Helping my clients overcome fear in their job search is one of the most important things I do. Please, give me a recession, a spotty job history, a lay-off, a firing, even a felony conviction or disbarment any day! I’ve seen them all and helped clients overcome them.  Fear, though is an entirely different animal because fear, more than any of those other obstacles, can actually paralyze someone and keep them sitting on the couch watching “Ellen.”

When prospective clients reach out – in a moment of courage – to ask for my help, I hear all kinds of stories. I hear  the desire to land that first job and begin adult life. I hear about horrible bosses and toxic work environments. I hear about being laid off, or divorce that means a stay-at-home mom has reenter the workforce after many years. I hear about kids growing up and the financial demands of college tuition. I hear about the desire to finally pursue a dream career, or advance in a current one.

Job Hunting Fears

People have all sorts of reasons for wanting or needing to look for a new job. Until they don’t. Until the reality of the effort involved and the fears overwhelm the intention to move forward. If you’ve felt those fears, you are not alone. Here are the most common fears I see when it comes to looking for work.

Nobody will hire me.

You’re afraid you’ll put yourself out there, see jobs that you’ll get excited about, apply and never hear anything. Or you’ll get an interview and they’ll hire someone else. Yes, you will. And yes, they will. For heaven’s sake, of course that will happen! Until it doesn’t because you will keep going and not give up, and ask for feedback, and alter your approach, and stay positive and keep trying until you get an offer. Letting this particular fear stop you in your tracks is like quitting in advance so you don’t feel rejected. Rejection happens. Get used to it, and build your resilience. This isn’t the only area of your life where resilience will come in handy. Look at your job hunt as great practice for when life doesn’t go your way. How are you going to handle it?

I won’t be able to do the job.

Really? So, you would have me believe that after a rigorous hiring process where you told the truth, didn’t embellish your experience, and you actually got an offer that you won’t be able to handle the work? So, basically you’re saying that the folks who make you an offer are going to do a lousy job with the interview? Or they don’t understand the work as well as you do? Or, please don’t tell me this, it’ll be too hard? Are you saying you can’t learn? Or that you would hesitate to ask for help? This is your confidence and self-esteem doing a number on you. Don’t let it win. You will do fine. How do I know? There are hundreds of people not nearly as capable or smart as you who are being paid to do all sorts of work. Wouldn’t you agree?

I don’t like bragging or selling myself.

Who does? Okay, well there are those folks seem pretty comfortable talking about themselves. It’s easy to judge them as being full of themselves, or lacking humility, or taking credit for things they didn’t do. So then, when we imagine saying things that put ourselves in a good light, we judge ourselves and it feels uncomfortable. But there’s a difference.  When you’re in an interview, or writing a cover letter, or stating the facts in an application, you are simply putting your best self forward. You have knowledge, skills, and abilities, do you not? How will a prospective employer find out what they are if you don’t mention it? Job hunting and interviewing does not require bragging or selling yourself. It does require being forthright about who you are and what you can do. If this makes you uncomfortable, practice it. Look back at your skills and interests and say them aloud. Write stories about your accomplishments and read them to a friend or in a mirror. Humility is admirable. You can humbly admit to your strengths, really you can, and in an interview no one will judge you for it.

I don’t want to lose my lifestyle.

Wow, you must have one pretty cool lifestyle! So, why are you looking for work? This fear, which can be very uncomfortable, comes from a place of habit. Habits are hard to break and a change in lifestyle can be daunting to consider. It could be having to let go of flexibility, a move to a new town, a change in schedule, a long commute, or the harsh reality of going back to work after enjoying the freedom of not needing a job – you will need to make new habits. You can break down this fear by being very clear with yourself about what you absolutely need, and what changes you’re willing to make. Something must have prompted you to think about finding work – don’t lose sight of that.

This is going to make someone in my life very unhappy. Sometimes our success can be seen as a threat to others, especially if someone in your life isn’t doing as well as you are. But, isn’t denying yourself good work too high a price to pay to make someone else feel a little better? Do you really want to hold yourself back from your own dreams? It’s possible that as you go for what you want, you might actually be able to serve as an inspiration. Or, you might then be in a financial position to support someone else in their efforts to do better. Is this a case of someone depending on you to meet certain needs? You should know that often other, even better arrangements can be made for all kinds of services and caretaking. If someone is making you feel badly or afraid of advancement, you might be wise to seek help, or reevaluate the relationship on your terms.