Challenges Of Changing Careers: Managing Emotions

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated May 8, 2023

Is it time for you to start a new chapter? You’re not the only one. A staggering 70% of UK employees considered a career change in 2024. While the prospect of embarking on a new career is exciting, it comes with its own challenges. One of the biggest challenges of changing careers is managing your emotions during the transition process. Feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and stress can cloud your judgment and demotivate you. That’s why it’s important to learn techniques to manage your emotions.

This blog offers actionable advice on dealing with emotions during a career change. 

What Is A Career Change?

A career change is a process of transitioning from one profession to a career role in a different field. There are plenty of reasons why people choose to make a career change, including adapting to changes in the job market, enhanced job satisfaction, or pursuing a dream job.

Switching careers is a significant life decision and comes with its own set of challenges. That said, with ample planning and preparation, it can be a rewarding decision.

Not sure if switching careers is right for you? Check out our guide on the signs it’s time to move on 

Common Challenges Of Changing Careers

Greater job satisfaction, better earning potential, an exciting fresh start–the advantages of making a career change are significant. However, it isn’t a decision to make lightly. Despite the benefits, starting a new career path can be a long and tiring process.

Here are 5 common challenges of changing careers.

1. Fear of the unknown

Embarking on a new career in a new industry leaves a lot of room for uncertainty. Will you excel in this role? How will you fit in with your new colleagues? Is it a future-proof industry? All of these questions can be a barrier for some career changers.

2. Imposter syndrome

Self-doubt can creep in and make you wonder if you’ve made the right decision and if you have what it takes to start a new career.

Taking time to build your skills can counteract feelings of imposter syndrome. For instance, learning how to promote your personal brand can equip you with the knowledge and confidence to overcome any self-doubt. This skill set will come in handy when networking as a career changer and could help you land your first interview.

3. Financial uncertainty

Pay cuts, starting at the bottom of the ladder, being unemployed, etc. These are very real concerns that many career changers have. Financial uncertainty is certainly an important factor, so it’s critical that you’re realistic about your budget. Choose the right timing to make a career change, and always make sure you have a financial safety net in case there are unforeseen expenses.

4. Lack of experience

Starting a new career in a totally different field or role may mean you lack hands-on experience. But don’t count out your transferable skills and life experience. 

There are two anecdotes for lack of experience:

5. Personal obligations

Starting from scratch often means putting in the hours to earn your stripes (working overtime, interning, retraining, etc.) As a career changer, you may already have family or personal commitments that make it tough to dedicate the time you want to transition into a new career.

Struggle to juggle personal and professional commitments? Check out our tips on how to strike a healthy work-life balance.

The Emotional Side Of Changing Careers

Many people overlook or underestimate the emotional side of changing careers. Still, it can take its toll on your mental and physical health if not managed correctly. In this section, we explore 5 common emotions people feel when changing careers:

1. Excitement

First and foremost, switching careers is an exciting opportunity to develop both personally and professionally. As such, you should be feeling excited about what’s to come. Hopefully, the prospect of embarking on a rewarding new career should energize you during the process.

2. Anxiety

Anxiety is normal when starting a new chapter, even if you know it’s the right one for you. From financial concerns to fitting in at your new company, feeling anxious shows that you care. The best way to overcome feelings of anxiety is to talk with a friend or family member. Doing this gives you a chance to verbalise your concerns and dissect which are valid and which are just nerves.

3. Stress

Juggling personal and professional commitments is a nerve-wracking situation. So, it’s natural that transitioning to a new career will come with its fair share of stress. Remember that you’re not alone. Lean on your support network and work on stress management techniques to help you deal with the emotions you’re feeling.

Have you been out of work for some time? Browse our tips on re-entering the workforce.

4. Frustration

Career changes come with a learning curve; it’s easy to get frustrated in the process of developing new skills and experience in your target field. It also comes with rejection. Not everyone is lucky enough to land their dream second career right away. You may have to send out a lot of CVs and sit through interview after interview to get there, but all that matters is getting there.

5. Guilt

Making the decision to switch careers can impact your partner and family. As a result, many career changers experience feelings of guilt. Maybe you aren’t able to contribute as much financially, or perhaps you’re now working longer hours. Guilt can be a huge challenge during a career change.

All of these emotions are perfectly normal, but it’s important to acknowledge and address them if you want to successfully change careers. Taking care of your emotional well-being will better equip you with the skills and grit you need to take a new path.

More on that below.

Strategies For Managing Emotions During A Career Change

If you’re currently on an emotional rollercoaster as you transition to a new career path, you’re not alone. Here are some practical tips on how to manage emotions and address the challenges of changing careers.

1. Make time for self-care

Practicing self-care and looking after your physical and mental health is essential during a career change. So, prioritise eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time off to do the things that bring you joy.

2. Find support

You’ll need a support system to encourage and motivate you during your career change. So, seek support from friends and family members. It’s also a good idea to enlist the help of a career change coach to help you navigate the landscape and keep you on track.

In addition, Refreshing a Career is here to help. Our resource hub and weekly blog are packed with advice on how to change careers as seamlessly and stress-free as possible. 

Search our career change job board now →

3. Stay positive

Everybody’s career change experience is different, so it’s important not to compare your journey with anyone else’s. Instead, focus on how far you’ve come and the steps you need to take to get there.

Maintaining a positive outlook will serve you well during the process and prevent you from getting disheartened. Remember, it’s a learning curve, and everything you experience along the way will only build resilience and make it all the more rewarding when you land your dream job.

Having an action plan can help you stay positive during the transition. For instance, researching the industry, job market, and role can offer you insight into the best way to get your foot in the door. 

A great strategy is to research top career change employers in your sector and reach out to them directly. While it may not lead to a job, it’ll give you a clearer idea of what they’re looking for in candidates and how their selection process works.

4. Set realistic goals

Defining clear goals will help keep you on track and allow you to monitor your progress. At the same time, it gives you the opportunity to celebrate your small wins. When setting your goals, make sure they are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Here’s an example to follow.

Transition from my current teaching career to a software development role.


I will sign up for an intensive coding boot camp to gain hands-on training and experience with real-world clients and projects.


I’ve already researched the cost of coding boot camps and saved the money I need. I have also created a schedule that works around my existing job so I can study while in my current role.


As an IT teacher, I have a keen interest in technology and basic coding knowledge. Based on my research, it’s an in-demand career that aligns with my skills and interests.


I will enrol in the boot camp within the next two months and complete the training within six months. Then, I will start applying for entry-level software development jobs and aim to land a position within 10 months from now.

Example of SMART goals for a career changer

5. Embrace the unknown

Learning to embrace uncertainty will allow you to enjoy the career change process. By being open to new challenges and seeing setbacks as learning opportunities, you’ll set yourself up for success down the line.

Plus, employers highly value soft skills like resilience and adaptability, so these experiences can become talking points in future interviews.

A Final Word On The Challenges Of Changing Careers

Changing careers can be an emotional process, but the benefits are huge. It’s natural to feel emotional and overwhelmed as you transition to a new career path, but learning how to manage these emotions will make the process much easier. The key is to be patient and allow yourself the time you need to make the switch.

We hope this guide empowers you to overcome the challenges of changing careers. After all, it will be worth it in the end.

We don’t believe anyone should go it alone. That’s why our website offers a wealth of valuable aids, including career change guides, interview tips, retaining advice, and much more.  

For further support, browse our resources on changing careers and our career change job board for exciting opportunities near you.

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 27 2024
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