Take the plunge: 4 reasons why you shouldn’t fear change

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Rob Jones left school at 16.

He ended up working in various construction jobs throughout his late teens, before taking a basic data-entry role at the same company his mum worked at. Recognising his potential, the company’s finance director (FD) recommended Rob study for an AAT qualification. This meant time and money costs, and Rob hadn’t studied for five years, but he decided to go for it. By 26, Rob was himself an FD, working in Zurich.

In the years since he qualified with AAT, Rob has also worked in Spain, Japan and the Netherlands. Now 38, he lives in the UK, working as an interim FD for start-up companies. “You can do accountancy and lead an exciting lifestyle,” he says. “It’s a part of accountancy that many don’t appreciate: the sky’s really the limit.”

One of the biggest lessons that Rob has learned from his career has been simply to go for it. “Don’t be afraid, you need to be brave and take something on. You’ll learn fast,” he says.

Rob’s story is testament to the benefits of taking a fearless approach to new opportunities. Most recently, he started his own recruitment company: “I was referring people on FD roles I couldn’t do. I realised I was basically doing the job of a recruitment company, so thought I might as well set one up.”

You can take a fearless approach to your career too. Deciding to study for a new qualification isn’t easy but, rest assured, others have trodden that path before you. Here are four encouraging thoughts to help you take the plunge.

Don’t let fear hold you back

Harry Potter author JK Rowling is a famous advocate for facing down your fears. She says that without her early struggles – finding herself divorced, penniless and with a child at a young age – she wouldn’t have found the strength to write her books.

“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling has said. “It would have really helped to have someone who’d had a measure of success come and say to me: ‘You will fail [at something in life]. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.’”

Fear of failure can do you more harm than taking something on and actually failing.

You can learn from failure

Some motivational coaches argue that, if we view failure as a positive way of learning, then we won’t be scared of it. Indeed, more praise should be given for trying new things, says Matthew Syed, former Olympian and author of the book Black Box Thinking.

We should look at what failure teaches us, he explains, rather than admonish someone for the failure itself. In fact, by praising success without acknowledging failure, we are cementing the idea that failure is something to be feared. “We have to see [failure] not as dirty or embarrassing, but as bracing and educative. This is the notion we need to instil in our children: that failure is part of life and learning, and that the desire to avoid it leads to stagnation.”

Start by testing the water

If you feel like a certain change seems too big, why not try a smaller step to see how you get on? By taking a smaller step, you’ll still be moving forward, which is better than staying still. You know you want to make a change in your life – better skills or a brilliant job – so moving towards that goal, no matter how slowly, can give you a great sense of achievement.

Make a decision and go for it

Once you know what you want to do and how you want to do it, you shouldn’t hesitate too much, says Rachel Bridge, author of Ambition: Why It’s Good to Want More and How to Get It. “As soon as you have enough information to make a sensible, informed decision, do it and move on to the next one. Even a poor decision is usually better than no decision at all, because at least it gives you something to work with.”

Finally, above all else, you should believe in the plan you’re making: “You should at least do yourself the courtesy of believing it will be a success,” says Rachel. “If not, why are you even bothering? If you don’t fundamentally believe it will succeed, it’ll be hard to persuade anyone else that it will.” For Rob Jones, this approach has resulted in a life far different to the one he envisioned when he left school. He believes we all need to be a bit more fearless: “You can’t be afraid to take things on,” he says. “Take the opportunity.”

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AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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