Fear for your career

Courtesy of Dr Anne Osterrieder

Halloween is here again celebrating all that is scarey, frightening and spooky. Horror movies are showing, children are ‘trick or treating’ and things are going ‘bump in the night’. It’s all just a bit of fun and a great excuse for us Westerners to dress up, eat sweets and have parties. Like rollercoasters and other funfair attractions, many people seek the thrill of fear from time to time, it heightens the senses and reminds us we’re alive.

Putting fear to positive good use can be empowering and even enjoyable. On a rather less dramatic note, recently I accepted an invitation to present a talk at a conference aimed at management academics. I hesitated before I said yes, fearing that I would be away from my normal area of expertise and out of my comfort zone. However, having researched the field a little and thought things through I decided to accept, as I figured that with plenty of preparation I could deliver something useful to the audience, plus the experience would bring me into contact with a new community from which I could also learn more. Turns out I was right! The outcomes far outweighed the feelings of fear and trepidation.

Another example I happened to see today is even more poignant from science reporter, Vic Gill, who tweeted the following ….

…. the more fearful the greater the sense of achievement!

This is true when it comes to signing up to present a paper at a conference as opposed to a poster, when deciding whether to put yourself forward for a public engagement event, deciding on whether to sign up for a course on programming which may feel difficult and challenging, etc. On the downside, fear can manifest itself in a negative way, such as fear of failure, fear of change or fearing a lack of career progression. However, embracing fear and doing things that seem hard can help you to grow in your career. Here are three things that can help you to overcome your fears:

Proactivity – Looking for ways to improve your current career can help you to grow and progress. Do you need to sign up for a course, write a proposal, apply for some work experience, make new contacts, etc.? You may have been putting this off as it feels difficult or uncomfortable. Overcoming these feelings can be liberating!

Preparation – To offset feelings of trepidation, make sure you research and prepare for your challenging situation to ensure the best possible result.

Philosophy – As a D.Phil – doctor of philosophy – you’ll be familiar with the concept of being logical and theoretical about things – the fear of failure can be a barrier to trying out something new, but as many people are currently espousing, failure helps us to learn and fear of failure is nothing to be ashamed of. One PhD student even defended her PhD dressed in a skirt made up of rejection letters:

For my part, I set myself the goal of writing this blog each and every month of the year, which is quite scarey as I need to make sure it’s done by the end of each month. It’s been touch and go for October but with just 4.5 hours to go I made the deadline!

Leave a Reply