown

Humans are creatures of habit, and like feeling safe and comfortable. Uncertain thoughts and emotions can flood our minds as we embrace change:

  • What if I fail?
  • I’ll need to go back to school.
  • It’s too late to make a change now.

2. Frustration and Anxiety

The thought of changing careers may have you stuck in worryville and it’s common for self-doubt to creep into your mind.

The mere thought of how a career change may impact your life can bring about behaviours that stall you from taking tiny steps toward any changes:

  • I can’t take a pay cut.
  • My family depends on me.
  • I’ll need to start from scratch.
  • I’ve worked hard for my promotions, benefits and pension.

3. Know Your Emotional Triggers

While we desire changes in our lives, we’re sometimes met with resistance within ourselves.((Steven Pressfield’s book: Do the Work: Overcoming Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way)) It will take time to address and overcome the stories and assumptions that we’ve told ourselves since our experiences have likely clouded our perceptions and judgements.

The good news? This is a great opportunity to shift your mindset and challenge your own beliefs. As you embrace your next career change, tiny or big, track your thought patterns:

  • What are you telling yourself and why? During uncertain times our inner critic and negative thoughts can easily enter our brain. You have a chance to replace your self-doubt with new ones, or at least learn to tame them.
  • Check your assumptions. Challenge preconceived notions about yourself. Are they really true and how can you confirm them?
  • Question preconceived notions of what others are thinking about you. What’s the importance of their thoughts? Why does it matter to you so much? Are you seeking their approval?

Looking inward and being honest with yourself can help you move forward with career changes that you desire.

Work Skills to Change Careers and Thrive at Your Next Job

In my 15 plus year working career, I’ve experienced four major career changes so far. And each time, I learn something new that I wish I would have known to make each career transition a little easier.

1. Fill up on Patience

Our world of work is changing so fast. You’ll need to be able to naturally go with the ebbs and flows of your career. Equip yourself with these skills to embrace your next opportunity and challenge:

Sleep.((Febritius and Hagermann’s Book: The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier)) Recharging your brain sufficiently with at least 7 hours of sleep can help you to manage emotional challenges and you’ll be less likely to overreact when you get annoyed or frustrated. Sleep needs to be your first priority, not an afterthought, so that you can optimize your health and tackle your goals.((National Sleep Foundation: How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus))

Slow down. We sometimes have a tendency to rush through our day without much thought. When you feel rushed or impatient, take mindful breaths and pause. Be deliberate about your next action.

2. Grow with Rejection by Leveraging Your Strengths

You’ll likely talk about your career change with those close to you, and eventually with others as you gather more information to help you make informed decisions about the changes you want to make.

While some will be supportive, you’ll be faced with some naysayers who will dismiss your ideas or worse – not respond. This may add to your self-doubt.

Have courage. This is the best time to focus on your strengths and what’s important to you.

Give yourself time. When feelings become uncomfortable, it’s easy to ignore them and rush into something else, but they will always be there until you address those emotions. Pause and reflect on what happened. You’ll likely find a few ‘ah-ha’ moments to help you become more resilient.

Exercise compassion. You may feel angry, in denial, shame, loneliness or embarrassment.((National Center for Biotechnology Information: Emotional Responses to Interpersonal Rejection)) However, this is the best time to be kind to yourself and reset. Do something you enjoy, like going for a run or getting lost in a bookstore. Even helping a loved one during this time can help you be grateful for what you do have and see a different perspective.

3. Exercise Self-Approval and Notice Your Confidence Level

You, and only you, need to live with your career choices and ultimately your life choices.

As human beings, we want to feel connected, be accepted by others, and belong to a group. So it’s natural for us to want to seek approval from others about our decisions.

Your professional presence can easily be observed by others. Reflect on your confidence level:

Are you constantly seeking praise from your manager? Or is there a possibility that you’ve been overconfident and dismissed someone’s feedback or critique of your work?

There’s a fine line between being confident, assertive, aggressive, or arrogant. Note how these behaviors have shown up and impacted your career.

4. Be Open to Experiment

Changing careers is a time of discovery. As adults, it’s easy to make snap assumptions based on our experiences. Take a beginners mindset to learning about the changes you want to make. This will help you be more open to trial and error during the process.

Step away from scrolling the Internet and actually talk to people working in the industry that you’re interested in through informational interviews. Some information may peak your interest to speak to more people or you may have gained insights that will make you shift in an entirely different direction. The information you gather will help you make informed and confident decisions about your next move.

5. Listen Deeply and Hone Your Observation Skills

This includes observations about yourself and your environment.

Pay attention to what you’re doing to gain self-awareness and take time to be attuned to your surroundings. This includes noticing your workplace culture, your colleagues work styles, your team dynamics, and various communication channels used.

Learn more about observation skills in this article:

How Observational Learning Can Have a Huge Impact on Productivity

6. Think Critically, Be a Self-Starter, and Take Initiative

“The only thing that is constant is change” — Heraclitus

Be adaptable and open to learn new skills. Jobs are evolving, and we need to be open to learn creative ways to get work done. The more you learn the more informed you’ll be. You can then create new ideas or try different combinations to achieve results.

With industries changing and businesses needing to adapt to thrive in competitive markets, people need to show and articulate their value and contributions to support business needs.

This may mean having the foresight in your area of expertise to help companies make informed decisions. For example, the ability to discern large amounts of information using research skills and presenting them to key influencers in plain language.

All of these skills sets will help you achieve your ultimate goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions to clarify. This will show that you’re listening and paying attention to your work.

To keep your skills fresh and your brain sharp, keep learning:

15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning for a Sharper Brain

7. Ability to Influence Without Authority

Whether you report to one person, work in a matrix organization or as an entrepreneur, you’ll need to interact with others. You’ll need to be able to negotiate, convince and sometimes sell others’ on why your services, products, or recommendations would be of benefit.

You won’t always be in a position of power. So having the ability to influence people is a key work skill to have.

The next time you go out to dinner with friends or family test out your abilities to influence. Try to convince everyone to choose the restaurant you prefer. What happens?

Take a look at this article and improve your communication skills:

How to Be Influential and Gain Respect at Work

8. Build Quality Relationships and Manage Office Politics

As you transition to a new career and begin working in a new role, having and continuing to build quality relationships is essential to support all aspects of your career growth and productivity.

Knowing when and how to have difficult conversations in a productive manner is an essential skill to achieve both personal and professional goals. Conflict between people are inevitable so the ability to resolve emotional responses is a key life skill to have.

These conflict management skills will be useful for you:

Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work

Summing It Up

This ultimate work skills list will help you to change careers and thrive in your next role.

It’s important to recognize your emotions associated with change. Otherwise, we’ll continue to carry forward the same mindset to our next career and it will rear its ugliness again if left uncoached.

Always keep the ultimate work skills list in your pocket:

  • Build your patience muscle
  • Manage and grow with each rejection
  • Exercise self-approval and notice your confidence level
  • Listen deeply and hone your observation skills
  • Be open to experiment
  • Think critically, be a self-starter, and take initiative
  • Ability to influence without authority
  • Build quality relationships and manage office politics

Committing yourself to these work skills will help you ease the jitters of your career change and continue to build the career skills necessary in any professional environment in our changing world of work.

What career changes are you working on, tiny or big? Notice your emotions and thoughts as you address this change. From the work skills list, choose one that resonates with you the most and apply one aspect of that skill to your career change and your new career. What do you notice?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach your career change. Do what feels natural to you. Be creative and open to experiment.

More Resources About Essential Work Skills

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