Changing careers without support

If you are dreaming of a career change, it’s natural to hope the people you care about will support you in your dream.

But what if they don’t? In fact, it’s not unusual for career changers to find themselves feeling discouraged by a lack of support from other people. Here’s how one described it:

Dear Tag and Catherine,

I know I have the talent to succeed in a new career, but no one else seems to believe in me. Even my husband and friends don’t take me seriously when I talk about what I’d like to do with my life. I felt so encouraged when I visited your website ( but I feel so discouraged when I talk to people about what I want to do. I’m not young so maybe that’s why I’m not being taken seriously. Can you please give me some advice to help me keep going? – Career Changer

Dear Career Changer:

When you’re feeling discouraged, consider the story of Susan Boyle, a 48-year-old woman who recently became an international sensation after singing on the television show Britain’s Got Talent. It wasn’t just her singing that made millions eager to view online videos of her performance; it was how she shocked an auditorium full of people.

Eyes rolled as Boyle took to the stage. It was apparent that the judges and audience alike expected her to perform poorly. But the first few notes out of her mouth were beautiful, and it quickly became apparent that first impressions were wrong in this case. As she sang, the audience roared its approval and rose in a standing ovation. One of the judges recognized her performance with “the biggest yes I have ever given anybody.”

Susan Boyle’s story is unusual because of how widely known it is. But thousands of people are playing out a similar story every day. While the world celebrates people who achieve success at any age, those who change careers later in life often face skepticism — and sometimes downright contempt — for daring to go after their dreams.

There seems to be a widespread belief that if someone is any good at something, they will have been working in that career since their youth. Career changers may be viewed as dabblers — “You want to become a writer? Well, good luck with your little hobby.” Or they may be viewed as at least a little delusional — “You want to become a singer at your age?”

So in addition to all the other real or imagined hurdles you face in going after your dream career — whether fear of failure, financial concerns, or simply not knowing how to get started — you will face hurdles from other people. It may be a hurdle thrown up by someone currently working in the career who wants to prove how difficult it is to make it in their field. It may be family and friends who are afraid to see you change.

Or it may be people who barely know you who simply like to keep other people in their place. For example, if you have worked as a secretary, you’ll always be a secretary to that person (or a sales clerk, or a server, or whatever other role they want you to fit into).

So it won’t just be you asking yourself: What’s wrong with you that you aren’t happy in your current role? This is especially true if you have a job that others consider a dream job, for example, as an executive, an editor, or an educator. You may hear comments like: Do you know how many people would love to have your job? You want to get paid to plan parties? Become a motivational speaker? Open a coffee house? What makes you think you’re so special that you’ll succeed in a new career — especially now?

But knowing that other people are just another hurdle in your hope of a new career can actually be a blessing. No longer expecting others to automatically help or support you just because you have a dream, you can move forward anyway. Then, any encouragement you get along the way will be a bonus.

Plus, knowing that others may not respond enthusiastically when you share your dream with them, you can choose to keep your dream to yourself until you have learned enough and developed your skill enough to step on stage and wow them.