Fear has always been a piece of the human condition. We’ve all experienced the “Fight or Flight” reaction that drives us to survive when faced with difficult circumstances. In 1932, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed fear in his first inaugural address when he said the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” While many fears can paralyze us and leave us lingering in unfulfilling careers, there are ways to overcome such fears and achieve job search success and professional bliss.
Problems With Fear
According to Psychology Today, fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger that is imperative to protecting ourselves in the event of real threats to our well-being and life. The biggest issue for job seekers is that fear can become a career killer. The stress of updating your resume, writing a cover letter specific to every application, and interviewing for a new job can hold you back from moving ahead. Fear can thwart your performance in an interview, unnerve your ability to think clearly, and impede your negotiating capacity. It can even lead you to postpone or ignore a job search altogether.
The Fear of Failure
Whenever we try something new, there is some risk involved, yet we know without risk there can be no reward. A fear of failure can be debilitating and often keeps people from even attempting to change positions, apply for a promotion, or seek a new job. Not getting the job you applied for—or jobs, depending on how many applications you put in and how many resumes you have sent out—can cause a fear of failure to hold you back. Tina Gilbertson, LPC and DCC, said, “Failure on a logistical level can expose what feels like an inadequate, childlike, or vulnerable self.”
Overcoming a Fear of Failure
Gilbertson makes three recommendations for overcoming your fear of failure. First, write down your personal thoughts about what makes you feel afraid or small. The act of doing this can allow you to accept your feelings and give you more control over them. Next, picture your fear as a child who needs reassurance rather than ridicule. By understanding where the fear is coming from, you can face it head-on. Finally, take small steps toward your goal. Start by filling out one job application online today, followed by two tomorrow. Take your job search at your own pace and build your confidence as you go.
Fear of Rejection
Author and Ph.D. John Amodeo said the fear of rejection is one of our deepest as human beings. We are biologically wired with a desire to belong; and we are anxious about the possibility of being rejected because someone might perceive us as not being good enough. This fear, like some others, can generate anxiety and depression that stifle our careers and professional growth. Amodeo says the way to overcome this fear is to take note of our self-criticisms and simply accept our reaction if a rejection does occur. If we accept our pain and allow ourselves to grieve (briefly, not wallow), we can heal and learn from the process so we can move forward.
Fear of Success
The fear of success can result from a variety of causes. The excitement of success can feel close to anxiety for some people, according to Ph.D. Susanne Babbel, because the body experiences the same physiological effects during the excitement of success as during trauma—such as increased heart rate, quickened breathing, and sweating. The idea that the road to success is wrought with risk and, thus, the threat of disappointment (see fear of failure) also causes anxiety. In addition, some people, particularly those who have endured verbal abuse, don’t believe they deserve success as they have internalized what they have been told. Yet others simply avoid success because they are uncomfortable with the idea of competition and “winning” over someone else.
Imposter Syndrome refers to the inability of high achievers to internalize their success, resulting in the persistent fear that they will somehow be exposed as a fraud. It comes with the hallmark feeling that you may not be good enough for the new job that lies ahead of you or the promotion you accepted. It can surface as a fear that you have been promoted beyond your capabilities, a feeling like you’re in over your head, or that you don’t have what it takes to meet the expectations of others.
In order to overcome your fear of success, know that this is a common feeling, and share your concerns with those closest to you. Try not to pressure yourself to attempt perfection. This fear is fed by unrealistic notions about what is competent and what isn’t, so simply ask for help and do your very best—knowing that it is good enough. These steps will help you to rebuild your confidence so that you can perform effectively in your new job.
Fear of Change
As human beings, we get comfortable with what we know, and we avoid change. Adapting to new situations takes effort—but it can also cause us to grow in unexpected or unusual ways. A fear of change can appear whenever we are growing or taking steps to pursue our goals. While we all know change is inevitable, many people fear it.
Say Hello to Change
Kicking this fear to the curb can be a real game changer for many people because it can mean the ability to move forward instead of stagnating in an unhappy or unfulfilling place. Start by investigating your opportunities and asking yourself questions about a potential change. Remind yourself that if something doesn’t pan out, it leaves you in no worse a position than you are already in—so keep trying! The following tips can also help you to overcome your fear of change:
1. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself and Take the Leap
2. Ask Yourself: What is the Worst That Could Happen?
3. Start Toward Your Goal Knowing You Can Always Change Your Mind
4. Pursue Opportunity When it Knocks
5. Put Forth Your Best Effort
6. Start Small and Work Toward Larger Goals
The Key Is Taking Action
W. Clement Stone, a businessman, philanthropist, and author, said: “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.” By taking action, you assume control of your fears. “The act of taking the first step is what separates the winners from the losers,” according to motivational speaker Brian Tracy. David Jensen, a writer and speaker on career issues, wrote in a recent article for Science: “Action—almost any type—acts like a balm on your fear.” One of the keys to overcoming a phobia is facing it repeatedly over time. So remember that with each application you complete, each resume you submit—and the process will become easier and your fears lessened.
The World Is Your Oyster
It has been said that fear is the greatest illusion. I encourage you not to let your fears choose your destiny but instead drive you to achieve more—because as you overcome them, you strengthen your resolve and ability to pursue individual greatness. The world is your oyster—so don’t let fear hold you back any longer.
Share this post:
About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
Improve Your Resume: Download Your Free Executive Resume Template Today
Are you struggling to create an executive resume that will impress employers? Download this free executive resume template and receive a series of 10 emails with expert guidance on how to write resume content that resonates with employers so you get more interviews.
It's everything you need to stand out, make an impression, and accelerate your job search.