Conquer Your Career Fears

For most people, Halloween conjures scary images of witches, goblins, and ghosts. But for many workers, there are other fears lurking in the shadows all year: like the fear of being reprimanded, laid off, or stuck in a dead-end job. According to Ford R. Myers, president of Career Potential, LLC, and the author of “Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring,” “the American workplace is largely driven by fear. Most bosses use fear as a mechanism to control and drive the employee’s activity.”

How can you conquer those fears and succeed in the workplace? Read on.

Fear #1: What if I get laid off?
Given the unemployment rate, layoffs are a chillingly real possibility for many workers. However, you can cope with that fear by actively building your network. “Regardless of whether you believe you’ll be laid off, you should proactively engage in your professional community,” says Michael Woodward, PhD, an executive coach and the author of the “The You Plan.” “Belong to your professional association or community organizations. … The difference between those who stay unemployed and those who are quickly able to get back on their feet is that the latter have strong networks.”

Fear #2: If I don’t get laid off, but others do, will I be able to handle the added responsibilities?
When companies downsize, often the best employees get “rewarded” with more work. This can cause job-performance anxiety, especially if the new tasks are outside your skill set or if you’re afraid of addinganother project to your to-do list. In this situation, Woodward suggests reaching out to your boss and coworkers for guidance. “Knowledge helps create certainty,” he says. “You could wallow in that stress or you could say, ‘I need some clarification on a couple of points.’ It’s an opportunity to broaden your skill set and to make yourself more valuable in the future.”

Fear #3: Will I be underemployed forever?
Often younger workers end up in support roles where they may not feel challenged. More-experienced workers can also wind up in this predicament due to a layoff or workforce re-entry. However, thinking ahead to your next position keeps things in perspective when it feels like you’re endlessly folding t-shirts or fetching coffee. “The smart person does not just … do what the boss tells them and nothing more,” says Myers. “They should consistently grow their credentials. Step up for the juicier, more challenging assignments. Show up earlier; leave later.” Remember, the old model of your boss or human resources managing your career is no longer applicable. It’s up to you to determine your next steps.

Fear #4: What if my boss yells at me again?
A boss who yells or criticizes you in front of others can really damage morale, so Myers advises that people be “very, very careful about the culture that they choose.” Another thing, he says, “is to be very proactive and clear with your boss when you first get hired about how you establish the relationship and set the right precedent.” If you’re already in a job with a toxic boss, you can sometimes manage a situation (and prevent future problems) by discussing it in a calm, nonthreatening manner. “Don’t bring it up in public and don’t point fingers,” Myers advises. “Say to your boss, I have a concern about something that happened. I’m not sure what your motivation was. I may have misunderstood, but this was my perception; I’d like to get your take on it.'”

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