Is Fear Freezing Your Resolve?

We all know the feeling… Hair prickling. Hands and teeth clenched. Clammy palms. Frozen limbs. Staring eyes. Rapid pulse. Helplessness… Yes, it’s our age-old friend FEAR come to visit.

The question is, why?

Fear is a normal, even helpful reaction we are told, one programmed in by evolution. Blood flows to the limbs, for example, to help prepare us for the fight or flight response. In the face of imminent, physical danger, these responses remain crucial, however, facing chronic, lingering fear of being made redundant or being passed over for a promotion again, for example, these reactions may yield a harvest of unwelcome consequences, increasing stress, impairing brain function, encouraging procrastination, and trapping us in unhelpful behaviors. [Read more.]

One source cites seven distinct work-related fears including “This is as good as it will get,” “I’m settling,” “I’m never getting promoted,” etc. [See Source]. Because we speak with hundreds of executives every month, the Barrett Group sees a good cross-section of motivations in would-be career changers, some clearly related to fear.

The chart shows an overview of the motivations executives earning $100,000 or more shared as their reasons for seeking a career change, comparing also how these have changed from 2022 to 2023.

Ranked at #7 and #13, “Lack of Job Security” and “Possible Unemployment” seem most closely allied to employment fears.

Most of the other inputs though reflect an ambitious, self-confident attitude such as prioritizing “Personal needs in relation to employer,” “Decreasing likelihood of promotions,” or “No growth potential.”

On the other hand, what people SAY versus what they actually DO can be surprisingly different. For example, we asked the same population “How long have you been contemplating a change of career?” They responded with multiple “months” (50%) or “years” (50%).

Why would anyone wait YEARS to change jobs?

Perhaps these executives view their situations as fixed, immutable, set in stone… They might like to change but they settle instead for a suboptimal situation or, worse case, a dead-end job. “What to do if you’re stuck in a dead end job” may be helpful to those executives, but the main lesson is to stop procrastinating and take intelligent countermeasures. The first step must be to change your mindset from “living a life of quiet desperation” to one where you feel free to seek joy, excitement, reward… because you know there are other opportunities for you out there. This is surely ground zero in overcoming your professional fears.

Fear of failing holds many people back, too, of course. Congratulations! You Failed! explores the fact that failure is overrated as a career path and, besides, it’s avoidable.

Then there is the macroeconomic excuse. “Right now is not the best time to change jobs…” the argument goes. Well, guess what? That’s just another nudge from our old friend FEAR. There is always movement in the executive market and the secret is to manage your career like the asset it is. Yes, you may need to make changes. That’s life. We help clients do this every day. For a different perspective, try Upsidedownsizing (Part Three): Winners and Losers.

What you may not realize is that the executive market is much bigger and more active than most people can imagine.

We regularly report on a cohort of executives (VPs and C-level) numbering more than 400,000 who have either acquired newly minted positions or changed jobs in the past year. Most of these opportunities were never advertised. That’s why fully 75% of our clients land through what we call the unpublished market.

Naturally, many of our clients also felt fears and frustrations about their prospects.

Here is one example, excerpted from one of our Success Studies:

“This is the third time in a row for me to get laid off,” said Kia. “I decided then that I needed to have more control over my career.”

For Kia, there was a silver lining to getting laid off. He’d come to realize that many of the responsibilities he had been tasked to do didn’t play to his strengths. He’d spent most of his career doing sales and business development or running entire sales divisions, and he resolved to get back to his roots. 

To Kia’s surprise, it didn’t go well.

“It was interesting. I couldn’t land a sales job in pharma. All the hiring managers told me that I was up against people with 10-15 years of experience. By comparison, I had four years running entire sales divisions and a decade of selling deals worth millions of dollars in the healthcare field. […] Yet, despite my success in far more challenging sales environments with the same customer base, the hiring managers couldn’t seem to appreciate that and never considered me a serious candidate for pharma sales. It was really frustrating to be considered under-qualified for jobs that I was more than qualified to do.” [Kia Bandisadre, 2023, Read more]

Kia went on to have his eyes opened during the first part of his Barrett Group career change journey (the Clarity Program©) and landed as a VP of Sales—in a completely different industry.

That is another way of shedding your professional fears. If you think your future is confined to one industry or one company, think again. We help clients clarify their own career targets (often improving their quality of life and virtually always their compensation) and then guide them through the tried and true process that has helped literally thousands of executives land their targeted roles over the last three decades.

Want more evidence?

Read Where the Executive Jobs Are to discover how our clients are landing every week.

Want to hear it from an authoritative source?

How about Forbes who has repeatedly cited the Barrett Group as one of the best in the business? [Read more.]

When he said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself…” he was not speaking of your career, though the advice seems perfectly apt even now, but Franklin D. Roosevelt was facing even bigger odds with the gaping Great Depression staring him in the face in 1933. This courageous perspective applies to all those executives sitting on their hands and missing opportunity due to their fears. Perhaps to you.

So shake off fear’s icy grip. Take the first step. Accept a new, fresh mindset—you CAN elevate your career. And by all means, hire some competent help to bolster your campaign. Engage the Barrett Group. We make it our job to help you find yours.

Peter Irish, CEO
The Barrett Group

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