Has the term “what if?” ever ruled your decision making? Have you ever settled for safe and predictable in your professional life so you can avoid a fear of the unknown?
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can eat away at all rational thought and positive energy until all you’re left with is raw anxiety and shattered self esteem. Fear comes in a variety of forms and there is no area of your life it can’t touch. For professionals, fear can often cause poor career decisions. Since the economic downturn of 2008 and the very slow recovery, fear has led many bright and talented people to settle for less. This can lead to a multitude of problems down the road, including underemployment, being overworked, and a stifled path to career recovery.
The fear of having no income at all can often funnel professionals into jobs in which they are underemployed and indefinitely underpaid.
You might be a bright-eyed accountant who has gotten the pink-slip at work. Your unemployment is about to run out and you’ve had no luck landing a job with comparable pay. Ultimately, you settle for a part-time job at a new firm or you take a job that pays you far less.
How about another example? You could be an administrative assistant at an insurance company. The company folded, leaving you unemployed and, in order to pay the bills, you take a retail job. The income is mediocre in comparison to the money you received on unemployment.
Perhaps in your previous executive role you were applying decades’ worth of skills, education and experience to make huge contributions to your previous employer, but you are being told you are “overqualified,” so you resort to finding a role as an individual contributor where your wisdom and insight are not appreciated nor are you compensated for them.
Or, you could be a journalist fresh out of school, unable to find work and so you settle as a waiter at your local restaurant. As a career coach I’ve seen plenty of people let fear lead them to unsatisfying career choices.
Let’s say none of the above examples apply to you. You still have a job in the profession you love. Even so, you’re not happy with your circumstances at work. Your company may have cut back on staff, effectively doing more with fewer people. You find yourself working longer hours at the job. Or you may be worried about being let go so you agree to take on more responsibilities and job duties for the same amount of pay. Your hours increase, your free time decreases and your health and well-being also suffer. You want to make the transition to a job that offers more pay, better hours or a combination of the two. Your fear has caused you to stick with a job you dislike simply because you can’t see a way forward.
Do you see yourself in any of these examples?
While it’s true that we all have to pay our bills, I think we can all agree that is preferable to pay our bills AND be fulfilled in our career. Fear can make you believe that you have to choose between the two.
Whether you are underemployed, underpaid or overworked the fear of not bringing in income or losing a current career can be detrimental in the long run. If you invest yourself too fully in a part-time job, it leaves you with less time and energy to pursue your career. Likewise, finding yourself overworked as a professional can also leave you with little time and energy to make the transition to an ideal employer.
Lost time is lost money.
Do not let fear rule your career-making decisions. Take some time to rationally evaluate how you will move your career forward as a business professional. Ideally, you will strive toward a job that motivates and excites you. Additionally, you will already have had your own personal criteria in mind. The number of hours you will work per week, your salary, culture, growth opportunity, flexibility, healthcare benefits and even personal time are a few examples for you to consider. Making a decision that meets about 80% of your personal criteria is a great, logical way to help drive your profession. Change can be a cause of fear but courage and rationality can lead to a successful career in the long run.
You don’t always have to use logic to make your decision; emotion can be a good place to make a decision from, as long as it is positive emotion based on excitement, enthusiasm, passion and adventure. Fear may still be present. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to move forward in spite of it. Don’t let fear drive your career decisions.
By the way…If your career was thrown off track by a fear-based decision, we will help you get back on track.
2 responses to “How Fear Limits Careers”
[…] Careering and realized I’ve been freelancing with the blog for a year now. My first article, “How Fear Limits Careers” was posted on August 14, 2014. When I started writing for Karen, I had no idea how long I would […]
[…] but these employment decisions can be harmful in the long run. I wrote about it in my article “How Fear Limits Careers.” Not only are you accepting fewer dollars and benefits than what you previously earned, but it […]