Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

The One Thing That's Keeping You Stuck in Your Job—and How to Push Your Way Through It

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So, tell me, how does it feel to be back at work?

Eyes bleary. Shoulders slumped. Dreading the thought of another year stuck in this job.

Ugh. Any of this sound familiar?

But not to worry, right? Because you’ve probably already made a big new year’s resolution to get a different job this year. You are ready for a change. You’ve dusted off your resume, you’ve taken a few deep breaths (and maybe some medicinal champagne), and you are confident that very shortly you can put this job in the rearview mirror.


One year from today, you could very well be in the same spot that you are now.

Despite making big plans. Despite updating resumes. Despite declaring that this is the year of the amazing new job.

You want to know why?

It boils down to one simple thing: fear.

Fear of the unknown: “What if I can’t find any job or career that I actually like?”

Fear of failure: “What if I try something new and I am completely terrible at it?”

Fears around money: “What if I take a new job, I hate it, they fire me, and I end up broke, homeless, or living on Aunt Julie’s couch. I can’t go through another Golden Girls marathon. Not again.”

Fear keeps you stuck.

Hey, I’m the first to say that fighting biology is a hard fight. And this feeling, this knot in your stomach, is a biological reaction designed to keep us alive when we end up in risky situations.

Changing jobs is risky because it can threaten your survival (remember Aunt Julie?).

So, if you find yourself consistently procrastinating, putting off your networking, casually clicking away from LinkedIn job openings, or doing anything but updating your resume, you’ve probably got fear to thank for that.

But just because you feel anxious, it doesn’t have to stop you.

Honestly, it can be a good thing because it means you’re getting close to a change. And if you want a new job, it will be a change. Here’s how to handle it:

How to Get Through Your Fear

While we can all be prone to many fears, there is usually one that’s at the top. So your first step to owning it is to figure out which one is scaring you the most.

Are you:

  1. Worried about money if you change jobs?

  2. Worried about leaving your routine or the work that you know?

  3. Worried about stepping into a new job and not being a success?

Think on it, and write down what is causing you to panic. Then, take a deep breath. Take another one. You’re doing great! Breathing is helpful—not only does it (very usefully) keep you alive, but it also oxygenates your brain. When you are afraid, you tend to take quick shallow breaths, depriving you of oxygen. No good! When you slow down and start taking deep breaths through your stomach, you give your brain more oxygen and you become smarter. Being smarter is always useful when dealing with change!

OK, now that you’ve taken a few deep breathes, take a look at your answer. If your best friend came to you and shared this with you, what advice would you give her?

Go ahead, write that down.

Now think about the smartest person you know: What advice would he or she give to her? Feel free to channel your inner Oprah.

Write that down, too.

Take another deep breath and read what you’ve written. Not bad, right?

Maybe you should take that advice! Pick one small step that you can do in the next 24 hours (doesn’t matter how small) and do it. Read a blog, phone a friend, sign up for a program, research something new, it doesn’t matter. Action is the enemy of fear. Then, once you do that, do it again—and again, until you can look back and see that all your baby steps have led to an actual change. Adjust your timeline if needed (conquering one item a week rather than every day), but keep at it. Every time you check another small item off that list, you’re chipping away at that feeling that you can’t do this. Spoiler alert: You can!

The worst part about living in fear is that your anxiety magnifies itself when we don’t define it. It looms over our shoulder in a vague and threatening way. The best way to get past it is to get clear on what the exact issue really is, so that you can come up with a plan of action to make progress. You’ve totally got this (and really, don’t forget to breathe!).

Oh, and if fear is really cramping your style, then I’ve got some free help for you: I’m starting a seven-day New Year, New Career, No Fear challenge on Jan 19, 2016. We are going to tackle three of your biggest job-change fears so that you get an amazing new job this year. Sign up here.*

Photo of chalk drawing courtesy of Shutterstock.