5 ways to tackle fear and uncertainty in your career

Whatever stage of your career you are currently in—job hunting, looking for growth opportunities at work, getting into consulting—chances are you’ve been doing your best, following the advice you’ve gotten from friends and family (and of course Idealist Careers). But, let’s say you’ve been taking all the right steps and they haven’t quite led to those breakthroughs you’re hoping for. It can feel daunting, leading you to wonder if you’re actually doing something “wrong”… or just don’t have the luck.

In these situations where you may not be seeing results, it’s natural to feel disempowered. Perhaps you’ve been making all the right moves, but feelings of insecurity, fear, or uncertainty are starting to creep in. If that’s the case, here’s how to take control.

Paint your picture of empowerment

Let’s first take a look at what it means to be “empowered.” For the sake of this article, we’ll say that empowerment comes from being fully present, confident and aware of your situation. You know how you will address it and are committed to action. You feel you are guided by a sense of wisdom and self-assurance in your decision-making.

Now think about what being empowered looks and feels like to you. Write down three phrases or power words that describe it. Bring it to mind whenever you sense fear creeping in or feel a lack of control over a situation. You should be better equipped to regain your sense of power when you can clearly envision it. Also use this image to amp up your confidence when moving on to the next step, identifying your fears.

For example, I equate the word “empowered” with “confidence,” “authenticity,” and “brightness.” When I think of the word, I envision someone walking down a sunlit street with a self-assured stride, beaming smile, and determined gaze, who easily catches the attention of passersby.

What fears are holding you back?

An important step is to name your fears. Whether it’s a fear of rejection, fear of not having control, or a fear of success (yes! This actually does happen!), have a little heart-to-heart with yourself and identify your fear. Next, make an appointment with yourself to face it.To identify your fears, try working with the following sentences. Fill in the blanks:

  • The types of situations that make me most fearful are _______ because ___________.
  • The types of environments in which I am fearful include____________.
  • My most vivid memories of being afraid involve (what type of people, places, scenarios?).
  • I feel most intimidated when I am around people who act ________________.

Schedule a fear-confronting date with yourself

An empowerment suggestion from Kristen Walker, professional life coach and co-founder of Clarity on Fire is to challenge yourself to face your fears on a regular basis. She suggests,

“Deliberately facing down your fears (whether it’s speaking up in a meeting or going skydiving) is an instant confidence booster. It puts the other stressors in your life in perspective and makes you realize, “If I could do that, then I can do anything.”

From the list you just created, what is one fear you would like to work on now? Commit to one small action you will take in the next week to experiment with facing that fear head-on. See the effect it has on your empowered view of yourself.

Create a “brag sheet”

Walker also suggests keeping your “wins” top-of-mind and refer to them on a regular basis. A “brag sheet” outlines anything you’ve done that you are proud of and makes you feel confident and in control. The key is to keep it someplace visible so you can see it regularly. Here is a quick guide to keeping track of your accomplishments on a regular basis so you’re constantly reminded of your successes. (By the way, don’t forget to add that fear-facing action you took during the week!)

Acknowledge the improvements

After taking these steps, note the degree to which you feel in control. As you may have observed, empowerment emerges when you have an awareness of yourself, your fears, and your needs.

By addressing the things that scare you and how to stop them from holding you back, your fears and uncertainty will make way for a more confident, empowered you!


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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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    • Chas
    • April 9, 2015

    “Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.” ~E.F. Schumacher

  1. Great piece

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