How to deal with fear and uncertainty when exploring new jobs

I recently shared a message on LinkedIn about my career change a couple of years ago and was blown away by the response. What I found was strong affirmation that changing jobs or even thinking about it is a scary and uncomfortable proposition for so many professionals. It is both gratifying and constructive to be able to relate on a personal and professional level with candidates I place in the Human Resources marketplace.

The what-ifs of saying yes (or no) to a job offer can be overwhelming

Saying yes to a new job is a major life change, right up there with deciding to enter into a serious relationship, start a family or move to a new city. Saying no to a job offer can be equally life-altering, for better or worse. The combination of excitement, fear and what-ifs can lead us to decisions based on how we feel today, instead of what we want from the future.

Whether you are active or passive in your job search, it is important to get a solid perspective by really thinking about your career and opportunities from all angles. When you do get an offer, be sure to look beyond the advantages you might gain or lose, and equally consider how you will grow professionally and personally. This applies to whether you decide to stay or go.

Fear can lead to a healthy decision – if you listen to it

The emotions of fear and uncertainty are normal. If you acknowledge and address them early in your job search, it will be much easier to decipher whether your thoughts are based on comfort and fear, or growth and possibility when it is time to make a real-world decision.

The following are ways to channel your fear of changing jobs into confidence, and how to tame the what-ifs that are certain to arise when deciding to accept or walk away from an offer:

Start the Hunt

 Inspiration is motivating and empowering, and exploring options is a way to channel fear into a positive action. Take a fresh look at the functionalities making up today’s HR landscape because like you, your chosen field is evolving. Looking beyond your current perspective and scope of experience will give you renewed confidence, passion and energy for your job search or even your current job. Discovery will arm you with industry intelligence that will serve you well in your career regardless if you stay or go.

We don’t know what we don’t know. If you are not looking at new opportunities or speaking with potential employers, you might not realize what you are missing or what you have and are taking for granted. The hunt is a personal and professional journey that can result in an exciting new career or leave you with a renewed passion and dedication to your current situation. Either way, things get better. The trick is to put the effort into putting yourself out there.

Survive the Process

The job search can be rigorous and time-consuming. Most candidates are rejected at some point in the process so it is good to prepare for it. Embrace the rejection. It may ultimately be in your best interest. After all, every date is not a good match, and neither is every job opportunity.

Interviewing is a great way to get your priorities in line. You will learn just as much from interviews that don’t go well as those that do. Use interviews to assess not only the opportunity at hand, but also your current job. Think about what you like, what you want to change, what you are doing that you no longer want to be responsible for, and more important, what you are not currently doing that you want to own.

Exploring options will likely shed new light on your existing job and employer. If you haven’t asked your current employer for the things you want from a new job, now is the time to do it. Don’t wait until there is a counter offer on the table to ask for more. The more clarity you gain during your search process, the more confident your decision will be when the time comes.

You are going to have good days and bad days while you are interviewing. You will feel confident one day and like a loser the next, but you will find your match. Take breaks when you feel beat up. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need, and try to have a little fun. You will learn a lot about yourself if you are paying attention.

Decision Time! 

It is interesting what can happen when you get an offer for a job that, until that moment, you were sure you wanted. Suddenly everything gets real. You are faced with a decision and the what-ifs start to bombard you. Your gut instinct can tell you a lot and everyone in your life will have an opinion, but try your best to take emotion out of your decision.

Ask yourself the big questions. What was important to you when you took the first call for an interview? What excited you during the interview process? There may be unknowns in some of the answers, but a little bit of fear and risk can often be where the fun is!

You will not be marrying a new job, but if you decide to accept an offer, jump in with both feet. It may turn out to be a dream job, a nightmare or something in between, but it will be part of your journey and you will learn something new about yourself and your career.

Despite the emotions that go along with your job search and decisions, starting your search, exploring your career and potentially making a move puts you in a wonderful position. It is good to evaluate your job and career every couple of years. Are you there because you want to be, or because you are comfortable or afraid to move? Are you doing what you want to do?

When you get an offer, will you stay or go? Moving out of your comfort zone is critical to personal and professional growth. If progress is what you want, don’t be afraid to jump.