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Most of us are not strangers to the term “analysis paralysis.” Analysis paralysis means that you analyze a situation or set of choices far beyond what is needed or helpful to come to a conclusion or decision, and you therefore fail to take any action whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this problem can plague us far too often in our careers. Consciously or not, endowed with the gift of entertaining opposing thoughts in our heads simultaneously, we as human beings often convince ourselves we are confused about our next steps when we are simply undecided.

Last week I received yet another email that echoed a set of questions I have heard many times in my work as a career coach:&nbsp;“I have a few friends who are considering career transitions but seem to be treading water, unable to figure out what is next. What should they read to help them through it?”

At one time, I might have simply fired off a quick email with a list of books that dig into this topic from different perspectives:&nbsp;Reinventing You by Dorie Clark and Pivot by Jenny Blake, the renown Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton,&nbsp;my recent book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career,&nbsp;and the classic What Color is Your Parachute?&nbsp;by Richard N. Bolles, among other great resources.

Yet the longer I coach, the more I realize that providing job candidates a list of books may not be enough to reduce the fear that can accompany a career change. While it can be a helpful starting point, it can also create further intimidation, because the would-be career changer has a fuller bookshelf but no further clarity. The books themselves become pressure points: “I want to change my career, but I haven’t even had time to read the books on the list. How will I ever do this?”

In short, books are fabulous resources if you have the right ones, but they are only life-changing if they spur action. Reading is not the goal in itself; action is the goal.

Unfortunately, any list or set of tasks that is intended to “gear oneself up” for change can create a hurdle to transition by engendering analysis paralysis. If left unchecked, overanalyzing one’s options can even lead you down the path to career coma, a topic Shari Davidson recently covered in Above the Law. Analysis paralysis leaves us stopped in our tracks, unable to contemplate change or think expansively when we should be stepping out and experimenting with available options.

So how can you break through the paralysis and jumpstart a career transition?

• Determine how much runway you have for a change. Do you need or want to transition in the next six months, for example, or can you let it develop organically?

• What is your risk tolerance? Are you more conservative and protective of your current situation or willing to take chances and pursue a range of opportunities until you find the right one?

• What are your immediate and long-term needs for income?

• What are your other professional priorities? What are you hoping to get out of a job?

• How will each potential role play to your strengths and support your interests?

• What will you and others in your life need to give up in order to achieve the change you seek, and how can each of you make your peace with that?

Professional priorities range from the type of role you want to play in an organization to the best work environment for you. They include the many intangibles you seek in your professional life, such as being part of a team, advancing discoveries in your field or having flexibility in your workday. They also include potential deal-breakers for you, such as toxic workplaces, intolerable ethical dilemmas or extra-long commute times. We each have our own concerns, and what is a priority for one person could be a deal-breaker for another. For example, one person may love constant collaboration while another prefers to work alone.

By considering target careers or advancement options against your professional priorities, your analysis of a potential transition is no longer an overwhelming, insurmountable set of data points but a strategic decision that you can take in your own best interest. You are no longer paralyzed with confusion but instead, you’re poised for decision.

Armed with your strategy, the books above and others can accelerate your important work of implementing a career change. This includes informational interviewing as well as creating opportunities to experiment with potential transitions. If you are in a role in corporate finance, for example, and are considering a switch to non-profit fundraising, you can chair an event to get a better feel for what is needed to effectively fundraise and whether this aspect of the role actually appeals to you. Getting out and doing will help you get to the heart of which roles are best matches for you, rather than staying caught in an overextended, brain-driven analysis.

The wisdom of the books I mention above and others that facilitate career transition is not in the giving of answers. We fall into the paralysis trap if we expect the answers to leap off the page to find us and become discouraged if they do not. It is uncommon to read a book and say, “That’s it! What she does is exactly what I want to do.” Instead, very often, great books do not show us the answers. Their greatness lies in teaching us the strategies to find the right answers for ourselves.

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Most of us are not strangers to the term “analysis paralysis.” Analysis paralysis means that you analyze a situation or set of choices far beyond what is needed or helpful to come to a conclusion or decision, and you therefore fail to take any action whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this problem can plague us far too often in our careers. Consciously or not, endowed with the gift of entertaining opposing thoughts in our heads simultaneously, we as human beings often convince ourselves we are confused about our next steps when we are simply undecided.

Last week I received yet another email that echoed a set of questions I have heard many times in my work as a career coach: “I have a few friends who are considering career transitions but seem to be treading water, unable to figure out what is next. What should they read to help them through it?”

At one time, I might have simply fired off a quick email with a list of books that dig into this topic from different perspectives: Reinventing You by Dorie Clark and Pivot by Jenny Blake, the renown Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, my recent book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career, and the classic What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, among other great resources.

Yet the longer I coach, the more I realize that providing job candidates a list of books may not be enough to reduce the fear that can accompany a career change. While it can be a helpful starting point, it can also create further intimidation, because the would-be career changer has a fuller bookshelf but no further clarity. The books themselves become pressure points: “I want to change my career, but I haven’t even had time to read the books on the list. How will I ever do this?”

In short, books are fabulous resources if you have the right ones, but they are only life-changing if they spur action. Reading is not the goal in itself; action is the goal.

Unfortunately, any list or set of tasks that is intended to “gear oneself up” for change can create a hurdle to transition by engendering analysis paralysis. If left unchecked, overanalyzing one’s options can even lead you down the path to career coma, a topic Shari Davidson recently covered in Above the Law. Analysis paralysis leaves us stopped in our tracks, unable to contemplate change or think expansively when we should be stepping out and experimenting with available options.

So how can you break through the paralysis and jumpstart a career transition?

• Determine how much runway you have for a change. Do you need or want to transition in the next six months, for example, or can you let it develop organically?

• What is your risk tolerance? Are you more conservative and protective of your current situation or willing to take chances and pursue a range of opportunities until you find the right one?

• What are your immediate and long-term needs for income?

• What are your other professional priorities? What are you hoping to get out of a job?

• How will each potential role play to your strengths and support your interests?

• What will you and others in your life need to give up in order to achieve the change you seek, and how can each of you make your peace with that?

Professional priorities range from the type of role you want to play in an organization to the best work environment for you. They include the many intangibles you seek in your professional life, such as being part of a team, advancing discoveries in your field or having flexibility in your workday. They also include potential deal-breakers for you, such as toxic workplaces, intolerable ethical dilemmas or extra-long commute times. We each have our own concerns, and what is a priority for one person could be a deal-breaker for another. For example, one person may love constant collaboration while another prefers to work alone.

By considering target careers or advancement options against your professional priorities, your analysis of a potential transition is no longer an overwhelming, insurmountable set of data points but a strategic decision that you can take in your own best interest. You are no longer paralyzed with confusion but instead, you’re poised for decision.

Armed with your strategy, the books above and others can accelerate your important work of implementing a career change. This includes informational interviewing as well as creating opportunities to experiment with potential transitions. If you are in a role in corporate finance, for example, and are considering a switch to non-profit fundraising, you can chair an event to get a better feel for what is needed to effectively fundraise and whether this aspect of the role actually appeals to you. Getting out and doing will help you get to the heart of which roles are best matches for you, rather than staying caught in an overextended, brain-driven analysis.

The wisdom of the books I mention above and others that facilitate career transition is not in the giving of answers. We fall into the paralysis trap if we expect the answers to leap off the page to find us and become discouraged if they do not. It is uncommon to read a book and say, “That’s it! What she does is exactly what I want to do.” Instead, very often, great books do not show us the answers. Their greatness lies in teaching us the strategies to find the right answers for ourselves.

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