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How to Deal with Your Fear of Failure When Job Searching

I need a jobBy Nisa Chitakasem, co-founder of Career Consultancy Position Ignition

Fear of failure plays a big factor in holding back some job searchers from finding their ideal job, or at least causing them to stumble temporarily. When we’re seeking a new job, we fear that we don’t have any skills or enough experience to interest any employers, we fear that there’s no way we can compete with hundreds of other applicants, we fear that our applications and CVs are somehow lacking, we fear that we aren’t good enough at job interviews, we fear that we’re too old to change jobs, we fear that we’re too young to be taken seriously.

Even though finding a job—or more specifically, finding the right job—is challenging, we can’t let ourselves be overwhelmed by the challenge if we are to succeed. As the founder of Ford Motors, Henry Ford, once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right”.

If we believe we’ll fail in our job search, we probably will. Here are some tips for warding off the fear of failure and adopting an attitude that will lead to job searching success.

  • Identify your fears—if you just have a general sense of dread in your stomach, it’s hard to rationally deal with that. Break down your sense of fear into specific fears. By doing so you can begin to address them one by one.
  • Believe in yourself—if your problem is that you don’t think you have any skills that make you employable, you need to take some space and time for reflection. Everyone has skills and talents, but few of us realise the extent or adaptability of our skills. Think about what you know you’re good at doing and what other people say you’re good at doing. Make a note of these abilities and target jobs that specifically require your particular talents.
  • Value your life experiences—even if you don’t have much work experience, that doesn’t mean you don’t have relevant experience to do a certain job. All types of life experience can work to your advantage in a work setting. If, for example, you were a member of chess club at school, regularly winning matches, this shows you have excellent concentration levels and are adept at strategic thinking and operating under pressure. Bring this up where relevant in your job applications and interviews. Hobbies, gap year/sabbatical projects and parenthood count just as much as school activities.
  • Accept that competition is fierce—even though the labour market is particularly competitive and crowded right now, there’s never really a time when a worthwhile, legitimate job won’t have at least hundreds of applicants. If you want a job that is going to be truly fulfilling and interesting, you’ll have to accept that every role you apply for will be in great demand. Once you accept this, you can use this to motivate yourself to gain the advantage over your competitors. Gain this advantage by doing voluntary work in your targeted career area, going on relevant training courses and getting information and advice from your contacts within the industry.
  • Keep CVs in perspective—don’t get too caught up in the fear that your CV isn’t perfect. No one’s is and besides, a CV, while useful, is not a magic document. Hours spent slaving over your CV don’t necessarily equate to job offers. Instead of spending a disproportionate amount of time on your CV, invest more of that time in identifying jobs that are genuinely suited to you and researching career areas and organizations.
  • Don’t be scared of interviews—not being scared stiff at the thought of a job interview is easier said than done, but it is possible to approach them with a different mindset. Instead of seeing a job interview as a grilling, a game you have to play or a performance you have to give, see it as an opportunity to find out whether or not you really want to work for this company and to tell the employer all about the value that you know you’d be able to contribute to the organization. Remember each time you go for an interview—you’re choosing the employer just as much as they’re choosing you as an employee.
  • You’re never too old for a new job—we may think that once we reach a certain age, we’re too old to change jobs, but this is not the case. Once at that certain age, we have a lot to offer that most employers would be hard-pressed to turn down. Instead of trying to play down your age in job applications and interviews, play up the wisdom and experience you have to offer. If you feel your skills set is out dated, update it by taking refresher courses relevant to your career area or brushing up on general competencies such as IT skills.
  • Young people can get experience too—if we’re at a young age, or we’re looking for our first job, we might be frightened that employers won’t take us seriously and dismiss us because of our lack of experience. It might feel like you’re in a catch 22 situation. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. The way out of this trap is to get experience through volunteering, or some other form of unpaid work experience. Organizations will gladly accept the skills and qualities you already have if they don’t have to pay for them and may also give you free training.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s no need to be afraid of failing in your job search. Instead, embrace finding a new job as an opportunity to start an exciting new chapter in your life and keep positive. If you’d like some more practical and thought-provoking job seeking tips from Position Ignition, download our eBooks, How to Get the Job You Want and 100 Essential Career Change Tips, now.

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