The 5 People Who Could Make Or Break Your Career Change

Five chairs

Who has the biggest impact on your move into fulfilling work? Selina Barker explains who the most influential people around you are, how having the wrong ones can make your shift a nightmare, and how you can find the right ones to make the process easier, less stressful, and a whole lot more fun.

Who are the five people that you spend most time with, and listen to the most?

It's an important question to ask yourself, because they're likely to be having a far bigger influence on your life than you might have realised.

It's these people that have the power to shape your beliefs, opinions and mindset more than anyone else. They affect your self-esteem, your thinking and your decisions. They have the power to inspire you or deflate you, and when you're going through a major change in life, like a career change, they will either help you or hinder you.

Imagine for a moment:

What would it be like to spend a whole day with a group of five people who:

  • Listen to your ideas and desires to change career
  • Ask useful questions that help you to see things from different perspectives
  • Lovingly challenge you on your assumptions
  • Encourage and inspire you, and
  • Give you ideas for things you could try, and contacts of people that could be useful for you to speak to?

How are you going to go away feeling at the end of that day? Pretty good, right? Positive, empowered, clear, more confident, and probably with a plan for the things you're going to explore and experiment with next.

Now imagine:

What would it be like to spend a whole day with a group of five people who:

  • Are nervous about change
  • Have a very limited and narrow-minded view of the world and what's possible
  • Meet your ideas and desires to change career with doubt and scepticism
  • Don't understand why you would want to change and
  • Seem to be projecting all their own fears on to you and your plans

How are you going to go away feeling at the end of that day? At best, disappointed and deflated at your friends' reactions to your career change plans, and feeling unsupported and misunderstood by them. And, at worst, wanting to turn on yourself completely, bin the whole idea of changing career and berate yourself for having ever thought you could do such a thing.

So you see how powerful and important it is to surround yourself with the right kind of people.

People who are loving and supportive. People who want to see you grow and succeed in life. People who also proactively bring about positive changes in their lives and follow their dreams.

People who know the courage and determination it takes to make big changes happen. People who understand that sometimes you'll have a wobble and will need them to help you through. People who are positive and supportive while also being confident and assertive enough to challenge you lovingly on things, so that you keep on a track that's going to get you to where you want to go.

So, what can you do about it?

Five things you can do to surround yourself with the right people

  1. Spend time with your positive friends. Make an effort to spend as much of your time as possible with friends you already have who are positive and believe in you and the change you want to make. Think about the people you have in your life who best fulfill those criteria, and then find ways to spend more time with them.

  2. Connect with others who are also going through a career change. There's nothing like the power of camaraderie. Find ways to meet other people who are also going through a career change. Go to meetups for career changers in your area (check out, go to workshops on career change, or join online communities for career changers.

  3. Tune into inspirational experts. Seek out the people who are experts when it comes to career change and really know what they're talking about. These are people who will inspire you and offer you sound advice. Go to their talks, watch their videos online, listen to their podcasts. Sign up to their newsletters so that you get their encouragement and advice regularly popping into your inbox, reminding you that you can do it. Start by signing up to the Careershifters bulletin (and mine if you haven't already!)

  4. Listen to success stories. Feed yourself with stories of people who are in the career you want to shift into, or those who have made successful career changes, having once been in the position you are. Find documentaries, stories online, books, magazine articles about people who have done what you want to do and let them inspire you. If you have friends, acquaintances, or friends of friends that do what you want to do, invite them out for a coffee and ask them what advice they can offer you.

  5. Do workshops and courses. Take part in experiences that have you connecting with a community of people in the same boat as you: either career change workshops or courses that allow you to absorb yourself in your chosen industry. Not only will you get the guidance and learning that you need, but you'll also immediately have a community of like-minded people to spend time with: people who believe in the change you're making and want to see you succeed.

So now you have ways to surround yourself with the right kind of people. But what if you can't avoid or escape the naysayers? What can you do about the negative mood-hoovers that you can't get away from – friends, family, work colleagues?

Five ways to deal with the negative people you can't get away from

  1. Be compassionate. Remember that people who are negative come from a fearful place. They're meeting your plans of career change with doubt and negativity because of their own limited beliefs. They often mean no harm and are just caught up in their own negativity. Have compassion for them. Understand that they are coming from fear themselves and that it's much worse for them – they have to live with their negative, limited ways of thinking, 24/7!

  2. Remember that it's not about you. Some people will be threatened by you saying that you're going to do something about your own unhappiness – you're highlighting that they could also do something about changing the areas of their life that they're not happy with… if they had the courage. So, remember, whatever the reason, negative people are going to be negative to everyone, they would be quick to knock down anyone's ideas when it comes to changing career. It's not about you; it's about them.

  3. Let them know the impact their negativity has. If they're close friends or family members, let them know how their negative comments impact on you and leave you feeling. Let them know that right now you need their support and encouragement, that you understand their fears, but you really need them on your side. It could be a big wake up call to them, seeing how their negativity impacts on you and the people around them.

  4. Minimise the amount of time you spend with them. There are some people who are so stuck in their negative ways that no matter how much you ask them to support you, they're going to go ahead and keep you down without even realising it. Or perhaps they're just nasty types who like to throw their weight around. In which case, if you really can't drop them from your life altogether, then do whatever you can to minimise the amount of time you spend with them. If you do have to spend time with them, dilute the experience by seeing them within a group of people, so that it's not just the two of you together.

  5. Stop sharing your career plans with them. It's usually best, with negative people that can't or won't change their ways, to simply not share your career change plans with them. This is particularly true early on, when you'll have plenty of your own doubts and fears to be dealing with and don't need other people adding fuel to that fearful fire. So, for now, talk about other things. If they ask you how it's going, tell them that it's fine, and if they probe then just explain that for the time being, you're keeping things to yourself.

When the people you spend your time with can have such a huge impact on your own beliefs, the decisions you make, and the course your life takes, then doing whatever is in your power to surround yourself with the right kinds of people is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your life.

So, find your kind of people and keep adding to that crowd until you are surrounded by not just five but fifty people in your life who you feel really get you, who love you, support you, and want to see you succeed.

What could you do today to get the right people around you? Let us know in the comments below!

Selina Barker's picture

Selina Barker is a career and life design coach, and has coached well over 1,000 people in the last nine years with her workshops, online courses, retreats and one-to-one coaching programmes. Find out more at