SUMMARY: The Top 5 Career Change Myths That Keep People Stuck

Common Career Change Myths That Keep Us Stuck

By connecting the dots backwards on hundreds of successful career changes; our own, past Career Change Accelerator members', and the escape role models we’ve studied religiously, we noticed that many of their paths defied conventional career change wisdom. Below are five common career change myths people commonly fall for. As you read, pay attention to any myths that resonate with you.

Myth #1: The Passion Myth

It’s common to hear motivational talk urging you to “follow your passion.” A simple Google Image search for the phrase brings up a myriad of inspirational calls to action:

Source: Google Images

At Escape, we have a problem with “follow your passion.” Not in theory, but in practice. It’s largely unhelpful and not instructive at all. How does one go about “following” their passion? What if you don’t know what your passion is? Where does it live? How do you find it? Are you stupid if you haven’t already found it?

Where did this phrase “follow your passion” come from? If you plug it into Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, (a search engine that shows you how often phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over the years), an interesting trend appears:

Source: Google Books Ngram Viewer

In the history of the searchable written word, “follow your passion” is a brand new phenomenon. Something seemed to happen around 1990 to kickstart the whole revolution. And we've been collectively beating ourselves up to find and follow our passion ever since.

The phrase paints the inaccurate picture that “your passion” is a treasure to be found at the end of some glowing rainbow, or a lightning bolt that strikes down upon you in a flash of genius. Sure, moments of epiphany may occur on the pursuit toward more fulfilling work, but the truth is that most people who “found their passion” became passionate about their work.

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport says that people cultivated their passion by doing the hard work necessary to get there:

"Here’s the key: there is no special passion waiting for you to discover. Passion is something that is cultivated. It can be cultivated in many, many different fields. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say, ‘I don’t know what my passion is.’ What does make sense is to say, ‘I haven’t yet cultivated a passion, I should really focus down on a small number of things and start this process." –Cal Newport

If you’re unclear on your passions (or have convinced yourself that you have none), let this online experience be the start of that process of discovery. We’ll quickly move intofocusing on small projects, experiments and actions and will get you focusing on the areas that you find yourself naturally curious about.

Think about it this way:

>>> Myth #1 Reframed: Passion is Cultivated. <<<

Myth #2: Find “The One”

When we begin our search for more fulfilling work, we desperately want to believe in “the one.” We tell ourselves something along the lines of: “There is One Perfect True Job for me and I will stay put until I find it.”

With romantic hopes and dreams, we scavenge every job board we can get our hands on. We look starry-eyed at people who seem to have stumbled upon fairytale-like dream jobs. Maybe you've subscribe to Escape the City’s Top 10 email list hoping you’ll lock eyes with your one true job with which you’ll live together happily ever after.

Hundreds of people have found more fulfilling work through our online 'opportunities' job portal. Our weekly Top 10 email is a wonderful list of unique and exciting positions. But the risk is that it becomes more like job porn. The chance that you’ll find your dream job waiting for you on a jobs board isn't impossible – but it might be rare.

The point is this: you contain multitudes. There may be many jobs and organizations that might be "the one" for you.

Some of the biggest companies today didn’t exist twenty or even ten years ago (Google, Airbnb, etc). Is it unrealistic to think that the job you hope to do may not even exist yet.

There are likely a many number of jobs you could be doing. Some of those jobs you can’t see from where you stand right now, but they will only become clearer as you bravely engage with the world and test out new directions. Think about it this way:

>>> Myth #2 Reframed: Be Open to “The Ones” <<<

Myth #3: The Grass is Always Greener

This is one of the most dangerous myths. The idea that all your problems will be solved when you finally make the dramatic entrance into your new, perfect life. Only once you have "arrived" at your destination, will everything be right.

“Everything will be better when I...

" a job with X."

“...transfer to Y.”

“...become a Z.”

The grass is always greener. The destination is often romanticized.

It is unlikely you will wake up one morning and think "I've finally made it". Our minds love to invent stories about how great everything will be once we become the Social Impact Startup Investor living in Mozambique (or insert dream career here). The reality is that even the Investor has to spend time away from home, reject great people and companies, constantly check their books and worry about cashflow, and take malaria pills.

Every passionate and purposeful life, as Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic said, includes a "shit sandwich":

Every job, no matter how sexy on the outside, will still have some parts to it that are boring and will feel like a grind. There's always a "shit sandwich." The question is whether the work matters enough to you that you're willing to eat it day in, day out.

>>> Myth #3 Reframed: De-romanticize the Destination <<<

Myth #4: Think. Plan. Implement.


This is how we should approach our Escape, right?

Make sure you’re ready. Carefully prepare until you know you’re ready. Then (and only then) start moving! It's tempting to fall for mantras like these:

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the theory and navel gazing that comes along with making a big, scary change. And we do our fair share of it at Escape. It’s important to know who you are and what matters to you to make sure you’re moving in the right direction for you.

But at some point (and this point comes a lot sooner than you’ll probably want it to) we must start acting. We must start moving, doing, testing, putting ourselves out there and engaging with the world.

This is the hard part. But it’s where the real magic happens.

Ready, Aim, Shoot! unfortunately is wrong. Think, Plan, Implement may work for destinations for which we’re completely sure. Since career change is largely a destination unknown, it requires a different approach.

The mantra to remember instead is: Act first. Reflect later. Aim a little bit, but shoot before you’re ready.

People who end up succeeding in their Escapes do so by constantly acting, testing, moving their way there. They do it by approaching their Escape as a series of small projects rather than huge leaps. They do it by viewing each move as an experiment instead of the be-all and end-all. They do it without feeling “ready” and without having it all figured out.

Understanding who you are, becoming comfortable with your own internal voice, and spending time in introspection is important. But it must be balanced equally with action. You learn about your future direction by DOING. Test your best guess, treat your next steps as experiments or projects, and commit to small, forward actions.

An ounce of action is worth more than a pound of pondering.

We promise that if you commit to action on this course, you will create radically new possibilities for yourself, whether or not your first attempt ends up being ‘successful’ or not. Your measure of success is personal growth, how much you learn about yourself and your direction, and how many things you attempt in the outside world.

Herminia Ibarra in Working Identity says…

“By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change careers is to delay taking the first step until they have settled on a destination."

>>> Myth #4 reframed: Act First. Reflect Later. <<<

Myth #5: The Big Leap

Do you think that the change you need to make, to get from where you are now to where you want to be, will come in the form of 'a big leap'?

The big leap looks sexy, but it’s largely untrue. Escape stories that resonate most are ones that appear to have a big bold leap:

  • Big city lawyer turns best-selling author;
  • Banker turns arctic adventurer;
  • IT consultant turns entrepreneur;
  • And so on.

However, the truth is, there was a lot of work, a lot of small bets, wrong turns and failures along the way. They often tested a few avenues and made many small changes before seemingly taking that one big leap.

We like to think of a successful escape as more of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is what everyone can see; the remarkable life, the big change, the sexy leap. However underneath the surface is a massive collection of tiny decisions, small steps, and little experiments that enable the tip of the iceberg to exist.

Successful, intelligent transitions are about small steps and tiny experiments – not one giant, blind leap.

>>> Want to dig deeper? Read the story of Matt's "little decisions" that eventually led to a larger leap in How Do The “Little Decisions” Lead to Big Changes?

>>> Myth #5 reframed: Small steps and little decisions vs. massive leaps. <<<

Are you falling for any of these common career change myths right now?

Move onto the next module to reflect on your own situation.

Complete and Continue