2020-08-12 HR Examiner article Right now is the best time to be unafraid by Heather Bussing photo AdobeStock 222695356 544x408px.png

“Yet, most things are uncertain, almost all the time. And that is neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s just how it is.” - Heather Bussing




This may turn out to be one of the hardest times in history to find a job. That’s pretty scary. A lawyer I worked with told me he was blown away because I wasn’t afraid of anything. I had no idea what he was talking about. I’m scared of everything.


I just don’t let it interfere with what I want to do.


Fear is not something to fight, overcome, ignore, hide from, or defeat. It’s not a weakness. Fear is good stuff. It protects us, gives us important information, motivates us.


The trouble starts when we believe that it’s too hard, other people will think we’re stupid, or the million versions of I’m not good enough. When everything is too scary, we shut down and make our world small so we can control it. We close our minds and our hearts to anything new or different.


That’s why fear is the root of discrimination and resistance to change. It manifests in arrogance, power plays, violence, back biting, control issues, withdrawal, and pretty much anything that makes other people unpleasant to be around. Especially at work.


I tried to fight fear — to overcome it. I just ended up completely focused on how scared I was, which paralyzed me. Also, the scotch it took to silence it wasn’t worth the consequences.


So I’ve learned to just invite fear along for the ride. I give it a little attention, tell it some jokes, and ask it, very nicely, to stay in the backseat. When the fear is insistent, I listen to what it’s trying to tell me. But I don’t believe everything I feel or think when I’m scared. And I try not to make big decisions out of fear (or anger).


Usually, it’s just that I’m worried about the outcome. I’m anxious about uncertainty.


Yet, most things are uncertain, almost all the time. And that is neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s just how it is.


So instead of getting caught in the crisis, or drama, or insecurity, now I notice it. And then remember that I’m really good at terrified.


Unafraid of No


When you apply for a job, especially when you really, really, need a job, you’re scared and vulnerable. You are opening yourself to judgment about whether you’re good enough. You might be rejected.


There’s also this glimmer of hope. You start to imagine being there, the excitement of starting something new. You dream of money and security. Maybe you can pay down the credit card. Or buy meat again.


It’s like the moment right after you get a lottery ticket when you fantasize what your life will be like if you win. Often, the odds are about the same.


You fill out the fields in the online application and upload your resume. You try to say why you would be great for the job, searching for words to show you are special. You don’t want to look desperate. But you are.


Even if you have a job, applying for a new one with strangers is disconcerting. It feels like you’re walking naked into a party where everyone knows each other, but no one knows you.


The reality is that you can be naked with a hot pink boa, but the AI won’t really notice what you’re wearing, or even whether you seem nice. The chance of anyone even looking at your information is low.


It’s more like pouring a glass of water into a lake.


photo of Heather Bussing on HRExaminer

Heather Bussing is our vice President of Strategy

But you have no way of knowing that because pretty soon you get a friendly email thanking you for your interest in the company and telling you how glad they are that you applied. They say they will consider you. And even if you’re not right for the position you applied for, they’ll keep your information on file. They might even contact you if another position opens that would be good for you. Wow, you think. This could work out.


They give you hope.


Most of the time though, there is no hope. Only a few people of hundreds or thousands get a call or an interview. Everyone but the person who gets the position is rejected. It’s a process of no.


There are many smart and compassionate people working on how to make this reality better, kinder, more respectful (candidate experience). They are looking hard at what it’s like from the moment the job is written, how it is described, where you find it and what that’s like. They are looking at the application process and how companies respond.


They are trying to make a kinder, gentler no.

I don’t think people want a kinder, gentler no. They want a yes. If they can’t have that, they want to be able to easily find out where they are in the process. And if they can’t have that, they would rather have a quick no.


No sucks. No dashes your fantasies. But no also lets you move on. No is what gets you to the company that says yes.


No sets you free.

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