As a die-hard New Yorker, I learned to drive after I moved west as an elderly twenty-one-year-old. I had to master the trick of turning left against a red light and parallel parking in tight spots on busy streets. Night driving was a special challenge and the instructor reminded me, “Don’t drive past your headlights.”

Over the years, I came to understand what he meant. I learned to look for reflectors, signs and lights, and to drive slowly on country roads that lacked these amenities. I also learned that I could drive much faster when I had driven a road many times.

Life transitions are like driving at night on an unfamiliar, winding country road. You have no center line and no guardrails on the side. You don't even have traffic lights and street signs.

This metaphor comes to mind when career changers ask, “How fast can I go in a life transition?”

Clients often complain that friends and family members under-estimate the time required to make a meaningful, lasting change. More important, when you're stuck in a place where you feel miserable, you usually wish you could be catapulted into your new role, quickly and effortlessly.

Coaches often recommend that you build up your confidence so you can move forward more quickly. When you are more confident you can move forward more quickly than you would when you hesitate. As a driver, you get confidence from headlights, bright yellow lines down the middle of the road, and of course familiarity after you've driven the route over and over.

As a career changer, you get confidence in these 3 ways.

(1) You can work with an expert who acts as a headlight - someone who shines a light on the path ahead. You can learn what others have done so you anticipate the way the road will bend and curve, so you are not caught by surprise.

It's important to choose genuine guides rather than cheerleaders. You don’t get confidence when someone says, “You’re wonderful!” And you don't get confidence when someone tries to scare you from getting out on the road at all.

(2) Go slow until you learn the way. If you feel nervous, you can develop your skills, find another route, or even delay your trip so you can drive in daylight. You might feel better if you have a map, so you won’t be surprised or wonder if you’re lost when you see signs pointing to places you’ve never heard of.

(3) Notice the way you talk to yourself and the guidance you get from others. Sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Look, I’ve done this before. I’ve never had an accident. The roads are dry and the sky is clear. Let’s move!”

You have to respect your own inner wisdom. Sometimes your fears are masking a reluctance to leave your comfort zone. But sometimes your realistic concerns can be misinterpreted as lack of confidence.

However, you know you need to get to your destination, somehow. You can’t stay here forever. Once you’re on the road, often your confidence grows as you move. And next time you’ll know the way.

Author's Bio: 

Career Expert Cathy Goodwin supports mid-life, mid-career professionals who want to change careers or gain greater enjoyment from their present career. Her expertise includes career planning, education for career change, and relocation for careers. Download her free report: 5 Career Change Secrets Your Career Coach Won't Tell You.