Purpose Hacks

How to not let fear hold you back from new opportunities

How to stop letting fear get in the way of reaching out to people for informational interviews and other networking opportunities.

I was in London, England earlier this summer and while I was exploring the city’s Notting Hill neighbourhood, I serendipitously chanced upon The Museum of Brands, Advertising & Packaging.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with a column on career advice? Well, apart from the fact that many a successful career has been built in the advertising and consumer goods industries, not much. However, while browsing through the museum gift shop, I came across a deck of cards titled “Career Crisis -Refocus Your Ambitions”. Being in the coaching business, I was curious. The box contained 60 prompt cards with pithy messages and though-provoking text intended to help readers free up their thinking should they find themselves in job search mode.

The first card I pulled out read: “Change begins when the fear of not acting at all at last outstrips the paralyzing fear of making a mistake”. This got me thinking about the power of fear and how so many of us are held back from doing amazing things simply because we are afraid of something that may or may not happen. In my career coaching practice, I frequently see firsthand the power that this kind of dread holds over people.

“Change begins when the fear of not acting at all at last outstrips the paralyzing fear of making a mistake”.

I’ve been particularly struck by how fearful we human beings can be when it comes to what appears to be simple interaction with others. If you’ve spent any time on the Bmeaningful website, you will be no stranger to how often professionals interviewed about their careers mention that the key to success is all about networking. Yet, I’ve observed how many of my clients get stuck at the very first step. Just the thought of reaching out to people to let them know they are looking for an informational interview has them breaking out in a cold sweat.

I’ve heard just about every argument and reason for why networking doesn’t work for them. “What will they think of me?” and “They’ll think I’m a loser” are oft-cited concerns. “But what if the person I reach out to doesn’t answer me?” is probably the number one excuse job seekers don’t want to initiate the networking process.

Does this sound familiar?

The truth is, if you’re cold calling, i.e. you don’t know the person you’re reaching out to or don’t know anyone who knows them who can refer you, there is a chance that you won’t hear back. People are busy. People have lives outside of work. People get lots of requests for such meetings. But that isn’t a reflection on you. It’s just how it is. And that’s why you have to approach as many people as you can, because with quantity, the odds of getting a positive response are in your favour.

Here are a few tips for getting over your fear and for easing the pain of networking: 

  • You’re not alone

    Realize that most everyone has been in your shoes and has relied on meeting with perfect strangers. You are not the first, and you won’t be the last. No one will think any less of you because you are looking for a new job or want to make a career switch and you need a helping hand along the way.

  • Make a personal connection

    Try to find some small personal connection to the person you’re reaching out to if you can (using Google searches and LinkedIn to find out as much as you can about them). Did you attend the same school? Do you speak the same languages? Do you share a common interest? Use that in your introduction to increase the odds of receptivity.

  • It’s not you

    Remember that if someone doesn’t answer your request or says “no”, this isn’t about you. How could it be if they haven’t even met you?

  • Create an objections list

    Create an objections list by writing down every reason you can possibly think of for why someone might not respond to you or might not want to meet with you. Burn that list immediately. Then, create a new list itemizing what you could gain from an interaction with that individual and what you could be missing out on if you didn’t make that connection. Keep the list close by when you do your outreach. Refer to it often.

  • Practice, practice, practice.

    The more you do it, the more you’re flexing your networking “muscle” and the easier, more second nature it will become. Who knows, you might even grow to enjoy it!

 

“Don’t be afraid of what might be, but be afraid – be very, very afraid – of what will not be. That’s the only sure way to let the power of fear work in your favour and not against you to make a meaningful career change happen.”

 

Remember, the probability of getting what you want goes up immeasurably if you just ask for it. So, don’t let the power of fear limit you from getting what you want. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge the feeling, explore what exactly about the fear is holding you back, and most of all, think about all the great things you will be missing out on if you don’t network. Don’t be afraid of what might be, but be afraid – be very, very afraid – of what will not be. That’s the only sure way to let the power of fear work in your favour and not against you to make a meaningful career change happen.

Written by Kathrin Bohr. Kathrin has been working in the Impact space for over 15 years. For the past five years she was the industry advisor for sustainability, CSR and the non-profit sector at the Schulich School of Business Career Centre. She holds a MBA from Schulich and recently opened a coaching practice specializing in  Impact careers. To contact Kathrin email: impactcareerscoaching@gmail.com

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