Helping my clients overcome fear in their job search is one of the most important things I do. It may sound crazy, but give me a spotty job history, a lay-off, a firing, or resume gaps 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 binging Netflix instead of pursuing a serious job search.

When prospective clients reach out – in a moment of courage – to ask for my help, I hear all kinds of stories. I hear about horrible bosses and toxic work environments. I hear about being laid off. Or, there’s the recent divorce that means a stay-at-home mom must rejoin the workforce after many years. I hear about the desire to finally pursue a dream career, or advance in a current one. “My priority is finding a new job…I know I could be happier at work…I need to be earning more money…” These are just some of the things people tell me with conviction – and they mean it.

Job Hunting Fears

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 that arise and prematurely derail what could have been a successful job search, and what to do about them.

Nobody will hire me.

This is a lie you are telling yourself.  It can come up if you are limiting your search to online applications, you keep applying and keep getting rejections. Or maybe you’re afraid you’ll get an interview and they’ll hire someone else because you’re not a great interviewer.  Or you may be convinced you don’t have the right background. Could these things happen? Yes of course. Until they don’t, because you will keep going and not give up. You will adjust your search tactics. You will ask for feedback, alter your approach, work to stay positive, and keep trying until you get an offer. Letting this fear that “nobody will hire me” 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 answered the questions well, didn’t embellish your experience, and you got the 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 poor decision-makers? 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 some folks who seem pretty comfortable talking about themselves. This fear often comes from being unsure about what to say. So, the solution is to clearly identify your skillset. Write stories about your accomplishments. Ask trusted co-workers about what they value about you and when they have seen you at your best. Then, when you’re in an interview, 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 don’t require bragging or embellishing. But you do have to talk about who you are and what you can do. If this makes you uncomfortable, put your assets in someone else’s voice, “I’ve been told that I’m…” (fill in the skill).

I don’t want to lose the “X” of my current job.

So, why are you looking for work? This is fear on steroids, and it comes from the human instinct to resist change. You can break down this fear by asking “Is that really true?” Are you sure, for example, that you could never again find a flexible boss? Is it true that you’ll never find benefits as good or such a great team?  Something must have prompted you to think about finding work – don’t lose sight of that.

Sometimes this fear comes from concern that our success may be perceived as a threat to others. Maybe a family member will have to step up to do something they’ve relied on you for. I remember when I told my kids they would need to start packing their own lunches and doing other household chores when I took a role that demanded more travel. (Guess what? They did great!). Isn’t denying yourself a great job too high a price to pay to make someone else feel a little better? If someone is making you feel badly or afraid of advancement, you might be wise to seek help or reevaluate the terms of the relationship.

Do you really want to hold yourself back from your own dreams? Of course not! Check those fears. Give them a solid interrogation! It could be they are lying to you.