It can feel liberating to finally chase your dream career. It can also be scary and frustrating. Here are some tips from someone who’s been there.

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We’re told from the time we’re born that we can grow up to be anything we want. Our parents, teachers and guardians instill the belief that the sky’s the limit and anything is possible.

Yet as we age and go on to high school, college and finally the real world, our options slowly begin to seem fewer and farther between.

But what changed between now and then?

Are we different people? Did our hopes, dreams and priorities change? Or maybe we just got comfortable?

For most of us, it’s a combination of all of these things. We grew up, got a dose of reality and opted for the safer, more conventional route. Sure, when you were little, all of those famed “roads less traveled” didn’t sound too bad—especially if all of those great things were waiting for you at the end. But now that you’re out on your own and sort of know what these roads entail, they seem less than welcoming.

So instead, you opt to settle for mediocrity. You somehow convince yourself that the responsible adult thing to do is stick with it and ignore all of those passions you once had. You convince yourself to accept your new reality.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t once think that way, too.

Looking back, I couldn’t feel more ridiculous about just how wrong I was.

I had a nice, well-paying PR job with a thriving company. It offered competitive benefits, plenty of vacation and countless other perks I could list off—yet, I was miserable and dreaded going to work every day.

Finally, one day, I could no longer take it and decided to make the leap. I was officially going to leave the soul-sucking job and chase my dreams—a decision I likened to leaving the respectable, proper man everyone wants you to marry for money to be with the love-struck hippie who lacks direction. It might not have looked like the logical choice, but for me it FELT right, and my heart was happy.

But getting to that point was definitely not easy. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions filled with input from everyone from my mother to the mailman and decisions I never thought I’d have to make. So if you’re considering making a similar leap, you need to be ready for what might come your way.

Here are three things you’ll likely encounter on your journey:

1. People will think you’re crazy… and then tell you why

After I put in my two weeks’ notice, I felt like I had a sign on my back that read “Please come tell me why I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.”

At first I was annoyed by the comments and reacted defensively, explaining the reasons for my decision, until I realized I owed these people no explanation. After all, it was MY life, not theirs.

While some people offered honest, genuine input and advice, the majority seemed to voice their opinions out of fear and misunderstanding—which is to be expected since, in their eyes, I was rocking the boat and going against the grain.

So when or if this happens to you, take it all in stride. You might have to force a smile and feign politeness, but keep your thoughts to yourself and your eyes on the prize.

2. You will feel exhausted

Making a big career change is no small task, especially if your new pursuit is in a completely different field. Odds are you will find yourself at the bottom of the workplace food chain, but don’t let that discourage you.

You might have to put in extra hours and sacrifice your social life for a bit, but it will be worth it. We all have those moments where we long for our old schedule, but remind yourself of the agony and general blah-ness that came with it, and you’ll persevere. As they say: no pain, no gain.

3. You will face new challenges

With this change will likely come unfamiliar challenges. They might even be a bit uncomfortable and scary. But rather than cowering from these challenges, try to embrace them. They are new opportunities that will be the foundation of your growth and change.

Be prepared and willing to fail. After all, you didn’t come all this way to back down, now, did you?

Maria Rainier is a devoted blogger who writes on topics concerning higher education and technology. She has her finger on the pulse of the online education industry, and she delights in writing about the benefits of online bachelor’s degrees in our digital society.


  1. Heather Huhman

    It’s a tricky trail to blaze, but it’s worth it for your own sanity if you’re in a position you dread. Regarding your first point, the best way to show the naysayers you’re not having a temporary moment of insanity is to let them know you you have a plan (and actually have a thorough one). Don’t spill every sordid detail. Just give them a few steps as a teaser and politely let them know that your notice was the first part of the journey. Finally, thank them for their concern.

  2. CoachStation

    As a peer has recently described my move from full-time work to my own Consulting business as ‘jumping off the cliff’, this article has relative points…

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  5. Amy O'Brien

    I needed to read this today. After making the leap a year ago, I’ve been thinking of returning. Starting your own business is hard, and it requires you to stretch and do things that you haven’t had to do before. But the freedom…it’s worth it.

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