Change is scary. Whether it is planned or unplanned, we tend to react with anxiety, if not panic, when a major change confronts us. Our comfortable “worlds” are suddenly broken into pieces, and we scramble to pick up those pieces and “glue” them back together again. But like Humpty Dumpty, it doesn’t work.

Walt Disney might have felt some of this panic when he was fired from his reporting job with a Kansas City newspaper. However, that forced him to focus on his art, primarily cartoon drawings. The rest of the story is well-known. He became a giant in the animation industry, created Mickey Mouse, and died having a “kingdom” in both California and Florida. A “forced” career change resulted in a pretty amazing new career and life.

Career Change = Life Change

Whether forced or unforced, the decision to do an “about face” and change careers is huge, to be sure. But many have done it and thrived. And in the process, they have undergone related changes that can only be defined as “self-improvement.” Here are seven byproducts of a career change that can only be described as improving who you are and what you are contributing to yourself and to those around you.

Self-Awareness

Many of us choose a career while we are still pretty young. We get comfortable in it, even when we are silently saying to ourselves, “I’m not passionate about my work, but I am good at it, and I need the paycheck.” Whether we wake up one morning and decide that there has to be more to a career than just comfort, or we wake up one morning out of a job, we have the opportunity to do some serious soul-searching.

We can ask ourselves questions like, “What would my ideal job look like?” or “What have I done in the past that, in doing it, I lost track of time?” These are the kinds of questions that lead us to careers about which we can have passion. And passion for one’s life work brings happiness.

Honest Assessment

Making a career change means that we have to assess our strengths and weaknesses honestly. When we do this, we can capitalize on our strengths as we seek new positions. We can draft resumes and cover letters that highlight our value to potential employers. And if we discover, in the process, that we are not terribly good at getting those strengths down on paper, we can hire a resume and cover letter expert to assist us.

We will also know that we have to address our weaknesses. Once we have identified those weaknesses, however, we can develop plans to address them. Perhaps we lack communication skills in social situations. We can join an organization or seek counseling that will eliminate that weakness.

Becoming a Learner Again

When we stay in one career, we tend to get “stuck” in that niche. We may engage in professional development related to our work; we may hang out with co-workers and others in that same niche. When we face a career change, we realize how limited our learning has been. We can than take steps to address the issue. We can go back to school; we can take online courses; we can read more. All of these things give us more knowledge and insights and make us far more well-rounded.

Becoming Flexible

Being flexible is an important personal and professional trait. People who have this trait generally do well in any career they choose. As you put yourself “out there” while pursuing a career change, you will meet many personalities with which you must effectively communicate; you may have to take interim money-making jobs to eat while you seek your change; you may have to settle for a less than ideal position to get your foot in the door. When you can do these things with an attitude that they are all moving you to your goal and are therefore worthwhile, you will know you are growing in this critical trait.

Ability to Focus

The process of making a career change is a full-time job of itself. If you really want this new career; if you have an abiding passion to pursue it; if you know that you will not realize professional happiness unless you do this, then you have the catalysts that will force you to focus. And when we truly focus on something, there is little that can stop us from achieving what we have set out to do. If you want to be a novelist, how badly do you want it? If the drive is truly there, then you will do what it takes to feed yourself while you focus solely on that first book. This practice in focus will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Self-Confidence

Again, as you go through the process of making such a big change, you will have setbacks. But you will also have successes that will make you aware of your value and worth. You may take a course completely outside of your comfort zone and get and “A;” you may get a job offer that you decide to turn down because it does not match your goals; you may start networking and establish new relationships. All of these things will contribute to your overall sense of self-confidence.

Embracing Future Change

A change in career may be the first big change in your life. There will be more to come, of course, because life is never static. Some changes you will initiate; others will be thrust upon you, sometimes without warning. But when you get through this “biggie,” you will have had the experience that will allow you to do more than just cope with changes. You will have the skills to meet them head-on and turn them into more self-improvement adventures.

A Final Note

Henry David Thoreau once said that most of us live lives of quiet desperation, never doing what we really want to do. Wayne Dyer said it a bit differently: “Don’t die with your music still in you.” These two men, separated by a century, both had it right. Life is a wonderful adventure of finding both your life’s work and yourself. Go for it.