New Year, New Start, New You – the science of change, resilience, age and confidence

A new years’ post probably deserves a little bit of science on the nature of resolve, motivation to change and probability of success.  My aim in this article is to share the research and science behind why the chance to change tack and start over is truly open to anyone.

As a chartered psychologist with over 20 years of working with everyone from CEO’s to police constables, to NHS managers and to call centre operators let me be clear: everyone is unique; trying to pin down and ascribe success to a handful of traits or a ‘type’ is a pointless exercise.  Yes, there are broad generalisations which can be made – people who are proactive are more likely to be successful than those who aren’t (not exactly surprising), but on the whole, there is no one path, no one avenue and in a world where careers, jobs and work is truly changing and revolutionising, let’s all agree and accept the path is anything but defined.  Here are a few myth busting insights I hope you’ll appreciate and take to heart…


Age is not a factor.

In a meta-analysis (research which examines the combined research of a number of related studies from reputable peer reviewed scientific journals over a period of time) looking at the factors which most predict success at work, age was not a significant factor.  More than not significant, there was no correlation whatsoever between how old people were and their likelihood to be happy at work or to get promoted.  Just to give this some context, this is a meta-analysis looking at the combined research over a period of 25 years looking at 140 studies across all sectors (e.g nursing, dentistry, management consulting etc..) resulting in over 45,000 data points.  This is not a conclusion based on opinion, insight or belief.  This is well documented, concrete and a result you should confidently be noting, feeling and sharing with others.  Let’s get the message out there to all: age is not a factor.


Confidence isn’t the issue. 

The image of the person who is successful in changing career, starting over or starting a business tends to be someone who is brimming with confidence.  Indeed, if you go to a coach, very often the aim will be to work on your confidence.

With the work we’re doing at ViewVo (still early days – therefore this research is anecdotal), we’re noticing those who come to spend a day with an expert, do so because their confidence is low and they want to learn what the reality of the job is like.  It is the ‘mystery’ that scares.  The majority who spend a day with an expert, learn what’s involved and realise it’s not that scary.  Most of the time, confidence is built through knowledge gained from experience.

Do your own thought experiment.  If I were to ask you how long it takes you to do cartwheels down a 200m track what would you say?  Would you have any idea?  Now imagine you’ve done it once.  How easy would it be to now answer the question?  With a benchmark, you have a better idea and can predict a more accurate answer with confidence.

No one is suggesting after one day you become an expert.  But in a day, you build the knowledge to know what gaps you have and how attainable it is to fill them.

This holds true in the research (which isn’t anecdotal).  In 2014, a study was done to examine the lives of 5299 people over a 14-year period who became entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs who gave up jobs to go ‘all in’ with their new venture were compared with those who cautiously started their ventures ‘on the side’ and built them up slowly alongside doing other things (like full time jobs, PhD’s etc..).  What they found was the more cautious entrepreneurs were 33% less likely to fail than those who went all in.  The more cautious group were mitigating the risks of ‘going for it’ before they took unnecessary risk.  Confidence was a function of having more data, experience and evidence.  It wasn’t a mindset – it was the reality borne through experience and insight. 


Call to action:

I hate sounding salesy, but the reality is, this is what ViewVo does.  We give people chances to experience a ‘dream job’, before taking the risk of quitting a day jobs or investing too much in something which may not actually suit you.  You can of course find your own shadowing, work or volunteer experience – we haven’t invented anything new.  We’re simply offering you doors that are open for when you get fed up with cold call rejection! Those of you with time on your hands and lots of confidence to cold call certainly don’t need our help.


change career writing pic blog

Proactivity is vital.

As mentioned from the outset, proactivity is key.  You may want to return to work or start your own business, but waiting for someone to spot your potential or passively waiting and doing endless ‘research’ will result in very little.  I help run a professional body staffed entirely by volunteers.  Things could certainly be run better and there are thousands of things to be improved.  My frustration isn’t that things could be 1000 times better.  It is the liberal nature in which people make and throw out ‘ideas’ on what could be improved but without offering any time or commitment themselves to making it happen.  Ideas are worth nothing without the action delivered by proactive execution.  In the meta-analysis I refer to above (where I shared the research indicating age isn’t a factor in the path to career success), let me also indicate that those who are most proactive are those who are most likely to be successful – both in terms of being happier at work and being recognised by managers and therefore getting higher promotions and salary.

Being proactive isn’t about getting it right.  It’s about making mistakes and learning from them in order to find out what works.  Edison is famously misquoted as saying he found 1000 ways to NOT make a lightbulb before he got it right.  The sentiment is the same, but the real quote is:

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward….” – Thomas Edison.

For anyone looking to get back out to the world of work – whatever form that may take, you have to take many steps before you’ll find the ones you know will take you forward.

Call to action:

One of the strategies a few different companies get you to do (in terms of taking action) is to send an email out to all your friends and contacts indicating your intent to change career/start over.  Ask them for contacts of people in the sorts of areas you are interested in learning more about and the group will usually have one or two you can have informal conversations with.  Most people want to help a friend!


Finally, resilience.

Anything worth doing is worth your time and effort, but highlighted above, the path forward can be littered with 10,000 ways of getting things wrong or getting continually rejected from a range of jobs.  That’s a tough reality for most people to deal with.  The head of the careers service at Henley Business School is Naeema Pasha and this is the subject of her PhD research.  She’s looked at those who’ve used an MBA as a mechanism to change jobs.  The huge MBA investment requires (in some cases, £75K), doesn’t guarantee success: resilience remains the biggest factor determining those who are able to make a successful career change.

The good news is resilience can be developed and this is largely about changing the way you view and see the world.  In a systematic review of research from 2003 – 2014, Ivan Robertson (et al) did a comprehensive review of all the literature available on the evidence for resilience training and concluded there was evidence to suggest it makes a change.  Being more specific than that is hard to say because so many people try different approaches.  The wise guidance is to suggest a one on one approach be taken so the trainer (or coach) can identify and work on issues with the client.


coaching pic blog

Call to action:

Coaching has been shown to  be an effective tool to help people move from negative, self-defeating beliefs to those which are more positive and constructive.  Coaches will charge anything from £100 – £500 a session.  The coaching industry is not regulated so there is no one qualification and many of the training providers (in my view) offer a poor training experience with low levels of supervision (if any).  The best advice in terms of finding and working with coaches is to ask questions about what qualifications they do have.  Whilst I’m not claiming a coach who does a 2-day course is not a good coach, I am saying someone who has committed years and at least a several qualifications (a diploma or Masters) is at least demonstrating a strong commitment to the trade.  I’d also ask about what supervision they’ve had (as this is very often lacking).  I am happy to share contact details of coaches I do rate and of course those registered on ViewVo clearly have the qualifications and the mindset of wanting to help others, so I would say those on ViewVo are impressive and get strong reviews from clients.  If you find yourself constantly doubting and if you find you’re fairly negative and disengaged with getting started, it might be worth trying a coach.  Most offer a free introductory session to test the water, so at the very least, it won’t hurt!


Hopefully this has given some fuel for thought.  When you’re ready to take action, let us know – we can help.

Happy 2018!


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