I have a bias toward taking action. I know I get nowhere by planning alone. I get there by doing. As women in male-dominated industries, I find we too often start questioning ourselves and feeling a strong form of imposter syndrome.
If you want to get ahead in your career, you need to stop overthinking and overanalyzing and start taking action. You can’t be afraid to take a step forward just because you can’t quite see what’s ahead. You can’t get stuck falling into analysis paralysis and constantly second-guessing yourself.
Stop Asking “What If” And Start Doing
Analysis paralysis is the inability to make a decision due to overthinking. It’s one of the biggest things that can hold you back from getting your own career off the ground. I was terrified of starting over in my own career at the age of 29. I remember thinking, ‘Who will ever take a chance on me? How will I compete with peers who have been writing code for almost a decade?’
But I decided to push those questions aside.
Putting ourselves out there is scary. There will always be so many reasons not to take that first step. Deciding to commit your time and energy to something that may not pan out is always a risk.
When I took my first steps toward a new career as a software engineer, I felt this fear. But, I pushed through it by putting one foot in front of the other. My first step was taking a Java development class at the local community college. I picked this college because it was convenient. Because it was close by, there were very few barriers to physically getting myself there. All I had to do was commit myself to get in my car, zip into town, and show up twice a week.
The secret isn’t doing something perfectly – it’s just doing something.
This community college course helped get me back on my feet. I was so grateful for it. I was going to do whatever it took to accelerate my process of returning to tech, and this class offered me an opportunity for a reset and the chance to gain a sought-after tool in my toolbox.
If I had spent too much time thinking about all of the unanswered questions about my future, I would have remained completely paralyzed.
When you take too much time to ask yourself, “what if?” you never wind up taking that first step. It’s so important to realize that you can’t solve your entire future upfront; you just have to take it step by step.
Three Steps to Fighting Analysis Paralysis
If you learn how to recognize analysis paralysis, you can learn how to avoid getting stuck in it. When you start asking yourself all the “what if’s” to the point where you can’t see a clear answer, chances are you’ve fallen into the analysis paralysis trap. The sooner you understand why you’re doing this, the sooner you can help get yourself out of it. At the beginning of my tech career, I was afraid of all the unknowns, but I knew I’d never move forward if I took too long to dwell on them.
Visualize Your Outcome
Take a step back and remember what your end game is. You won’t have all the answers right now. What’s essential is reminding yourself of what you’re working toward. Where do you want your career to be in a year? How about in a month? Great. Now, what’s one step you can take, starting today, to help get there?
Set a Deadline to Take the First Step
It all really comes down to taking that first step. Take action, any action, and start building momentum. Give yourself a hard deadline for taking your first step. Setting a deadline is basically going to force you to make decisions. It’s going to force you to take action. Giving a hard deadline gives you less time to question the “what ifs” and forces you to start doing instead. Tell your peers about your deadline if you have difficulty holding yourself accountable. Tell your friends. Post a deadline on social media. Whatever you need to do to hold yourself responsible for your actions – do it.
You can’t plan an entire career journey because you have no idea what opportunities are going to appear.
One of the best ways to take a first step toward bettering your own career is by picking up a copy of my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook. I dedicate an entire chapter to avoiding the pitfalls of analysis paralysis and getting (and keeping) the momentum going. I wrote this book with the hopes of helping women in male-dominated fields take command and control of their careers and be the change their industry needs. Let’s work together to stop questioning ourselves so much and start taking simple steps to empower ourselves and our futures.