Get to the Heart of Your Fear of Career Change
Recently, I posted about fear in the executive job search. I was extremely surprised by the level of interest in this blog post (What Do You Fear Most About Your Career Change–search for it on my web site). I could not have predicted the response that this topic received. I think that means that more people are afraid of changing jobs or changing careers then meets the eye. Likely, fear is not an acceptable or common topic of conversation among extremely well-positioned executive leaders; the executive team is supposed to be, evidently, stoic, proud, and fearless. But behind every executive title is a real human being, with his or her own attitudes—and fears.
You know that as an executive you should portray fearlessness every day, so you might quietly stew about your executive job search. You may have many reasons for delaying action on it. For example, the holidays are coming, and you need to maintain some stability. Your spouse is also in transition. You’re in the middle of an exciting—or draining—series of projects at work. Your team is counting on you. Your boss is counting on you. Your company is counting on you. On the other hand, perhaps you have made tentative overtures into exploring the market. Either way, you’re probably in a relatively balanced state of ambivalence—not enough pressure from either side to force a decision.
Perhaps this ambivalence comes from the fact that your reasons for staying in your current role have nothing to do with your specific needs. Does that mean you think (or I think) that you are a fearful person, or that you treat every challenge to improve your situation as an opportunity to retreat? Of course not. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in right now if you rejected chances to grow and change and lead in your industry. Based on the profiles of the executives I have worked with in the past, I would venture to say that you are extremely good at what you do; ready to fight for what your company, your industry, your team needs; and well-known as an excellent leader and mentor, not to mention humble and willing to give your team credit rather than take it yourself. Moreover, you probably don’t want to rock the boat in which you are standing. But you have to think about your career in terms of your individual needs and requirements for growth.
Give Yourself Some Thought
Your feelings about going to work every day in your executive role may range from true excitement to straight-up dread. But the job is yours to love or hate, and you may feel very protective of it. You would never let anyone else disparage you or your company, so you prevent yourself from the close examination of it that might reveal that it is not perfect for you. Because you know how to do your job better than anyone else does, and you’ve proven that, you might think that moving on to another position would diminish your level of comfort in your role. I venture to guess that you have not shrunk from other types of challenges, so I strongly urge you to consider the fact that simply because something is not familiar that it is bad. And simply because something is familiar it is not necessarily universally good for you, as you progress through your career.
I would encourage you to ask yourself some of the following questions. They are not easy questions to answer, but your responses might surprise you– either in a good or frustrating way.
- Do you answer every one of my challenges above with “Yes, but…”?
- Are you sure that what you have in your current executive role is the best situation for you? (It might be, but you have to evaluate it to be certain.)
- Are you afraid that change necessarily means failure?
- Are you afraid that you might not have the experience or know how to succeed outside of your current organization?
Overall, this article is an attempt to help you identify and perhaps confront what might be holding you back in changing your mindset about your executive job search. In no way is it an indictment of your capability or your willingness to rise to every challenge that confronts you on a professional level. But I hope it does meet you where you are in your thought process about any fears related to career change.