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Kathy Lockwood.

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Kathy Lockwood is the founder & executive coach at Blue Water Leadership Coaching, and a former human resources executive.

Doing what scares us can be exactly what we need to move forward in our careers and in our lives. We all hear about stepping out of our comfort zone, but how many of us do it? In my personal experience, that is exactly what helped me see how much potential I had.

I had a great career as an executive. I could have continued down that path until the day I retired, but I was feeling that something was missing and it wasn’t related to money or a title. I needed a change in the actual work I was doing, so I took the bold (and very scary) step of leaving my job without another lined up. This was the beginning of a career change and led to a whole new sense of what was possible.

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Not everyone can leave full-time employment before knowing what their next role will be. If you are in a relationship, decisions such as leaving a full-time position cannot be made in isolation. My partner was not only supportive, but my biggest cheerleader. Family support is critical.

Here are six considerations to take into account before taking that leap.

Know your appetite for risk

How long can you be off work without an income? Do you or your family need health benefits that often come with a full-time job? How will you feel in your first month without a pay cheque? Consider seeking out a financial adviser and look carefully at your specific situation before you resign from your current role.

It is okay to be scared

I often think that if something doesn’t scare you or make you uncomfortable, you are probably not thinking big enough. To be clear, I don’t mean doing something that is dangerous and unsafe. I’m talking about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. When I considered starting my own business, it was very intimidating because there were so many intangibles and uncertainties. Doing the scary thing adds a new dimension of excitement and that may very well be the drive you need to be successful.

Don’t listen to that internal gremlin

It’s that voice inside your head that offers words of self-doubt. Whether you are seeking a bigger job or a new career, that voice will tell you that it would be safer to go back to what you know best. Don’t listen to it. You can do this!

Tell people what you are doing

Networking is not easy for many people. If we demystify the word, it’s simply telling people what you are doing and asking for help. It’s also extremely lonely being on your own, so engaging others can build a community of support. I began seeking out other coaches who had gone through this same journey to get their advice. Others around you can help keep you on track to achieve your goals, and they can also give you the support you need to keep going.

Invest in further development

Often the new role we want or the business we are starting requires additional training and development. In my case, I felt compelled to engage in coach training and become certified by the International Coach Federation as I began my coaching practice. Think about the next step in your career and consider what has changed since you first began your career. In this ever-changing world, it is likely that you will need to add to your skill set before you can take on something significantly different.

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Have a back-up plan

Finally, before you begin on a new career path make sure you have a backup plan. Establishing this up front will help with your ability to manage your risk appetite. Making the leap is easier when you know there is another option if all else fails.

Starting my own coaching practice was scary and exciting at the same time. Think about what scares you and make a plan to move forward.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

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