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Use Emotions (Not Facts) to Change Careers

The first step in changing careers—or changing the direction of your career—is to convince yourself it’s possible. The next step is to convince someone else that it’s possible. That someone else could be your boss, an HR department, or maybe an interviewer. Most people tackle this challenge by using facts to back up their decision. But that’s the wrong way to go. Emotions, not facts, are the best way to get people to believe in your choice, and, ultimately, in you.

Facts open the door to objections

If you’re at the stage of trying to convince someone you’re capable of changing careers, you’ve probably done a lot of legwork already. Maybe you went back to school. Maybe you’ve mentored with someone. The instinctive strategy to take in these situations is to bring up some facts. The thing is, one you get into the fact game, you’re opening up yourself to objections based on the sensibilities of the person you’re taking to. For example:

  • Why did you read that book? Why not this one?

  • Why did you go to that school? Don’t they have a so-so reputation?

  • Why did you go to that congress? Why not this one?

Notice the way these are all personal objections? The person you’re taking with simply disagrees with you. They may be wrong. Maybe your choice was the right one. But now you’re in a situation where you’re defending your choice. Suddenly the discussion has moved away from where you want to go, and has moved to the validity of your choice.

Emotions open the door to empathy

Here’s another approach. Instead of talking about the facts of why you want to change career directions, go with the emotional base for your decision:

  • I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s just something I’ve always been passionate about.

  • I was always scared to change my careers and become an architect, but last year I talked it over with my family we decided it’s a great move for all of us.

  • I said to myself, “Its now or never,” and I’m determined to make this career move work and not live with regret.

What’s the difference with this approach? Simple: it’s very hard for someone to object to any of these comments. No one is going to tell you that it’s wrong for you to follow your dreams. They can’t, because it’s a very personal choice. So suddenly you don’t have to worry about objections any more.

What’s more, this approach creates empathy. It helps you elicit an emotional response in the person you’re with. They might admire your guts. They’ll probably appreciate the risk you’re taking on. Any there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll think positively of you for taking matters into your own hands… and that’s a very, very nice position to be in.

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