At a recent presentation training course, run by the brilliant David Josephs, we briefly discussed our fears about presenting. After all, if we’re so nervous, we must be afraid of something!
The discussion got me thinking about fears in general. Fear can be a great motivator, if you know how to identify and overcome it. But what if you don’t know what your career fears are? We all have them – but can we all spot them?
There are a few different general fears that I’ve noticed come up time and again for many professionals. They’re usually driven by similar things. I’ll cover a few of them now, but if I’ve missed anything out, feel free to comment.
- Fear of not being good enough professionally. Many people will be familiar with that feeling of dread when we’re asked to write that difficult article, take on the difficult project or make that vital presentation. A fear of work being sub-standard is prevalent amongst many professionals.
- A fear of not fitting in. In an age where cultural fit is a crucial element of the recruitment process, it can be pretty daunting entering a new workplace. Your success is not just dependent on how well you do your work, it’s also important to be able to interact well with your colleagues. For someone with social anxieties this can cause major stress.
- A fear of speaking up! Whether presenting, disagreeing or just putting forward that idea that’s been going round in your head the whole meeting, the prospect of opening your mouth fills you with terror. What if you’re wrong?
- A fear of success. Now that one sounds made up, right? Wrong. Some people subconsciously sabotage themselves for fear of becoming too successful. Won’t others be jealous? Will there be a bigger workload? Can I cope with the pressure? Believe it or not, success can be just as scary as failure.
So how do you conquer those fears? It’s easier when you identify the root of the problem, which is, universally, a feeling of inadequacy. I don’t deserve the promotion, my ideas aren’t worth people’s time. However, if you’re employed in this market, the likelihood is that your employers think highly of you. In most fields, there are still more candidates than there are jobs and employers have the pick of the bunch. Would they have hired somebody they thought would fail?
Your fear doesn’t only hold you back, it can deprive the company of that breakthrough idea you were too scared to voice, that piece of work you threw in the bin that could have been excellent, getting to know a great human being and robbing the business of a top manager.
Once you get to know your fear, it can be your greatest motivator. All you have to do is look it in the eye and let it dare you to go even further. So what’s your career fear?