I’ve worked with job seekers for more than 20 years. Though every person and situation is unique, there are common fears that hold people back. In fact, in listening to what my clients (and others) say about what holds them back in the job search, I’ve discovered two fears that consistently top the list—two that may surprise you.
Scared to do the work
Any professional career coach will tell you that finding a job is a job. You have to do the work. This is an easy concept to grasp logically. In practice, not so much. I work with very bright people whose intentions are genuine. Unfortunately, too many hope for a magic pill—something that will happen so that things will just fall into place. Only in the movies. Too many job seekers have no plan, no strategy. They want a resume to blast out. Worse, they often want it a one-size-fits all because they “are open to anything”.
Don’t jump to conclusions. When I’ve dug further, these people are not lazy at all. Once they realize what’s entailed, the truth comes out—they’re afraid. Afraid that if they do the work and run out of all options without a job, what then? What if they contact everyone in their networks to come up short? What if they register on all the job boards, apply to company websites and get no interviews? They’re afraid of the unknown. They’re afraid to work at this job search without guaranteed results. But here’s the deal: there are no guarantees in this life. The good news is that forethought, follow-through and persistence are what yield results. Not doing the work does not.
Scared to ask for professional help
A career coach or counselor can give you an outside perspective to help you identity your strengths, pursue your passions, and guide you through strategies and a plan of action to reach your goals. A good career coach can provide you with:
- Objectivity. A career coach is not typically deep rooted in your life. Even if you know the coach, he / she is trained to view your situation from a different perspective, to offer you fresh ideas or resources. Most importantly, a coach knows how to ask you the right open-ended questions to help you find your own answers. And without judgment.
- Support. A professional coach wants you to succeed. Whether you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, find it, market to it or keep it, the coach’s goal is to help you go where you want to go. A good coach will communicate clearly with you and will not tiptoe around issues. A good coach will be direct but always respectful.
- Accountability. A career professional will ask you to explore what may be helpful to you; but will not tell you what to do. It’s like having a personal trainer at the gym. The trainer is right there with you, reminding you that you set goals when you miss a session or forget your shoes. You’ll be called out on not following through; and be given tools to push through your barriers. But you have to follow the plan to lose the weight and build the muscle.
A common objection to asking an expert for help is cost. There have been times through the years when I have offered my services for free. Sometimes the person accepted; more often, they did not. The thing is, many people are afraid. Afraid they don’t look as good as they say they are. Afraid of any constructive criticism they might receive.
But sometimes, they go all the way. One lady took me up on it. Armed with a new resume and job search coaching, she faced fears and landed a great new job. I’m in business of course; I do usually charge. It has to be comfortable for the client. Often, however, the job seeker has not considered the cost in not seeking professional help. If out of work, what does it cost each day without that income? If frustrated in a job, what are the daily costs of doing something one dislikes?
Everyone is afraid sometimes. So am I. And the job search can be one of the scariest things out there. The key is to not let the fear stop you from keeping on to do the work-and get the help if you need it. There’s an acronym I love for fear: False Expectations Appearing Real.
Photo: Poppy Thomas-Hill