When we are fearful is because we perceive a situation as potentially painful, threatening, or even dangerous. Fear is an emotion designed to protect us and secure our survival. On the flip side, fear can block us from our growth.

 Have you ever been afraid of failing at something in your career that you decided not to try it at all? I had, leading to career regrets. What if I would have accepted that job or moved, or, or. 

“Fear is the border of the reality that we know.”Mary Morrissey

Organizational behavior researchers had defined a career as a metaphorical journey in a chosen field that creates a unique pattern of skills, capabilities, and experiences over an individual lifespan. 

It is understandable to experience fear when making important choices. Some career decisions require special considerations because they might have a significant influence on the direction, personal satisfaction, and fulfillment of our lives for many years to come. 

Navigating our career journey requires us to be willing to grow, expand, and change. Who has not experienced fear at a career crossroad while choosing an academic major, accepting a promotion to a much larger job, relocating, or changing careers? I remember being scared when I walked away from a +20-year corporate career in HR to become a solopreneur. 

What about you? What is one big career fear that you might be experiencing without even realizing it? Some of the most common career fears are:

Fear of Not Being Enough – This is a feeling of self-doubt about own self-worth and professional competence. The Imposter Syndrome is a way to explain the sense of intellectual illegitimacy that we sometimes experience.  

Fear of Failure – Failure is a personal experience as subjective as a success. In the context of a career, we fail when we do not achieve career goals or when we do not meet the performance standards required in a job or position. Fear of failure can keep us stuck from learning and growing, undermining our own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure.

Fear of Rocking the Boat –This fear is about the apprehension of making bold calls that will change the status quo and could be perceived as oppositional. Women experience this fear more than men when socialized to go with the flow.

Fear of Making the Wrong Choice – Especially if your decision involves a significant investment of time and money, such as going back to school to start a second career. Choosing an academic degree is one of the most important vocational choices having a long-term impact on our lives. 

Fear of Judgement – In making important decisions we will have to face some level of opposition from our spouse, friends, family, or coworkers. Unconsciously we might fear abandonment from those we love. 

Fear of Uncertainty – It is common for many people to stay at a job they do not enjoy because of uncertainty or fear of the unknown — not knowing what the future holds after making a career change can be scary. 

Fear is inherent to the human experience. You can experience fears and still move on without letting your fears stop you from doing what you can to thrive in your career. 

To overcome your career fears, I suggest you:

1.    Create a compelling vision for a career you would love. Fill this vision with details of the impact you can create and the personal meaning and satisfaction you can experience when you achieve your career goals. Your career is like a work of art, so paint your picture.

2.    Notice What you Notice –Increasing your self-awareness is an ingredient of taking control of your career. Become aware of your fears by identifying what is holding you back. You can still have fears without letting them having you. 

3.    Face your fears and obstacles head-on instead of pretending they do not exist. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? Is it that terrible? Even if you fail, you still could start all over and learn important lessons that will take you to pivot in your next career move.  

4.    Source ideas about actions that you can take to move you in the direction of your career goals. Ask yourself: What is one step I could take that would get me closer to where I want to go? Then, schedule it in your calendar and take action.

Your career reflects your occupational progress through your lifetime encompassing the different jobs you have held and your acquired experience. Your assessment of your level of career satisfaction is very subjective based on how you interpret the many work-related events and decisions in your career. 

Your career journey is unique to you because it reflects your interests, passions, talents, and aspirations. If you are to grow and make the best use of your gifts, you got to be able to take risks by making important career decisions, even when facing fears. Take control of your life and career. Decide that you will be in the driver’s seat. Do not let your fears stop you from growing and expanding. 

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