How to release your fears and grow in your career

Yesterday I listened to George Zitko talk candidly about fear. He was inspirational and was talking about the fears he had in terms of growing his business. Specifically he discussed about how that fear held him back on more than one occasion. It got me thinking about how we hold ourselves back in our career due to fear.

The three fears

In the last ten years I have talked to so many people about their careers – the highs, the lows and the fears. In my experience there are three main fears which hold people back:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of success
  3. Fear of change

These fears can be debilitating. They can stop you from doing even the simplest things to further your career and keep you stuck, or at least feeling stuck.

Releasing your career fears

The key to overcoming your fear is to keep moving. Any action that you can take, particularly if you are suffering from the fear of failure will stop you stagnating. Why? because taking action gives you the control back. When you choose to take that step, no matter how small, it feels good. One step leads to another and suddenly you find you have done the thing that was holding you back.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure often comes with job searching and applying for new roles. Did you know that most women feel they need to meet 100% of the job description before they will apply? This drops to 60% for men. The truth is though that there is a chance you won’t get through to the next round, or that if you do, you won’t get the job. It’s also true that you might be the one who lands your dream role (despite not having all they were looking for!). Someone has to get the job and that someone might be you.

Key tip: go and talk to people.

You might call it networking, I call it chatting. Potato, pot-a-to. Either way, if you don’t get to know people they won’t know anything about you either. So many people (me included) get hired on the fact they are personable, that they will fit into the team. Sure, experience and qualifications are great but they are not the be-all-and-end-all. Honestly they aren’t. There is no way of an employer getting to know you if all they see is your CV. So get your social media up to date, go for a coffee with someone who works for the company you are applying for or attend that conference you have been meaning to go to.

Release your fears:

Spend a moment or two thinking about when you *have* been successful in your career thus far. What did you do, what skills and strengths did you use? How might those help you now?

Fear of success

Some people call the fear of success ‘imposter syndrome‘ and I would agree with them to a certain extent. Ultimately you begin to doubt yourself and your capabilities for the job in hand. Maybe you think you have been promoted too soon or beyond your experience. You can’t see or understand what others see in you. Imposter syndrome can affect anyone (male or female) at any time, at any level. I know CEOs who still suffer from it. Mostly this fear comes down to self-worth and whether you think you are worthy or not to be doing the role you are doing/want to be doing.

Key tip: share your concerns

Whether it’s with a mentor, a colleague, a friend or someone in your organisation that you trust – talk to someone. If you ask around there will be others who have felt this way, 70% to be exact. You might even find that people you admire and look up to have felt this way. Like George yesterday. This fear often stems from our perception of what it means to be competent in a role. We so often have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and skewed perceptions of what others must think of us.

Release your fears:

Remember that life is about progress, not perfection. You only have to be good enough. If you don’t know what you are good at then ask 5 trusted people – those you know will be honest with you (so you can’t say they are lying to be kind later on!). Ask them to give you one thing they value you for.

Fear of change

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? So many of us are fearful of change. The problem is:

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ”― Heraclitus

This fear is often worse when change has been forced upon us, like being made redundant or having a new boss come in and shake up the team. It may come from moving the security of a boring but stable job for your dream job (…what if it isn’t what you thought?). We all like a comfort zone, we move in, sometime reluctantly then get comfy. In order to grow in our career and reach our potential, we must keep expanding our comfort zone. This might mean a bit of discomfort and the ability to ride that out, but if you can, you will be even more successful.

Key tip: create a plan B

In creating a plan B you create a safety net if the change doesn’t work out. I remember so vividly when I took the leap into careers advice from the safety of the pharmaceutical lab. I phoned my new boss who was my careers adviser and said ‘what if I hate it?’. She replied ‘you can always go back’. Just knowing I had a plan B meant that I felt safer and do you know what? I never needed it. I never went back and I never looked back either.

Release your fears:

Examine your current situation, including your dreams and goals. Have you met them? Are you comfortable? What would make you uncomfortable? Where would you like to be in 5 years time and what do you have to do to get there? Then make a plan to take a step towards that 5-year goal, even if that means saying it out loud.

4 thoughts on “How to release your fears and grow in your career”

  1. I can certainly relate to Imposter Syndrome in my corporate career and starting my own business.

    Imposter Syndrome, for me, wasn’t the fear of success but the fear of being found out and failing. Who am I to be charging this much, working with this successful business etc

    I can remember sharing my concerns with a really good boss I had. She looked at me and said, ‘Me too!’

    We ended up laughing about it and once we reflected on how far we’d come and our successes, we realised we were more than right for the job, and blinking good at it too.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing Tracey. It is such a common thing, but like so many other things it is still a bit taboo. I agree though re Imposter Syndrome – most people have the fear of being found out!

    I am so glad you had a supportive boss and re-aligned those beliefs you both had. A brilliant outcome!


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