What Happens When You Try a New Career

This blog-voice has been quiet for a few weeks (so unlike me!) but I was hardly silent during that time. I was acting in a wonderful new play, off- Broadway, as part of adding career number 10 – acting – to the others I’ve created in my continuous quest for self-expression and making a difference.

So this blog post is all about what happens when you launch yourself into the stratosphere of a new career. And I hope that it helps you try something new yourself.

The single most important surprise is the depth of the new territory and how much there is to learn. When was the last time you started learning something very deep and very new? Don’t you think that as we grow deeper into the years of our lives, we kind of find comfort levels in what we already know and we don’t face the challenge of new learning very often?

Well, here’s how it felt to go into new territory: I began building the character I was playing based on my small amount of past formal training, my greater amount of experience and my highly developed performer instincts. But my director confronted me with “Why does she say this here?” “What in her past created this reaction?” “ Would she really be this nice here? Why?”  So I found myself articulating answers I just had inside without ever knowing that I did, forcing myself to go into greater depths and think through so many aspects of her life in order to arrive at how I’d play each scene. And I discovered that I really could do that…

I also scared myself to death, thinking, “What have you done? Maybe you can’t memorize 48 pages of mainly you talking (I was the star of the show…) And there you’ll be, with your bare face hanging out!” That voice of self-doubt almost did me in as, true to a self-fulfilling prophecy, I did blank out totally in our first full-play rehearsal! The panic! The terror! The picture of me standing onstage with a full audience like an idiot and going blank! Did I ever reach out to friends to come and read lines with me endlessly till I convinced myself that I really DID know the whole thing. Oh, what agony!

So- taking on a new career meant conquering that self- doubt, that fear. Confronting that voice that seems to be alive and well in all of us, ready to rise up and squash our dreams at a moment’s notice. Talking back to that destructive spirit,  challenging it and finding a way to hold your own and prevail. To believe you can. That you will. And to finally allow yourself the joy of the experience. What new skills! What a new view of myself!

I’ve written this to help you all dare to stick the big toe in some new, very cold water. Although what you don’t know can scare you, you can screw up your courage to try, to dare to learn and explore. Don’t let the insecurity of being out of the old familiar comfort zones make you turn back.  Swallow hard, plant your feet  and fight! Fight for a new adventure—and what new corners of yourself you can explore and grow with. Find yourself in a whole new role, reacting and adjusting in totally new ways. Discover who else you are and can be— this is such a deeply rewarding venture. Try it! One big toe. Very cold water. See what happens… 




8 thoughts on “What Happens When You Try a New Career

  1. Sonya:

    Great message and expertly delivered. It is so true that we tend to want to stay in our comfort zones, especially as we get older and more comfortable in the self that we believe we know so well. As John Wooden, the late great basketball coach, said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that’s really important.”

    And last, but not least, you were really terific in the play and I look forward to seeing you on Broadway!


  2. Very well said. I have lived many lives– and am better for the experience. People don’t dip their toes in the water because if they don’t try– they can’t fail. Above my desk is a quote– Leap into the abyss, you may just find you land on a feather bed. That doesn’t mean be willy nilly. But I believe you are compensated by the risks you take. No one is going to pay you lots of money for sitting safe. I’m in sales and every major sale I have made have been “leaps” out of my comfort zone and it paid off.

  3. “Do something that scares you everyday” – a motto I am trying to live by now. I was in retail for over 25 yrs and “took the plunge” and returned to school and have started a new career. Scary? Heck ya! Learning curve- YES! But I am lucky to work with an amazing team that are patient and helpful….so those uncomfortable moments, when I forget everything I just learned, aren’t so bad.

  4. Sonya
    Your latest experience really struck a nerve. Even though I’ve changed my course and career trajectory more than once over the past 35 years ( and am in the early stages of the reinventing-of-self / honing new skills process, yet again)… somehow, each time still feels like the first time.
    The water out there in the unknown does feel really cold, and the potential for failure and rejection will always loom — so I try to remind myself: “Leap and the net will appear” ( Zen saying)… embrace my mistakes — big or small; embrace the real learning that comes with understanding that there’s no shame in asking for help and constructive criticism along the way.

  5. Wonderful message! Last year I returned to school after 25 years to pursue a Master of Positive Psychology degree at UPenn. I felt sheer terror that first week – how could I write all those papers, think those “big thoughts”. Now I am in full career transition, leaving my safe, lucrative corporate job to express myself through strengths-based coaching and consulting. I am learning something new everyday and life is more fulfilling than ever! I may not be making any money yet, but I m richer than in my wildest dreams.

  6. Hi Sonya,

    Your article came at a great moment for me. I’ve been narrating documentaries for many years, but it’s time for me to start recording at home. It’s that same sort of big leap . . am I buying the right equipment, do I have the vaguest clue, will I have a good enough ear to put out a decent final product? Lots of questions . . lots of room for self-doubt BUT, I think today is the day I’ll finally start ordering equipment. You’ve inspired me!! Thanks for the boost!!

    Anna Lewicke

  7. Loved this article! It breaks through my son’s theory of just trying something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do while on vacation. His encouragement to take a helicopter ride to a glacier. Needless to say, it’s not something I’d do every day but oh so glad I did! The view was fantastic.

    Even at my age, I’m ready to embark on a new career just to prove to myself that “I Can Do It!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s