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Monday April 30, 2012

Is Fear Stalling Your Career?

Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder

Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy -- especially when it comes to progressing in your career. Most people fear certain things, such as a change in their role or facing rejection when vying for a promotion, which can affect their ability to move up.

Think fears might be holding back your career? Here are common worries that can hurt your career and how to move past them:

Fear of failure

Fear of failure can creep in at any moment and paralyze your success at work.

"We occasionally encounter job seekers who are so concerned about failing, they refuse to take on additional projects, challenges or new positions because they're afraid they will make a mistake," says Jessica Hernandez, president of Great Résumés Fast.

To help build self-assurance, Hernandez suggests that candidates who are afraid of failure should "start out small, taking on new challenges and tasks that aren't as intimidating and gradually build up their confidence to tackle larger projects as they come along."

Fear of rejection

Whether you're afraid to flunk a job interview or to ask for a promotion, being afraid to get "no" as an answer can keep you from even trying to move ahead. Job seekers can be especially sensitive to rejection.

"For job seekers, rejection means that they have failed in some way, regardless of whether the company was a good fit to begin with," says Anthony Morrison, vice president of employer solutions at Cachinko, a job referral firm for Facebook users. No matter where you are in your career, think of rejection as a learning experience that will help you improve your job-search strategy, Morrison suggests.

Fear of change

Approaching your career with a don't-fix-what's-not-broken mentality can be a negative. While dealing with change can be difficult, being afraid of change can equal missed opportunities.

Fear of change "holds a candidate back, because they'll never step out and take the promotion or accept a better opportunity with another company," Hernandez says. "It can potentially reduce a person's growth potential and their lifetime income by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Fear of relocation

A side effect of our slow economy has been that job seekers have had to be more open in terms of where they will work, and that can be scary for workers who have families or who have lived in one area all of their lives.

If you're considering a job in another city or region, don't let fear stop you from a potential opportunity. You might really enjoy your new location, or you may find that your employer is open to you telecommuting. 

"Candidates looking for jobs should be open to doing interviews via Skype and the possibility of telecommuting, temporarily or permanently," says Morgan Norman, founder of WorkSimple, a social goal management program. Don't be afraid to look outside of your geographical area. If companies think a particular candidate is a good fit, it may be possible to arrange a way to do some work remotely, he says.

Fear of taking on a leadership role

Hiding in a cubicle is easier than speaking in a boardroom, and that's one reason some may be afraid of moving into a management role. While increased job responsibility can sometimes be overwhelming, the positive outweighs the negative, says James Alexander, founder of Vizibility, a personal branding platform provider.

Not reaching for more opportunities can set you back in the long run.

"In order to progress professionally, it's important to take on [tasks] that you may not always be comfortable with," Alexander says.

Fear of losing work-life balance

To some employees, a more prestigious job title or starting at a different firm just means more time spent away from the home. But fearing that increased job responsibilities will disturb your work-life balance can set you back in the long run.

Instead of staying under the radar, think of the perks: better pay, higher role, etc. Taking a risk with a new position doesn't need to mean you'll be at work 24-7. You can always talk to your manager about ways to create more balance (working from home once a week, coming in early so you can leave a little early to pick up your kids from school) once you've started, but don't discount the job or role just because fears creep up. 

Fear of changing industries

Switching industries can be another fear for job seekers who are used to working within one particular industry. Often, the fear is unfounded, and it's important to apply wherever your skills are needed.

"These job seekers should know that many skills are not only needed, but also transferable within different fields," Alexander says. "Do your research and try to connect with human resources professionals to gain a better understanding of the position. That way, you'll have a better idea of where you can apply your skill set within the organization."
Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.

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