The 22 July 2013 Newsletter "When To Cross Bridges" got me thinking of a question I'd love to hear some responses to:

Looking back at your career - so professionally speaking - what was your greatest fear and how did you overcome it?

(I suppose this is an enlarged version of the Interview Weakness question in some ways but with a big dose of High S/I)

I suppose I had better go first, so -  (darn, now I wish I had something more dramatic!)

An early one of mine was that I desperately wanted to break into a particular industry, but I graduated school at the start of the recession of the early 90's.  I couldn't get a steady job for over 2 years and I was afraid my first major career goal was never going to happen.

I came close to giving up many times and interviewed for a few jobs that would pay the bills but be very unsatisfying careers.

I overcame it by sheer persistence - On and off over those two years I worked for companies for free, and for pay situations which I know at least one company could have been (repeatedly) prosecuted for.   But every little crappy unpaid job was more experience, another connection, and another line on the resume.     Still, it was a time of extreme professional anxiety (and an extremely lonely time - most young professionals socialise through work, but I was in a new city and had no work to make friends through).

Eventually got a steady job in my industry of choice for glorious minimum wage.  I was on the way.  I'd like to say I had a plan, but it was just sheer persistence and hope that something would come of all that labour. 

celing's picture


My fear was to initiate an unpleasant discussion with a senior client manager who was very demanding.
I did so by remembering that you’ve to aim for over-communicating. I made myself do so by adding this discussion to a short list of tasks that I had to finish that day.
While being a project manager and delivering IT-services for a client, I had to deal with some delays and mistakes made by our company resulting in delays of milestones. At the time I learned about the issues we still had some theoretical wiggle room: If the very best case would come true,  than we would have been able deliver the milestones in time. Nevertheless, I approached my client soon after that, because I told myself that over-communicating early would be better than to communicate too little too late.
In the end it all worked out. We had some minor delay. But since the client and my senior management could discuss options early on, we could mitigate the effects.

naraa's picture
Training Badge

 Celing, I also have shared the same fear, the fear of an unpleasant discussion.  Although I am a high I, high D, and I love a good discussion, my fear was of disappointing the other person (a person I cared about) by not agreeing with their perspective on the situation.  At the time I didn´t sort it out by thinking over-communication is better. Although I can see now that you post it that that would also have worked.

The way I sort it out was to build up the confidence and the certainty that the decision was correct one and approach it in a non-confrontational manner. As the situation involved a personal situation I accepted that we could disagree, yet not change the outcome:  agreeing to disagree so to say. 

The conversation went far smoother than I had anticipated.

MarkMT, I thought this week´s newsletter was very inspiring and got me thinking too!  Thank you for your post because it emphasis how many times we don´t really need a plan, just a vision of where we want to get and persistence will suffice!  

Looking back at my career I guess I am in the middle of my biggest fear: I quit my career to have more time with my family.  Funny thing is what will take me to the next step (getting back on my career track) is probably what I had to give up to take the first step giving it up.  What gave me the courage to take the step to quit was to give up persistence.  Persistence was making me miserable!  But I thought by giving in I would be failing!

The way I overcame the fear of giving a break in my carer and on my persistence was to be in the present.  So the statement to "cross the bridge when we get to it"  really resonates with me.  I feel good if I concentrate on the bridge I am crossing right now.  It is only when I look at the past bridges I have crossed or the ones I forsee I will want to cross in the future that I feel fear and anxiety!

lar12's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

After my third active duty tour with the military, I re-joined the civilian work force in a manufacturing environment with which I had zero experience.  I'm a newly-wed (less than 3 years) in an isolated state 8 hours from family and friends.  The job was a 30% pay cut and the position was "what you determine it will be".  In addition, I went from being a upper-mid level manager in the military to being an individual contributor.  Because my position was new, my new team was skeptical.  They prize strong backs and tend to eschew anything analytical.

On the upside, the company is an industry leader and was actually one of the case studies in Collins' Good To Great

As a high D/C, I've often struggled with relationships and people in general.  This company is forcing me out of my shell.  MT's podcasts have been a source of inspiration and support as I'm defining my roll and fitting into the team.  I'm reminded everyday that it's a journey, a marathon, not a sprint.

MichaelP's picture

My biggest professional fear was to be promoted to a management position and fail at it in a spectacular manner... then I found MT.

Up to 2010, I kept moving on to a different more senior IT role every time my employer wanted to promote me to a team leader or manager position. Last year, I ended up accepting a temporary management position replacing two managers in my unit while also keeping my individual contributor position. 

Thanks to Manager Tools, I have so far been able to avoid making a complete fool of myself or fail my directs. It hasn't been easy, I couldn't apply the 90 days rule, I rolled out the trinity in three months increments, there are still some hiccups as we can't always have the scheduled O3s but there are no big communication issues with the team.

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

Thanks for the responses everyone, they were very instructive!

NARAA, yours particularly resonated.  I'm considering a career change as well but the implications are very frightening.   I also tend to box at shadows, which is a really bad habit.   (I've not overcome this fear yet, so didn't give this as my example!)  "Cross the Bridge When You Come to it" is good advice.


naraa's picture
Training Badge

 Mark, what I have found, at least it has been true in my life, is that if you don´t take the decisions on things that are bugging you, life somehow takes them for you, not necessarily in the smoothest of ways.  I have learned to listen to my heart more and bring faith to the practical issues of my life!

You can also think it in terms of one of Mark´s rules: "Control is an illusion." 

Good luck with your decision!

JustHere's picture

My greatest fear was asking for a promotion, or actually asking when a promised promotion was going to actually occur - it never did.  It took a friend to teach me how to just start asking my boss questions about my career.  At the point when I started to ask questions, I had worked very closely with my boss for about ten years, people thought I was being groomed to take over his job when he retired, so one would assume there was a great relationship there. I was getting a promotion about every 2 or 3 years,  but at this point, I had done my best work  for straight 4 years, but no promotion.  I am finally told by my boss that he put in for a promotion for me, and a year passes, and no promotion occurs.

The next year, I bring up my promotion, he say that budgets are tight, no one is really getting promotion. I smile and say that I understand.

The year after,  I bring up the topic, he tells me no one is really getting promotions, he's even trying to keep his own job.  I ask what I need to do, he replies "keep doing what you are doing".

The final year, I am pushier now.  I ask where I'm on the promotion list, he turns red, he hates the conversation. I make him aware that I know of at least 15 people that have gotten promotions, I say that some of the people that got promotions don't make sense to me.  He's clearly annoyed.  He takes over the conversation and makes me feel bad for asking questions.  I apologize.  He was smarter than me (at the time).  When a company doesn't give performance reviews annually, the employer has ALL the power to make up the rules as they go along.

I quit about 9 months later.  It took me over 4 years to determine that the promotion was probably a lie.  I could have done a lot of things with my career in those 4 years.

Ask questions about your career path early on.  Ask at least once a year, and determine where you want to be the next few years.  If you arent on track, ask questions about how to get on track.  If you get no answer or a bad answer (keep doing what youre doing), plan an exit.