Looking for a job can be a scary, overwhelming, and demoralizing endeavor. It’s also an exciting time full of opportunity and growth! But the fears can often outweigh the excitement. You’re not alone if fear plays a role in your life during the search for that perfect job. Feelings of fear and anxiety can have a constricting effect on the brain, shutting down the ability to feel optimistic, creative, and successful.
In fact, worrying is like your imagination’s evil twin. For many of us, worry becomes a fantasy about worst-possible outcomes, spinning notions about a negative future that can take hold and run rampant: “I’ll never find work, I’ll never live up to my potential, I’ll never have a life that I used to dream about.”
Don’t let fear and worry derail your career! Here are a few common job search fears along with some tried-and-true strategies for overcoming them.
I’m too nervous for networking
The Fear: We all know industry-specific networking events are a great way to make new connections that could lead to landing your dream job. But not everyone is a social butterfly, and the perceived power dynamic of wanting to get something from a connection can send everyday social anxiety through the roof.
The Strategy: Instead of worrying about meeting the right person and saying the right thing, focus on your own sense of curiosity. Ask people about themselves and let them know what you’re looking for, but put your attention on being a warm and friendly conversationalist by focusing on the other person instead of your own agenda. Focusing on the other person can help curb insecurity and allows for connections to develop organically. Bring business cards and make a goal to meet at least three people. Connect with them on LinkedIn afterward with a quick note. Pretty soon, you’ll start building a network of professionals — and you’re likely to make a few new friends too.
Changing jobs is hard. How will I handle the rejection?
The Fear: Why do people stay in jobs they hate? Because they’re safe. Even if you desperately want a new job, it’s really scary to leave what you know for something new and undiscovered. With every decision in which you say, “yes,” you also say “no” to something else. In all transitions and changes, there is risk. Every change includes a choice to sacrifice or compromise in some way. Plus, there are the pesky questions in the back of your mind, asking, What if I can’t get another job? What’s going to happen when it doesn’t work out?
The Strategy: One of the best ways to overcome fear of change is to build up your personal sense of openness and creativity. Do things that remind you of your ability to learn, grow, and learn new things. Work on a hobby, go dancing, or take a class, and note the positive feelings that new things bring. Continue to engage in new activities during your job hunt, and you will not only keep your spirits up, but you will also ensure that you’re a more attractive candidate when you land interviews. And if fears resurface after a rejection or misstep, practice positive self-talk. Imagine you’re talking to a beloved friend about their job search, and use any good advice you come up with on yourself!
What if I don’t live up to expectations?
The Fear: Once you’ve put in the work to strengthen your personal brand and get yourself in front of potential employers, you’ll eventually have one final fear to face: taking the leap and actually starting a new job! Suddenly your aspirations become reality, and it’s time to go in for your first training or begin your first project. Many people come down with a bad case of impostor syndrome as soon as they’ve landed the perfect job.
The Strategy: Self-trust is arguably one of the most important characteristics we need to be successful. Why? Because it allows us to let go of that fear. When you first start a new job these feelings are common. To build your self-trust, you have to start sharing your ideas and speaking up, no matter how much you doubt yourself internally. Trusting yourself is a learned skill. When you make this change for yourself, you grow into the type of employee and coworker that everyone wants to work with. You grow into the employee who is ready for the next step up — the one who deserves that promotion!
Fear is unavoidable in a job search. But by identifying your fear and choosing to go in a positive direction, you’ll be able to accept the stress and make real progress in both your career, and your own mental health. And don’t forget, you’re not alone in this! Many people find that their fears ease when they talk about them.