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5 Reasons You’re Afraid to Get a New Job

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A better job is waiting for you. These tips for overcoming fear of change can give you the boost you need.

For most job seekers, the phrase “new job” is exciting because it signals opportunities to learn new skills, expand your network, and build your resume. But change can also be intimidating. If you’re scared to get a job, you’re not alone.

Certain parts of the job search process can be more terrifying than things that go bump in the night. According to a 2018 Monster poll, the majority (38%) of U.S. respondents said they were most afraid of interviewing, while 33% might not even make it that far because they’re scared their resume might go “into a black hole on the Internet” when applying to jobs. Other fears come toward the end of the job search process, which include negotiating salary (16%) and being turned down for a job offer (13%). Plus, what if you get a new job and you hate it?

So while job search fear is a real thing for many people, you can’t let it crush your career. If you find you’re having a hard time getting your wheels in motion to start your job search, it might be time to confront your fears. After all, time doesn’t move in reverse.

“The average person spends roughly one-third of their life at work,” says Kelsey Bye, a career coach in San Francisco. “That’s a lot of time to let yourself feel unfulfilled, unchallenged, underpaid, and unappreciated.”

Read on for five reasons you might be scared to get a job, along with some ideas for how to overcome your fears. 

You’re scared to leave your current employer hanging

“What will they do without me?” Julie Vessel, a Minneapolis-St. Paul career coach who counsels professionals in marketing and advertising, hears this question a lot. “For loyal folks,” she says, “the thought of disappointing their current employer or leaving them empty-handed at a busy time is paralyzing.”

Loyalty to an employer is admirable, but what about your loyalty to your career? “You have to be the one looking out for your best interest—and career growth,” says Vessel.

Face your fear: “Give your all until the very last minute of your employment,” Vessel says. “That way you leave as the person who gave their best every single day, not the person who dropped the ball.”

You are what you do

Denver-based career coach Leila Hock says many people are afraid to get a new job because their identity is tied to their current job.

“People often take refuge in their title, the company they work for, or their industry as identifying their self-worth,” Hock says. “When that is the case, the idea of transitioning to a new job can feel like they are transitioning their identity—not just what they do to pay the bills.” And that can be as unsettling as looking in the mirror and seeing someone else’s face instead of your own.

Face your fear: Caroline Beaton, kununu’s millennial career expert and a Denver-based writer who uses psychological studies to understand millennials at work, suggests getting to know yourself better before you take a leap. “Understand your strengths and how you can and want to contribute to an organization,” she says. A simple way to tap into this is to practice self-affirmation. “You’re more than just your job,” adds Hock. “You are a complex, well-rounded being with interests, broader qualities, and diverse skills.” 

You’re worried you might hate your new job

Scared to get a job because of the unknown? Well, it’s true that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t—right? “I’ve seen a lot of folks stay in miserable jobs for fear that they could be even more miserable somewhere else,” Vessel says.

“When things aren’t great in your job, it’s easy to assume that’s just the way it is: long hours, bad supervisors, demanding clients,” says Vessel. “But when things are bad, you owe it to yourself to go in search of better.”

Face your fear: Plenty of people actually don’t loathe their jobs—in fact, a whole lot of people really love what they do. So conquer your fear and your ignorance by doing some research about other companies. Go on informational interviews. Investigate the cool company perks that are offered elsewhere. Attend a networking event to meet people who work at other companies, and find out how they like their jobs. Your fear may turn out to be as credible as the boogeyman.

You’re convinced you can’t hack it

Do you chalk up all your accomplishments to luck and battle a persistent fear of failing or fear of being exposed as a fraud? Imposter syndrome can drag even the smartest, most competent professional down a dark hole of despair.

Know you’re not alone. “This is a fear that many people face at some point, personally and professionally,” says Cathey Stamps, a career coach and former therapist.

Face your fear: One simple way to overcome self-doubt is by carefully reading job descriptions for your ideal job role. Study the duties involved and the skills required. Ask yourself: What skills am I using in my current job that are transferable to the job I want? What additional skills do I need to learn?

“Take the time to learn from your past—what worked for you as well as what didn’t—and trust those lessons,” Stamps says. “With an honest assessment, you are much more able to acknowledge your own skills and see where you need additional learning and support.”

You positively hate being the new kid

You’re comfortable at your current job. You have a routine, you have friends, you know how to find the best coffee in the building. Leaving that comfort zone and having to figure out the office politics—let alone where to eat lunch—among a new set of co-workers can be terrifying.

Face your fear: “The unknown can certainly be troubling, but it’s seldom as bad as we think it’s going to be,” Bye says. One way to get over your fear of being the new kid on the block at work: Start pushing yourself to meet new people now. Seek out new experiences. Join new groups and clubs outside of work. The more practice you have meeting new people and navigating the unknown, the more comfortable you’ll be stepping out in search of a new job.