If you’re in the job search, fear very likely looms large in your consciousness. And I don’t mean the obvious financial fears of losing your house or your retirement. I mean the smaller, quieter fears that fewer people talk about, but that can affect you just as much: the fear of embarrassment, the fear of failure. “What if I say the wrong thing?” “What if they don’t respond?” “What if I make a mistake?” “What if they don’t like how I approached that?” “What if it doesn’t work?”
Those are stumbling blocks in just about every step in your job search: contacting hiring managers about jobs, going into the interview, even following up afterwards. These are big scary things for a lot of job seekers because you really are putting yourself on the line. Some will tell you to not take the job search personally, but it is personal. There’s a whole lot of “do you like me?” woven into the job search process. Rejection feels personal.
And so what happens is that job seekers are afraid to take risks. They’re afraid to go after the job they really want. They are afraid to step outside the box and do things that will set them apart from other job seekers.
But those fears hold you back. They keep you from being as good as you could be. They keep you from achieving what you really want.
One of my favorite quotes for helping to take a step back and reframe this issue is this one:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
–Steve Jobs (1995 – 2011), in his Stanford commencement speech in 2005
Steve Jobs’ whole life story was one of starts, stops, detours, failures, and possibly the most amazing comeback in business history. But no one would argue that his overall story was one of success. And the reason he could ultimately claim success is because he wasn’t afraid to continue to take the risk.
That quote inspires me when I face decisions in my life or my business. The question I ask myself is stark: If I were going to die in the near future, would I worry about the possibility that this might fail? Or would I take the chance and come to the end of my life with no regrets?
That might seem like a very dramatic approach for something as ordinary as your job, but consider this: You spend the majority of your waking life at your job. It affects almost every other factor in your life—where you live, what your free time looks like, what people you interact with every day. It’s worth taking a risk for.
So I want to encourage you to take the risk. Look at the bigger picture. You really don’t have anything to lose. Be bold. Don’t let your fear take over, because it will keep you from something great. It’s very unlikely that success will get handed to you on a silver platter. You’re going to have to step out and fight for it. You deserve to go after the job and the life you really want.