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Fear of success: Why it happens and how to overcome it.

In a recent episode of my podcast, The Job Hunting™ Podcast (ep.100), I discussed success, but with a twist. I see the following behaviour happening all the time with my clients: when job hunters go from getting zero responses 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. With success comes 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. In reality, 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 King, 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 had, 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 aren’t. When you are job hunting, there are so many variables affecting your recruitment and selection and your work. 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?).

3. 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 new situation.

If being freaked out is a problem you wish you had, I’d also be happy to help! Please go to my website, renatabernarde.com, to learn more and book my services.


Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job HuntingTM Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. Click here to download Renata’s free workbook The Optimized Job Search Schedule.

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How to start a successful role even before you get the job

Here’s a fact you have probably already heard of: the first 90 days in a new job are crucial to your success in the role. And it’s not about passing your probation! It’s about building the credibility, reputation, and personal brand that will carry you over the next few years and impact your short-term career progress with your new employer.

During the first 90 days, the employer will evaluate if you are in fact a good fit for the company. But more than this, it can set the tone for the rest of your tenure in the organization. A few weeks ago, I invited Sue Zablud, an experienced consultant, executive coach, and trainer, to an interview for The Job Hunting Podcast Episode 68. She said, “In the first days in your new role, you should also consider what impression you want to make, your new manager’s expectations from you, your KPIs, and the adjustments you have to make to guarantee that you are the best fit for the organisation.”

Sue listed the two critical strategies you have to nail in the first days and weeks in a new job to advance and excel in your new organisation:

1. Achieve the outcome that you have promised. Do it well, and do it in a way that looks good for the organization instead of making you look good.

  • What are your new manager’s expectations of what you should do in your first few days?
  • What are your KPIs?
  • What do you need to do to ensure you will “fit” in the organization?

2. Build good relationships. This includes customer relationships, managing up, and demonstrating that you’re a good member of the team.

  • What is the impression that you want to make?
  • You have to get on with your team, be accepted by clients, and win your peers’ respect.

Above and beyond the probationary nature of the first 90 days in a new job, there is also a lot more at stake that can determine your new role’s success. Just because you were great in your last job does not mean you will be great in a new one. You have to be ready and have a plan. You can do this with a coach to understand what you should do to prepare for this period. Working with a coach is especially recommended if you are moving sideways (i.e., into a new industry or career track) or upwards (i.e., a more senior position).

Now that you have a clearer idea of how to leverage the power of your first 90 days, you can apply these strategies to a successful transition into a new role.

If you would like to learn more from me:

  • Visit my website: renatabernarde.com.
  • Listen to The Job Hunting Podcast on all good podcast apps, or find it here: renatabernarde.com/blog.
  • Sign up to Reset Your Career: a short course delivered in collaboration with the Slade team and available to you on-demand.
  • Sue Zablud delivers a special masterclass inside my signature program, Job Hunting Made Simple. Learn more about Job Hunting Made Simple and register for the next group intake.
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The secret to a successful career transition: Five key strategies to guide you towards your new job.

Whether you’ve been job searching for months or you have just started, I encourage you to press reset, sharpen your focus and go through the list of key success factors below. Make sure you are reviewing and addressing them every day during your transition. I hope that by being strategic and building a healthy job search routine, you will – like my clients – have a shorter transition that leads to the best possible outcome for you in 2021.

Regardless of the magnitude of your career goals: be it finding a similar job or making a bolder career change, the strategies below will help make your pitch crystal clear to recruiters and hiring managers:

  1. Understand who you are as a professional and what you offer to employers. Find out what your strengths and transferable skills are. Even though different sectors require different expertise, they need common essential skills, such as communication, analytical skills, people skills, etc. Please write down your transferable skills and include them in your job search materials, not as a jumble of words, but as the most relevant competencies applied to you. Whether it be an interview, your resume, or in your profile, ensure you can speak confidently about the skills you listed and that you have robust examples to back them up.
  2. Ask yourself, what industry, sector, and organisations do you want to work for? If you are unsure where to go next and curious about industries and companies you don’t know, investigate. You can read about them, and most importantly, talk to professionals who work there. Draw on your network, or start building one. For example, you can tap into your university’s Alumni, former colleagues, and friends. Think outside the box, talk to people from different areas and sectors. Then make sure you make these decisions before you start your job search. Yes, you can revisit later. In fact, you should be reviewing your job search strategy constantly. But sharpen your focus on the industries, sectors, and companies before going to market. Otherwise, there’s a great chance you will feel overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions.
  3. Once you identify your preferred industry, find out what knowledge, qualifications, experience, and skills are valued by the hiring managers. Your research will provide you with important clues that you should use to draft your cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profile. It should also guide the way to interact with recruiters and even which recruiters to interact with. A good sector analysis will help you learn the sector’s language so you can better explain in writing and conversations how your strengths and transferable skills can support your new career transition. You will feel more confident about your prospects at this stage.
  4. Find a coach to support your transition or at least a mentor. It is not easy to shift sectors, and having a mentor can help access information to support the transition. And learning how to play the game and win as a job candidate in a sea of highly qualified peers is a steep learning curve. Investing in help at this stage can shave off weeks or months of unemployment, as well as keep you operating at high performance and low-stress levels. It is a competition, and there’s no way around it. The top players usually have top help. Be one of them.
  5. Know your values. What sort of culture and what kind of organization brings out the best in you? For example, do you work better in an organization where there is a lot of autonomy? Or do you work better in an organization where you’re part of a team? Use the interviewing process to learn more about the organisation, the same way they are using it to learn more about you. Values alignment will make a difference in how long you stay in that organization. Don’t just take the first thing that rolls up along the aisle because it could be a disaster. Transitions can be stressful, but you don’t want to regret your move a few months down the track because you took the first offer, and now you’re miserable again. I’m assuming you can have the privilege of making the most out of your transition period. However, if your situation requires you to find a job quickly, then it may have to be first in best dressed. In that case, don’t forget to keep working on your future career steps and don’t take too long to move again.

Keep in mind: success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. Next month, I will be discussing the importance of the first ninety days into a role and how you need to start preparing and planning for it before you start your new job.

If you would like to learn more from me:

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