Fear of Success?
Episode 100 - Fear of success: Why it happens and how to overcome it
Wow, The Job Hunting Podcast has reached 100 episodes! Thank you so much for listening. I am immensely grateful for your support. And I hope that the tips, ideas, and interviews have helped you navigate the corporate sector and develop an understanding of the importance of dedicating time and energy to your career plans.
In this episode, I discuss success, but with a twist! I see this all the time with my clients: when job hunters go from getting zero response to suddenly getting calls from recruiters and job interviews, they freak out.
The happiness and the excitement about finally getting opportunities can quickly turn into anxiety. This happens with all my services. From getting more views following a LinkedIn audit service to coaching clients who get a fantastic job offer, the success leads to conflicting emotions. But why?
Success and Failure
Success doesn't feel like what we think it would feel. Success comes with more work (get ready for the calls and interviews) and more responsibility (now you have to do the job you wanted!). When we dream about success, we usually don't think about the day-to-day reality of achieving our goals. You may have envisioned yourself as feeling confident once you reach your success goal. When you achieve your goals, chances are you don't feel ready!
In this episode, I discuss the most common feelings I have observed as a coach, explain the reasons behind them, and how to overcome the anxiety and enjoy the spoils of your hard work. We talk a lot about impostor syndrome, but in my view, there are many more success fears that we need to address.
How to overcome the "freaking out" period of success
1. Understand it: Sword of Damocles
Sword of Damocles is an old tale about a Kink, Dionysius, who allowed one of his men, Damocles, to experience what it feels to have great power. Damocles sat on Dionysius's throne, surrounded by countless luxuries. But above his head, Dionysius arranged that a sword is held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail.
In this episode, I discuss three different meanings for this story, which I believe should be considered by anyone willing to advance in their careers.
2. Educate yourself: Stoicism
Some things are within our control, and some are not. There are so many variables affecting your recruitment and selection and your work when you are job hunting. You can control your output - job application, answers to job interviews, but you can't control what others are thinking of you. So the key is to move forward with tranquility, knowing you won't be able to control every aspect of this experience.
In the episode, I also discuss how we suffer not from facts themselves (i.e., you got the job), but from how we imagine what that means (i.e., I don't know if I can do a good job. What if I fail?).
Be strategic: coaching
Working with a coach can be incredibly beneficial for executives. It can speed up steep learning curves and avoid career-limiting moves done at the heat of the moment.
Freaking out due to success is why I usually continue to work with clients as they onboard their new jobs until they feel they have better control of their unique situation.
If being freaked out is a problem you wish you had, I'd also be happy to help! Please go to my website, to learn more and book my services.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Timestamps to guide your listening
07:08 - Success and failure
12:37 - Feeling overwhelmed?
16:38 - What not to focus on
20:32 - How to overcome the fear of success
23:08 - The sword of Damocles
27:37 - Stoicism
30:46 - Coaching
Transcript of this episode
Renata: Hello, and welcome to episode number 100 of The Job Hunting Podcast. Whoo-hoo! I can't believe that this has happened really. It seems like just yesterday that I recorded my first ever episode and please don't go back and listen to it. It's cringy. It was done on my iPhone, I think. And we have come a long way. So thank you so, so very much for your amazing support. Everyone listening today, whether you've been listening for a long time or you've just came across this episode today, please understand how excited I am to be doing this for you. Thank you so much once again. If you haven't yet done so, please subscribe, like, and give us a good review as a nice anniversary gesture, I suppose. It's number 100. It's a big deal for us. Every day, I wake up to the amazing feedback that I received from you.
Renata: A lot of people reach out to me by message on my social media channels, or they email me if they are subscribed to my mailing list, they just reply back to my newsletter. And it's wonderful to see the impact that The Job Hunting Podcast has done to many of your careers. So it's really wonderful to get that feedback. It's reaching out to thousands of executives and professionals around the globe. And if you want to read some of those testimonials, feedback, go to my freshly redone website and read some of the listener’s reviews there. I'd love to have you read those and also potentially look at past episodes. You know, the great thing about reaching on hundred is that now we have this wonderful library of resources - interviews with recruiters, with CEOs, with experts, with other coaches, and also a lot of episodes with just me, yours truly, Renata Bernarde.
Renata: Career coach, job hunting expert, talking about things that are important to help you advance in your career, sustain the career achievements that you have already gained, and make better plans for your career future. And it leads me to the topic of today, how the fear of success can in fact impact your career and what you can do to overcome it. We're going to be looking at my experience, coaching clients that do sometimes freak out in their own words when they achieve some level of success when we're working together. That fear of success transpires during the recruitment and selection process. It transpires when my clients get the jobs that they really wanted to get. And I am in sharing this with you so that you are then mindful of when, and if this is happening to you in your career, and you can then identify that issue and address it straight away. I will provide you with three ways that you can work on it, to overcome this fear of success.
Renata: Sometimes we refer to it as imposter syndrome, but I think it's better to call it fear of success because I think it's a broader term and there's more to it than just feeling like you are an imposter. So we'll look into that in a minute, but before we go into the topic in more detail, I want you to consider subscribing to this podcast, following it, like if you're on YouTube, rank and review if you're listening to it on your favorite podcast app. And subscribe to my newsletter, there is a link in the show notes, or you can go to my website. And I will send you every week an email with the latest episode and a series of curated articles and advice, other news from me that are relevant for job hunters and career enthusiasts. Those of you that are executives in the corporate public or not profit sector for-purpose sector and you want to always keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening in the job market to better plan your career in the future.
Renata: I have recently literally like this week updated my optimized job search schedule. The optimized job search schedule is a free resource that I have for executives. It's my most popular resource and it comes with a workbook and a short masterclass. The masterclass used to be very long and I decided to shorten it. So, I recorded it again this week, just so that you can access it and, you know, get going more quickly and moving towards your goals. So that is a free resource. There's a link to it in the episode show notes. And this podcast has a Facebook group. And this week I will be doing a special chat inside that group on Friday morning, Australian Eastern standard time.
Renata: And it will be about addressing imposter syndrome, fear of success, answering any questions you may have, and just going into a bit more detail and a bit more freely because the private group is a great place for us to interact in a very private, safe way. You can ask me questions. People within that group are very considerate to each other. They're all professionals. There's a lot of podcasts guests as well that are members of that group. We have all 400 people I think now. So it's becoming bigger and bigger. I want to do more live coaching. It's basically a live coaching session inside that group. So if you can't listen to it live, it will be recorded and kept inside just for group members. So you have to apply to join and I will accept you and you can come in and share the love with us.
Renata: And the good thing about the group is that people will help each other. And it's not just me giving advice, there are lots of shared experiences there that I think might be relevant for those who are trying to understand what the issues are in job hunting and what success looks like when you job hunt and you achieve your goals. So yeah, I love that group. I hope to see you there if you're not there yet.
Renata: Okay. Let's address this issue of fear of success. When does it happen? I have seen this quite often in my years coaching and I try to prepare my clients as much as I can when they're working with me. During private coaching, they sign up for three, six months, 12 months. Most of my clients sign up for six months by the way.
Renata: And I also have a group coaching program. So when I work with my clients in a very close way, and I'm following their success, it's easier for us to manage that anxiety that comes from reaching our goals. But I do also have the LinkedIn audits and the consultations, which are ad hoc. And then I see that happening more often. So when people do consultations with me and they get their resume and cover letter, you know, looking very special and very appropriate for the job applications they're doing, all of a sudden, kaboom. They start getting opportunities, getting calls, getting interviews, being contacted by headhunters. And some people are not prepared for that. The excitement of finally getting those opportunities can quickly turn into anxiety. They literally tell me that they are freaking out and they reach out to me for a second consultation and to talk it over. And I completely understand why. And I'll talk about it more in a minute.
Renata: The LinkedIn audit service is amazing. I have to say, I get so many compliments and testimonials, I can't even keep track of them. Because once you adopt LinkedIn in the same way that you would do your resume and your cover letter, it becomes a tool for job seeking and you finally get the views and the recruiters contacting you. It's very quickly that it happens once you implement the recommendations from the LinkedIn audit service that I provide. So I get people sending me screenshots showing me the number of page views, just going gangbusters. I have a client that shared with me an Excel spreadsheet that showcases the resume downloads, you know when you apply for jobs on LinkedIn. Just last week, somebody saying to me, you know, boom, now I'm freaking out a little bit from the success of this, you know, from the fact that she had implemented all of these recommendations that I give about LinkedIn, and now very quickly, things have turned and it's a good problem to have.
Renata: But, I think that success and failure dichotomies in our psyche, that make no sense at all to me personally. Success doesn't feel like what you think it will feel like when you're dreaming about it when you're romanticizing about it. You thought you were failing before and you want to achieve success. Then you achieved success and you feel like you're failing some more because you don't know how to deal with it. So that dichotomy should really be understood as yin yang. There will be different things that will affect you at different times. And it's really about preparing your mindset to regain control over the situation in as much as you can have control over some of the aspects of that situation, and learning to let go is just as important. So people don't really, you know, think that they would react the way they do. In your mind, you envision yourself feeling super confident once you achieve success in your career. In reality, you don't feel ready. In reality, you feel misinterpreted.
Renata: This happens quite often. And it's like in the cartoons, remember when you are watching a cartoon, and let's say there's a genie in the bottle. And you sort of rub the bottle and the lamp and the genie come out, you ask for something and the genie misinterpret what you asked for. And that's the fun thing about that cartoon. And, you know, all these things start happening. There's a lot of that. And, it's the fact that you need to be constantly tweaking and updating your narrative. And, I say tweaking because once you start getting results and if they're not what you expected the results to be, you need to go back to the drawing board and review your LinkedIn. Review your cover letter, review your resume, review the job applications that you're sending. So there's a lot of strategy behind it, of continuous improvement, which I believe is a concept that a lot of you are familiar with.
Renata: It's very, very common in the corporate sector. You need to adopt that for yourself as well. Some don't feel ready, some feel misinterpreted, and others feel this is too good to be true. What has happened? Have I tricked people? What have I done? Because you know, executives don't often share these feelings publicly. So I love hearing it from other professionals like the Australian actor, Zoe Terakes, who recently did a podcast episode. And I will put the link below if you're interested in hearing more. They have done Wentworth and nine perfect strangers. And this is what they said in a recent podcast interview.
Renata: ‘I get more terrified to do the acting than to audition for it because there is more pressure. They picked you, so don't eff it up. On every job I have, I get particularly afraid it won't work. I thought they will get the job away from me or something. I have this weird fear like, oh god, they will figure it out that they made the wrong decision. And, you know, full impostor syndrome. The audition is such a small amount of time and sometimes feel like I tricked them into giving me the part’. If you replace the word audition with interview and acting with doing the job, this is a perfect example of how many executives feel when they get a big-shot job. And I have seen that with my clients and frankly, I have experienced that myself. So, as I said, I will link below in the show notes, the full interview with Zoe if you're interested in listening more about their experience.
Renata: This is really true for clients who are getting those bigger jobs. Bigger jobs than they were expecting to get. I have had that experience personally, many of my clients have had that as well. I often work with clients in my coaching practice that at times during their job search, they have toyed with the idea of applying for more junior roles, because when they were job searching on their own before they started working with me, they were not getting interviews for those ambitious jobs that they wanted. Well, we work together, they got the jobs. Then the next phase of our coaching then becomes making them feel comfortable in this more elevated leadership role that requires a different set of skills. And I will link below an interview with a leadership expert from the US, Susan Colantuono, who is an expert in identifying what leadership is and what those skills are that require you to jump from one level to another.
Renata: She's particularly interested in helping female leaders, women in the workforce. But I have often applied her expertise to all of my clients. So what happens when you do get a new job, is that feeling of overwhelm. Being flooded or swamped with tasks and things to do, feeling like you're flying blind. And these are all words that I take from my notes, so I'm not coming up with them myself. These are words that are shared with me and I take note. And I'm sharing now with you so that you can identify if you felt that way before if you're feeling like this now. I find that working remotely and starting a new job from home, which is very often the case, makes it even harder because the onboarding is not there yet for many organizations. And it's really hard regardless of the pandemic and remote work, it's really hard to take it all in.
Renata: And it's very easy to feel like you don't know where to begin with your new job. So be careful if you're feeling like that, or if you're afraid of feeling like that again. Be careful not to focus on what's familiar and banging on a single note when you start your new role because that is where you feel more comfortable with. Sometimes when people get jobs, the jobs are more holistic and they have a specific expertise and they tend to focus more on that because you feel like you can accomplish more on that, but that may not be what's required of you in that first 90 days. That's a great book that you can read as well to help you and support you, and we'll talk about that a little bit later.
Renata: The other thing that I find that some of my clients have focused on in the past is some little details, little minutia that you can feel like you're achieving if you're sort of figuring those little details out. They may not be material to your brand and your executive presence as you're walking into the role. So an example of that is quite often, clients of mine are very specific about their job titles, the job title they want to change, they want to update little details about the first few days. I find that there are things that get missed out of salary negotiations or negotiations about the onboarding and the start dates that get missed out because people are so overwhelmed and they focus on different details that may not be as productive or as effective for the long term success of that new role.
Renata: 19.01 And the third issue that I want you to be aware of and be careful with is not to revert to your past performance indicators for your new job. One of the issues that I have seen, and you may have done it yourself or know somebody who's done it, is that person that starts a new job and gives endless examples of how they did it in the previous organization they worked for. You know, when I was at XYZ and what I did XYZ, and it's fine at first because you hire that person for their experience. And they're sort of coming in to show you best practices that you may not be aware of, but it wears off really quickly and you have to move on. So be careful not to do that mistake because it can really be obnoxious.
Renata: The other issue is the new person micromanaging the next level down because that's where they were before. If you have been hired for a new role, and you were doing a role that was a level down below, and you tend to kind of focus a lot on that because you know, that role so well. That's usually a mistake. Once you were hired a level up, there are different ways to exercise your leadership and executive presence and your KPIs are different, and micromanaging the next level down is not ideal. I've made that mistake. A lot of people do that mistake. Don't feel bad if you've done it as well. It's just now being mindful of not doing it again.
Renata: So how do we overcome this freaking out period of success? I want to start in a very weird way by telling you a story, because the first thing I think you need to do is to fully understand what's going on. And my friend Catherine Ball, who I have interviewed for this podcast, I'll link below the episode. She's a futurist and a scientist, and we were discussing a completely different topic on Twitter. And she mentioned the Sword of Damocles. I don't know if I'm pronouncing it right. Damocles? I hope I'm pronouncing it right.
Renata: The sword of Damocles is the following story, which I'm going to read because I want to get this right. And this is a quote from Wikipedia of all places. According to the story, Damocles was pandering to his king, Dionysius, exclaiming that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority without peer, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat on the king's throne, surrounded by countless luxuries. There were beautifully embroidered rugs, fragrant perfumes, and the most select of foods, piles of silver and gold, and the service of attendants unparalleled in their beauty, surrounding Damocles with riches and excess.
Renata: But Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.
Renata: Now, a very dramatic story, but like every story, especially a very old one from Greek and Roman times, there are different meanings here and interpretations all of them true. So the first one is of course, king Dionysius effectively wanted to convey the sense of constant fear in which a person of great power may live.
Renata: And I say this, and I think it's true because if you are ambitious for your career and you want to go up and up and achieve the apex of an organization, you have to be comfortable living with that fear. It will come with great success and lots of interesting experiences, lots of great careers, benefits, and successes, but there is a whole lot of responsibility that comes from being at the top. And you need to understand that that's part of the game and feel comfortable with it and understanding that you will live with that responsibility. There is a great episode on this podcast with Nick Georges about what it feels like to be a leader leading people during COVID times during this pandemic, and Nick is very upfront about it. And if you follow him on LinkedIn, I would recommend that you do. He often posts there about what it feels like to, you know, be taking major decisions and affecting the lives of hundreds of employees. He's a CEO by the way. So it would be great for you to understand what that feels like.
Renata: A second meaning is don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Everybody knows that statement, and it is really an important one for us to understand the other side of the table. You know, I often explain here on this podcast, there's an episode about what recruitment and selection really are like from the other side - not as a job seeker, but as the employer. So, you know, I always like people to understand and have a more holistic view of what's happening in their careers and with others' careers. So, it's a great thing that king Dionysius did to give that sneak peek to somebody who had no idea what it felt like to walk in his shoes. And I think that it's interesting to see how luxurious and perfect someone else's life may look like from an outside until you have more of an understanding of what it feels like, and you change your mind.
Renata: And the third meaning, which is my favorite out of all of these three, is a reminder for us to be careful not to act in the same way as king Dionysius did. Make sure that you are taking care of your career, that you are progressing it in a way that is mindful, and aware of your surroundings and your environment so that it doesn't deny you the pleasure of happiness, of enjoying yourself, feeling confident in what you are achieving and experiencing fully your achievements without feeling like you're in fear. You know, yes, you will have more responsibilities if you have career advancement.
Renata: Yes, there will be more that you will need to be responsible for, but it doesn't need to feel like a sword is going to fall on your head because that's not our life anymore. This is a story from Roman times. And today we know nobody's going to kill us if we don't do well in a job, right? So the threats to our careers are not threats to life anymore. And we can understand that those fears are part of our instincts, but they're not real. And we will survive no matter what happens to our careers. So I think that that's, you know, an important message and I hope I made myself clear and not shot myself in the foot here because I think this is a great story to remember and to understand why we feel the way we feel. And a lot of it is just our reptile brain just acting up and we need to overcome it and educate our brain.
Renata: So that's the second part of overcoming the fear of success is to educate yourself on why you feel the way you feel. Again, in this sort of thread of philosophy and stories from ancient times and classic stories, I really like stoicism when I'm teaching and trying to get my clients to overcome those fears. Because honestly, you can only control a certain amount of things around you. Some things are not within your control, and some things are. So focus on what you are doing and focus on what you can control. You can, for example, control the output of your work, the routine that you adopt for your job hunting experience, or when you start a new job. You can control how you show up to others.
Renata: But you can't control what others will think of you. It's beyond your control. There's a lot that you can plan in advance and develop strategies for, so that's within your control. Move forward with tranquillity. Don't try to control every aspect of your new job or every aspect of job hunting. That's not going to work. A lot of people feel like they can only job hunt when their resumes are perfect. When they have the perfect set of resumes and cover letters, when their LinkedIn's are perfect, and then they're not going to do anything until then. If you're in that sort of type of personality, listen to the job hunting episode with Lynne Cazaly on perfectionism. It's a great one. I really recommend it. And if you want to understand stoicism and how to live a life where you're not suffering from the things you're imagining. We usually suffer more in our imagination than in our reality.
Renata: And that's another teaching from stoicism, right? So understanding contacts, the story that you tell yourself, is what makes you either enjoy the ride of life or suffer. It's not actually what's happening to you. It's the story that you're telling yourself, that's making you either happy or unhappy. So if you feel like you would benefit from understanding more, I would strongly recommend a short masterclass on Skillshare that was done by Dr. Ali Abdaal and his friend and philosopher Sam Ahmed. And it's a great little masterclass that I would strongly recommend anyone to listen to and definitely be a great thing to do if you're locked down like me.
Renata: And finally, the third way, I believe you can overcome the fear of success is I've mentioned this just now be strategic and plan ahead. And coaching is a great way to help you brainstorm, ideate, get your plans together, understand your priorities, just have somebody with lived experience that can help you. So a lot of my clients that have worked with me with job hunting tend to extend their coaching so that I can onboard them in their new jobs. In fact, I've had a coach when I started my role as a CEO. And in fact, when I exited that role, I got the same coach to help me leave.
Renata: And I think that that was so important for me. Those are important and stressful times when you're starting a new job and when you're leaving a job. And getting coaching and support during that time from experts, I think is really great. And if you want to discuss that with me, just book a 30 minute, no-commitment call to see if I'm the right coach for you. If I'm not, I can recommend other coaches that I know and trust so that you can have a talk with them.
Renata: And if you want to understand more about the first 90 days and how important the first 90 days are for the success of your tenure in your new job, we have a podcast for that too. And that podcast is with my friend and expert coach Sue Zablud. Sue also teaches a masterclass inside my group coaching program called job hunting made simple, and she's fantastic. I think she's a true expert in that field. And I am very, very grateful that she steps into support my group coaching program when I run it. So, you know, if being freaked out about success is a problem that you wish you had. You know, I know that it's a privilege to be freaked out about being successful, right? So, I’d love to help you get to that stage. And all you need to do is just go to my website and check out my career services there.
Renata: And I can assure you, I will make the most effort to make you very freaked out about the success you're going to get by working with me. And yeah, that's it for now, everyone. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. As I said, it's number 100. It's so great. Because as I talk about things, I can refer you back to other episodes that can help, that are ways for you to continue learning and understanding these issues. Don't forget to subscribe and follow this podcast wherever you found it today. Like, and if you're watching it on YouTube rank and review it to send me your love and support, it's so important for me. And if you want to do a step further subscribe to my newsletter, I will have a link to it in the show notes. And like I said, there is a Facebook group for this podcast and I will be doing an additional chat inside the group. If you're listening to it on the week that this podcast came out, you can join live it's Friday morning Australian eastern standard time, or you just join the group and find the recording of the live session because all the videos are there just for the group members. So you have to join. Thank you for listening and I will see you again next time. Bye.
About the Host
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients.
Contact Renata Bernarde
I’m determined to help you! I want you to feel empowered, nail your next job, and have the career you want.
My free resources for job hunters: The Optimized Job Search: Weekly Schedule & Masterclass.
Learn more about my services, courses, and group coaching: RenataBernarde.com