Why 'Not Ready Yet' Is The Best Time To Start Your Career Change

Image of race start line

Image: Markus Spiske

Don't yet feel fully prepared for your shift? Natasha explains why 'ready' can be a dangerous concept, and why you should get started, whatever stage you're at.

You're tired of running circles inside your head.

You've read about 300 career change articles, made 24,000 lists, and scrolled through at least nine miles of job adverts online.

You've calculated how much money you'd save toward your career change if you skipped your morning cappuccino on the way to work (not enough to be worth it). You've done every personality test out there, and you still don't feel ready.

All you want is to get truly started on your career change: to feel some traction, to get out there and begin.

But you're not ready yet, right?

Actually, I'd suggest that you are.

It's very likely that right now, at this very second, you're as ready as you're ever going to be.

I'm not suggesting you throw all caution to the wind and sashay out of the office this afternoon, leaving a flaming trail of spreadsheets in your wake.

But there's no reason to put off making a start any longer.

Here's why.

Planning is usually procrastination in disguise

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about the concept of Resistance:

"It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance."

Resistance takes infinite forms – procrastination, deliberation, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt – and is inevitably present whenever there is a Dream nearby. Like black and white, yin and yang, where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.

And the process of 'getting ready' to take action is a great way to feed the Resistance; to put off the moment when your reputation or your dreams are on the line.

"When I've done a bit more reading, then I'll be ready. Just a few weeks (months, years) more research, and then I'll be sure. I should probably work on my CV a bit more first. Next month will be better – I'll have more time then."

Sound familiar? Probably. And if you were to hear someone else talking like this, you'd probably call them out on it.

There's a point at which planning and readying stops being useful preparation, and becomes a fear-laden excuse to hide out.

And frankly, you know which side of the line you're on right now.

When Yvonne signed up for our Career Change Launch Pad, she introduced herself with these words:

"For years I've been pretending that I'm carefully preparing and planning for my career shift. I've got all the books, I've got a folder with all the worksheets in it. I can tell you all the intricate details of my Myers-Briggs personality type, my transferable skills and my Enneagram. I'm a model career-change student.

But it's time to be honest: I haven't really been preparing. I've been hiding. And it's time to start living."

Yvonne had recognised her own submission to Resistance: the fact that she was using her preparation as a smokescreen to hide her fears.

As soon as she owned up to what she was doing, there was nowhere left to hide. She had taken her first step and set the ball rolling. (And, in case you're curious, when I last heard from her two months ago she was tackling a new problem: which of two job offers in charity campaigning – her dream industry – she was going to accept.)

If you're working on something important, you'll never feel ready

When something matters deeply to you, it's difficult to let go of the desire for perfection. When we say "I'm not ready", we generally mean something a little different – something like: "There's still a degree of risk involved"; "I'm not 100% certain", or "I don't have everything figured out yet".

You want to take care of this wonderful idea of yours, to honour it by doing the best job you can of preparing for its arrival in the world. Whether it's a move into a new company, industry, a business idea, or something completely different, you want the shift to be as smooth and as elegant as possible.

This really matters to you, after all.

But the truth is, you're never going to achieve perfection. You're never going to have all your ducks in a row. And you're not going to achieve anything even close to perfection if you don't get started.

In fact, the only way to sabotage your dream entirely is to sit on it forever. And you really could spend forever getting ready.

Recognising that your lack of 'readiness' is actually a futile attempt to protect your dream can give you enormous power in taking action.

Olivia took part in one of our online workshops, and emailed me a few months later sounding like a completely different woman.

Her medical career had lost its shine years before, and she had come to the workshop saying she had no idea where to turn next. Here's what she told me in her email:

"I've had this idea for a way to give patients more time with their doctors by streamlining the systems in the hospital where I work, for years. But I was too scared to talk to anyone about it, because it wasn't fully formed yet. I didn't have the statistics I needed to make a meaningful proposal. I didn't know if I would be able to get the right people on board. I hadn't mapped it out on paper yet, and I couldn't even be entirely confident it would work.

"And I wanted it to work SO much. I didn't want to sabotage it by jumping too soon.

"But after the workshop I realised that I was doing all those patients a disservice by not saying anything. I wondered how many hours of patient time had already been lost. How many people could have been better cared for? I had spent months trying to protect my idea, when really, I should have been looking out for the well-being of our patients.

"So I did it. I went and I talked to my boss, and then to her boss, and they loved it. I've gone part time in my old role and I'm spending the rest of the week launching the first test version of the project. I'm actually getting paid to do the research and find the stats I was so worried about not having in the first place… I can't believe I waited so long."

How many opportunities will you have missed while you were revising your business plan for the third time? How many job applications will you have allowed to slip past you because you don't feel qualified?

The greatest way to honour what matters to you is to bring it out of your head and into the world, not to hide it away.

Getting started is the only way to get anywhere

"Talk to anyone at the top of their game and you'll hear something like this: 'When I got started, I was a mess. I had no idea what I was doing, I just kept putting stuff out there. After a while, everything came together.'" – Marie Forleo

Nobody knows exactly what they're doing. And if they do, they're probably not doing anything new or exciting.

The moment of truth rarely looks like a perfectly prepared stack of papers or a sudden moment of perfect clarity.

It usually looks like rolled-up sleeves, a deep breath, and a small, uncertain first step.

Deborah took part in our Career Change Launch Pad. About halfway through the experience, she mentioned an idea for a jewellery line she'd been sitting on for a long time, and made the commitment to get into action that week.

Within a month, she had her first piece professionally designed.

Shortly afterwards, she had her first prototype in her hands.

She recently posted this update:

"I went with my ring to a real jeweller because I couldn't stand not doing anything with it since Thursday. She not only offered to make the ring, but to use her brand to sell it, put it on her e-store, or do it solo… and showered me with a million different pieces of advice about manufacturing, marketing, seeking the right clients... all over a nice cup of tea."

How did she do it?

She took one small step – before she felt ready.

As soon as she started, she found she had people waiting for her designs, so she had to keep moving. She had her fellow Career Change Launch Pad participants asking how her project was developing. She felt the ball starting to roll, and pulling her along with it. She made more progress in a couple of months than she'd made in all the time she'd had the idea.

Chances are, once you start, it'll be a similar story for you.


Because right now, there's nothing to pull you forward. And it's much harder to generate your own 'push' than it is to be pulled.

As soon as you start, there'll be deadlines, people waiting for you to take action, and a previously non-existent level of accountability.

You'll have to take new action to build on your last action, and once you start taking action, you'll start seeing results – the greatest motivator and momentum driver of all.

You can wait, and think, and dance in endless circles.

Or you can commit, and play, and start today.

What would 'ready' look like for you? And what could you do to start today? Leave a comment below.

All names in this article have been changed. 

Find out more about our Career Change Launch Pad and apply here.

Natasha Stanley's picture

Natasha Stanley is head coach, writer, and experience designer for Careershifters. When she's not working, you'll find her listening to neuroscience podcasts, learning pottery, and dreaming up her next adventure.