On good days, I’m a curious and non-attached observer of fear. On bad days, I get sucked into the fear vortex and find myself obsessing about my own career successes/failures. And then I feel even more fearful because I convince myself that my clients will feel my fear and run for the hills – and before you know it, my whole life is ruined. Really – fear is THAT much of a slippery slope for me.
Now just for fun, I’ve been conducting a little experiment over the past few weeks. I’ve been keeping a list of all the fears I’ve heard from clients. See if any of these feel familiar to you:
“I’m stuck in my job/profession/industry because I make too much money to go elsewhere.” “It’s not THAT bad. I like the people I work with.” “I really want to do X. But I’d have to take a huge pay cut to do it, which isn’t an option.” “I’m almost X years old. I need to appear relevant and make sure I’ve got the experience employers want.” “I know I can do the job, I just can’t sell myself properly.” “There aren’t any jobs outside of my industry that I can do. I’m too specialized.” “Everyone is more qualified than I am.” “I only got this job because my boss is my best friend’s college roommate.” “The only way I can move up is to get (fill-in-blank: an advanced degree, specialized training, specific experience in niche area) and there’s no way I can do that while working here.” “What if I over-sell myself during the interview and then I can’t do the job?” “I can’t actively search for a new job because my boss will find out.” “I’ve been unemployed for six months. At this point, I just need a job. Any job.” “What I really want to do career-wise, I can’t make any money at.” “I hate my job but I hate job searching even more.” “I’m not qualified to do what I’d really like to be doing.” “My skill set is too general. I don’t have the ‘right’ experience to get hired to do what I really want to do.” “I’ve had three interviews and no offers. I’m beginning to think I’m never going to find something.” “What happens if I get the job and then have to ask for time off?”
Oh wait. I apologize. Did you just read through the list and found yourself nodding your head? I’m sorry. You’re not feeling very special now, are you? You probably even thought you were the only one with those thoughts. Don’t you love how convincing and “real” those fears sound? So practical and logical.
Fears are like that – they don’t always sound irrational or wacky. That’s why I need a Teflon suit to guard against these fears. Even I can get sucked into fear when they sound so rational. (Take a breath, Stacey.) Fear doesn’t have favorite people it picks on. We’re all in it together.
Tyler, a mid-career professional who came to me to help him transition to a new industry, said it best:
“When I look around at friends or colleagues who have made career changes, I see that their self-confidence is way higher than mine. I’m pretty sure no one else feels as much fear around this change as I do. I’m scared to death I’ll screw things up.”
Wow Tyler. Thanks for being so honest. But here’s what I know to be true about fear – based on my experience.
First, just because you see self-confidence on the outside, doesn’t mean there isn’t a steamy caldron of fear underneath. Fear is a natural part of change. Expect to have fear show up – it’s just doing its job of trying to keep you safe from harm.
Next, everyone feels fear. Some let it grip their focus (I obsess on things), and some are better at letting it flow through. And finally, there’s no magic formula for overcoming fear. Expecting it to disappear completely is unrealistic. Waiting to overcome it is fruitless. Best just accept it and not let it run the show.
Here’s my new tagline for fear. “Fear. It will show up.”