A woman sitting at a table looking at a laptop and smiling because she just applied for a job.
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How to feel the fear and apply for that job anyway

9 Feb 2023

Hays’ Tom Osborne dissects the fears many jobseekers feel and gives advice on how to overcome them to apply for that dream job.

Have you recently, when you weren’t even looking, stumbled across an excellent job opportunity that has really sparked your interest? One that actually got your blood pumping and made you question whether or not you’re really fulfilled in your current job?

The more you read the job description, the more it ticked all of your boxes. So, you saved the job spec. You updated your CV. You might have even written a cover letter. But something stopped you from hitting send on your application. What was it?

The prospect of changing jobs is scary, especially if a new role wasn’t even remotely on your radar before now. You thought you were perfectly happy as you were, and you weren’t mentally prepared for making a career move. As such, fear of the unknown, limiting self-beliefs and ‘what if’ scenarios have started running through your mind, and now they are holding you back from taking that leap of faith.

So how can you feel the fear, and apply for that job anyway?

Your skills and experience aren’t a 100pc match

Do you feel like you aren’t good enough for the job? And if so, why? Is it because you think that you don’t fit 100pc of the criteria set out in the job spec?

If so, ask yourself whether you actually want to move to a job that you could do with your eyes closed. Wouldn’t you rather take on a role that challenged and upskilled you? These are the roles which can propel you to where you want to get to in your career journey.

Yes, there may be skills that are absolutely essential to the role and there’s no escaping that. However, hiring managers are often flexible when a candidate lacks a ‘desired’ rather than a ‘required’ criteria.

Furthermore, if you can emphasise on your CV that you have the soft skills needed to pick up new concepts quickly, such as being an inquisitive and diligent fast learner, this will help your application.

Remember to give examples of this in practice too, for instance, when you joined your last job and you didn’t know how to use social media scheduling platforms, so you upskilled using an online webinar and now you’re a pro.

You’re an industry outsider

Is this industry new to you? Perhaps the job description contained some industry jargon which threw you, further confounding your worry that you’re a complete outsider.

Remember, everyone has to begin somewhere – even the most renowned industry experts will have most likely started out feeling exactly the same as you do right now.

Furthermore, switching industries is a great career move and one you should brave from time to time. How else will you broaden your professional expertise and adaptability? What’s more, how will you find out what you are truly passionate about?

Employers will often embrace the fresh perspective of an industry outsider, just so long as they immerse themselves in this industry and improve their knowledge on the job.

As such, tweak your CV and highlight in the personal statement that you want to learn more about this industry and why.

You’re worried the competition is better than you

Believing that you won’t stack up against the competition is a very common fear, especially when applying via platforms where you can see how many other people have applied, such as on job boards and LinkedIn.

For some reason, you assume that these other applicants are all so much more qualified and that you don’t stand a chance. Well, if you are going to assume the worst, why don’t you also assume the best? Maybe the hundreds of applications received were a case of quantity over quality, and that yours will be one of the few quality CVs received.

Building your self-confidence when applying for job, is all about forming and projecting a more positive perception of yourself. If you feel hesitant in applying, give yourself a pep talk, and remind yourself of all you have achieved in your career.

Write down everything you have to offer which makes you a good fit for the role. I would also advise identifying the keywords used to describe the ideal candidate on the job description, and including these keywords wherever possible on your CV.

Not every candidate will think to do this, and keyword optimisation to emphasise your suitability may well set your CV apart.

You’re scared of change

Given that this opportunity came somewhat out of the blue, the sudden prospect of leaving your comfort zone can be pretty overwhelming, not to mention daunting.

You’re probably remembering just how much change is involved in moving jobs; a new commute, different colleagues, unfamiliar tasks and so forth. And suddenly sticking with what you know feels much safer and more sensible.

Firstly, safer isn’t always better and if you want to move forward in your career, you will need to take a leap of faith every now and again.

Secondly, stop getting ahead of yourself. You are only applying for a job right now and that’s it. If you start to think about all of the ‘what ifs’ later down the line, then of course you are going to feel daunted.

Take it one step at a time but be bold and courageous each time you get a bit further along in the application process.

It’s not the right time

It never is. Why do you think the timing is wrong, and, be honest, is this just an excuse? If you think the timing is off because you’re just about to get a promotion, pay rise or excellent training opportunity, then it’s important to realise that these are all factors which can be negotiated with your potential new employer during the later stages of the interview process.

Or is it that you feel that your company needs you right now and to abandon ship would be disloyal and you would risk burning bridges? Perhaps you’re midway through an important project that your boss needs you to complete, or maybe your team are thin on the ground. Either way, it’s natural to feel guilty about leaving at this moment in time.

But think about it – how would your boss react if they found their perfect job opportunity? If they’re focused on their own career goals, as we all should be, then they probably wouldn’t think twice about going for it – there’s nothing to lose.

Also, remember that your notice period is there for a reason, so that your work can be handed over and your successor can be found. There’s nothing for you to feel guilty about. When it comes to your career progression, you have to put your own needs first, even if it does feel selfish.

It’s too good to be true

Many of us live by the mantra: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”. While this cynicism may stop us from getting swindled when buying a new car or signing up to a gym membership, this mindset is essentially pointless when applying for a new job.

After all, you aren’t parting with your hard-earned cash, just an hour of your time filling in a job application – time that would otherwise be spent watching TV. You have nothing to lose by applying.

The fact that this job vacancy has caught your eye and your mind keeps wandering back to it even though you weren’t looking goes to show that this must be a good opportunity. The only thing stopping you from seizing it with both hands is your fear.

As understandable as this is, you can’t and won’t move forward in your career without making a bold change from time to time. As Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, quite rightly says: “The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.”

So go on, feel the fear, and apply for that job anyway.

By Tom Osborne

Tom Osborne is the managing director of Hays in Malaysia. A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ blog.

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