Fits and Starts: Conquering Career-Change Fears

Whether you’re starting at a new job or starting your first business, the fear of the unfamiliar and the idea of being put in an environment without the comforts and routines we’ve grown used to is daunting to say the least. Because although new beginnings present new opportunities, they also present new risks.

We fear loss – of money, respect, pride. We’re afraid of who we’ll be surrounded by – will my coworkers like me? Will my boss be a complete terror? We fear measurements – lopsided expectations, work hours offsetting your personal time. We fear the  disruption of the norm – our routines, security and confidence in our skills. We fear rejection. We fear the unknown and of course, we fear failure.

There are libraries of books full of fears people face when standing on the brink of a new chapter in their professional lives. They’re hardly ever cut and dry either, as each person will have unique challenges to overcome. But whatever face or form your fears take, HOW to overcome them is a little more straightforward. So here’s a list of tips we think can help you overcome your neophobia jitters.


Before anything else, define your objectives. Are they realistic or will you be setting yourself up to fail with impossible goals? Decide on the measuring stick you’ll use to determine whether you’ve attained your objectives or not because if you can clearly define a system of self-measurement, taking chances in unfamiliar territory will seem less frightening. This will save you time as well because when you make mistakes, you’ll be able to identify what worked and what didn’t more quickly instead of wasting time retracing your steps. From there, you can move forward confidently knowing what to look out for next time around.


Think of yourself behind the wheel of a car. One of the things you should always do while driving is check your mirrors. A good driver knows what’s going on around the vehicle at all times – knowing there’s a truck on your left or someone tailgating you allows you to identify what you can and can’t do at any given moment. Constantly asking questions achieves the same result. Inform yourself as much as you can through other people and know what’s going on around you. Ask your boss how you’re progressing, ask your coworkers for feedback on your work. Ask yourself questions too – How can I improve? Where should I be in two weeks? Six months? What do I need to achieve that result?

Asking questions is not evidence of weakness. It keeps your mind busy, honed and sharp. It keeps lines of communication with the people you work with open, it shows energy willingness to learn and of course, leads to discovery.


We all get all sorts of crazy ideas in our heads about anything new that comes our way. That applies to our careers, as well. Before going into a new job, you can’t really help but think of all the new and exciting things that are about to come. Running businesses are the same – before it even takes off, chances are you’ve already imagined every possible winning scenario that could ever happen.

However, the reality is that you’re going to run into speed bumps – lots of them. But whether it’s coming from your superior, a coworker or business partner or any other external factors, your first thought in those instances should always be, “How can I turn this into an opportunity?”  A recent study in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts  reveals that negative thoughts like “Why does this always happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?”— actually led to worse dispositions, while thinking constructively about how to tackle a problem, pointed towards positive results.

Making mistakes is something you can expect but the thing is, it’s okay. We all make them, but what sets people apart is how they respond to those setbacks. Be honest and accountable, identify your mistakes and do everything in your power to prevent them from happening in the future, then try again. Because the truth is, you can’t control anything in that situation other than how you respond, so the sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you’ll be. If you’re going to respond – respond positively.


The standard response to anything frightening is to turn around and run – as fast as you possibly can. Instead, walk up to whatever frightens you, shake its hand and recognize it as a source of motivation and learning rather than a deterrent.

Identify what you’re afraid of and do something related to that fear every day. This exercises your Fearlessness Muscle. If you’re afraid of doing accounting, study it a little bit every day. If your fear is centered on a person, engage them in conversation as often as you can. Another thing you can do is to work backwards – imagine the worst possible scenarios and list down what you need to do to make sure they never happen.

Fear has a purpose and can serve a purpose, why not make it yours? Let it fuel your growth, instead of letting it hold you hostage.


Ultimately, the best way to conquer your fears is to face them. It’s corny, sure. But it’s the truth.

Earlier this year, Admiral William McRaven, the US Navy SEAL commander who planned and led the operation to neutralize Osama bin Laden, gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin. In his speech, McRaven shared the 10 most important things SEAL training had taught him and one of them is: “Don’t Back Down From The Sharks.”

He explained that one exercise Navy SEAL candidates had to undergo was to swim through waters that are a known breeding ground of Great White Sharks – at night. He explained that while the swim instructors joyfully briefed the trainees on all the shark species that inhabit those waters, they were also told that if a shark began to circle their position, they should stand their ground and not act afraid. If the shark attacked, their instructions were to hit it on the snout as hard as they could and it would swim away. Don’t back down from the sharks.

Taking a step forward into the unknown is always frightening, but you can lessen that fear through preparation and planning. Know what you’re up against and prepare for the things that will inevitably come your way so that when they do, you’ll be able to stand firm and respond positively and effectively.


Josh Aquino is the Editor-in-chief of The Better Business Blog
Connect with Josh on LinkedIn


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Josh Aquino

Josh is the newest member of New Leaf Venture's team and the new Editor-in-chief of The Better Business Blog. A published writer, photographer and videographer, Josh received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University's College of Communication Arts & Sciences. After graduating, he moved to New York City to begin his professional career. Then in late 2013, after plying his trade in different industries, he moved back to Manila and signed on with Elevation Partners Inc., a creative marketing agency catering to clients including The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Wingstop, IDC Manpower Inc., PestBusters and finally New Leaf Ventures.

One Comment

  1. Carl Abaya

    / Reply

    Very good read.

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