Anxious about Applying for a New Job? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I’ve had my eye on a position that might be opening in my company. It would be a big step for me, but I think this is the job I have always wanted.

My problem is that the minute I start even thinking about applying, I feel overcome with anxiety and literally break into a cold sweat. Then I hear a voice in my head saying, “Who the heck do you think you are?”

How do I get up the nerve to pursue this? I am not even sure I want the job, but how will I ever know if I get so anxious I can’t even think about it? Help!

Riddled with Doubt

Dear Riddled,

It is rare to have so many topics covered in such a short question, so I will take them in turn, in order of priority.

  1. You need to get some help with your anxiety before you do anything else. We all deal with some anxiety, but yours is interfering with your life. This is the definition of an emotional or psychological condition that needs to be addressed. Anxiety is tricky. It creeps up on you slowly and backs you into a corner before you even realize what is happening. So I am telling you, point blank, you are in a corner and you need to get some help. There are some excellent tools available to help you tame your anxiety. If those don’t work…well, a professional can help you.
  2. You have had your eye on this job, so clearly you can see yourself in it. Do you think you have the skills and competencies required to apply and be taken seriously? More important, do you trust yourself to be able to learn quickly and grow into the job in a reasonable amount of time?

In another part of your email you stated you are a female. As a woman, your social conditioning does leave you at a disadvantage when it comes to putting yourself out there. The statistics are varied, but the one I see most consistently says that men tend to apply for opportunities when they have just 60 percent of the qualifications, while women generally don’t apply unless they are 100 percent qualified. The various reasons for this are outlined in this article that might interest you.

Ultimately, the rules that make someone successful in school don’t really apply to working in large systems. The way to get ahead and continually find challenges for yourself will require you to take risks. You will fail, but you will also succeed. As many have said, if you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no.”

  1. I was struck by your use of the language “Who do you think you are?” This is language we hear from people in childhood designed to keep us in our place. It is cruel and demeaning. And here you are, using it on yourself! Cut it out. Honestly. It isn’t as if you are proposing to perform brain surgery with no training. You are simply thinking about maybe trying for a new and different job that may be interesting.

I would ask you to answer that question realistically. Who do you think you are? What are your skills and strengths? What experience do you have? What do you bring to the table that maybe no other applicant has? To get a new perspective on this, you might try taking that Values in Action Strengths Assessment—it’s free and fun. It will help you answer that question more positively than you otherwise might.

This is kind of old news, but I love it so much and it has not lost its power—and you may never have seen it. It is from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love and it was quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inauguration speech:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone—and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Finally, Riddled, get your friends and family on board here. Ask anyone for support that you know loves you and wants the best for you. Get a handle on the anxiety, stop playing small, get support, and go for it. Start with some deep breathing. Breathing never hurts, and always helps.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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