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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 your Board Director career

To develop a non-executive director career requires time and planning. In this video, Renata Bernarde, career planning expert and creator of the online coaching program, Job Hunting Made Simple, talks with Marion Macleod FAICD, a non-executive director, board consultant, and trainer with over 25 years’ board experience. You can read Marion’s full bio on The Job Hunting Podcast here.

Click here to watch the video…

Other articles in the same series:

This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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