If you’re considering changing careers, the idea of a totally new job and new life may be causing some anxiety. In this podcast episode I want to talk all about how fear can control our lives and hold us back from being who we were meant to be. How fear stops us from living our best lives or growing or becoming the better, stronger versions of ourselves.
I’ll share my own story. Then I’ll identify three types of fears that many teachers often struggle with and a few strategies you can use to battle these fears.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
How Fear Holds Us Back: My Story
Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez. You may or may not know this from following me on Instagram, but I quit drinking alcohol in May 2021. I celebrated some pretty big career milestones, my friends’ and family’s birthdays and, most importantly, my amazing wedding, all without booze.
I am not sharing this to convince anybody listening to quit drinking. So before you think that’s where I’m going to get preachy and tell you to remove the glass of wine that you have in your hand, that’s not where I’m going with this story. Because most likely your drinking does not look like mine did.
My relationship with alcohol was something that I knew had been a problem for over 20 years. The majority of the time I was a “normal drinker.” One that could camouflage with everybody else in social situations. I was charming and I was sociable. But there was always something really dark that lingered in the background. Waiting for a weak moment and completely took over and I was out of control again.
In the back of my brain was always this constant low level anxiety that anytime I drank I’d potentially take it too far. And then the shame that came with that anytime I did let myself, or people that I love, down. I started to reflect more on where my alcoholism came from. And through some work with a therapist, it became more clear that I used alcohol as a coping mechanism after some serious trauma that I had as a child. I mean, think of binge drinking at Drew Barrymore age kind of stuff.
Blackouts and binges were normal for my younger years, and I just assumed that those were my party years and a lot of my friends modeled the same type of drinking patterns way back then. However, I realized that these patterns followed me in the later years of my adult life. Which is when I secretly started to worry that I would never overcome it. At times, I just, I really thought that my wild days were behind me. But even if I was able to control myself for 24 casual drinking sessions, the 25th time was completely outside of my control.
I had to come to terms with the fact that it was far easier for me to say no to the first drink than to drink in moderation at all, because saying no to that third drink is almost impossible for me.
New Job, New Career: Anxiety & Addiction
Maybe you’ve heard me say this story briefly, but one of my low points during my career search was this one day when I received so many rejection letters that I went on a mimosa binge and I was flopping all around my couch. And that’s not entirely accurate. To call it a mimosa binge sounds far cuter than what really happened. Which was I started drinking mimosas. And then I was sobbing on the couch. And I am certain that I drank more than just champagne that morning.
At some point I realized I was on the verge of blacking out before noon. If Jonathan came home and found me like that, he would be very concerned. So I put myself to sleep in case he came home. So that he would just think I was depressed and not depressed and an alcoholic.
You may be curious why I am sharing all of this with you. But I wanted to get to this point. Quitting drinking was never my first choice. Or ever even on the menu of options of solutions to my mental health struggles. No matter how bad the binging got or how bad my relationship or my mental health would get due to alcohol, I truly felt that it was impossible for me to quit.
This was always a firm non-negotiable for me. And eventually I finally had to admit that I knew I had a problem and that I needed help. During those tough conversations with myself, I realized how strongly my brain was pushing back on just the simple idea of quitting drinking. I felt powerless, like it was completely outside of my control. Until I stepped back and looked at it objectively and I started to question my reaction to the idea.
The Willpower to Change?
Listen, I’ve been a vegan for a few years now. I have enough willpower to quit eating eggs. I’ll eat a bland, cheese-less pizza if a restaurant doesn’t even have vegan options. So how could I really not have enough willpower to ever go a weekend without a weekend cocktail? How can it be impossible for me to have a pasta dinner without having a glass of wine? All I was doing was asking myself to enjoy my already great life, just without alcohol. Something that at times brought me a little bit of joy. But it also brought a lot of stress and chaos and unpredictability into my life.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a level of physical addiction that people have as well as someone who is very prone to addictive behaviors and has family that has also struggled with addiction. I can acknowledge that this is a factor. But really where I was at with my drinking, it was not physical, only mental. And looking back, I was just afraid to give not drinking a chance at all.
But to be honest, not just afraid, I was terrified. I was afraid of change, afraid of failure, and afraid to acknowledge how bad it had really gotten, because I knew that meant I finally really had to hold myself accountable and do hard things to fix it.
How Fear Affects Our Lives: Career Changes, New Job Anxiety, & Beyond
In this podcast episode, I want to talk all about how fear controls our lives and holds us back from being who we were meant to be. How fear stops us from living our best lives or growing or becoming the better, stronger versions of ourselves.
This year I feel so longer than ever. And it’s because I conquered something that really might seem small to others. But it was something that absolutely terrified me. I have lived my life booze free for the last eight months. And it was 1000 times easier than I ever imagined.
I had mocktails at bars with friends at my bachelorette party, I never had to say no to any occasions, and I never woke up with hangover anxiety the next day. And, most importantly, I remembered every moment of my wedding day.
Fear & Flight or Flight
The feeling of fear is part of our body’s response to help protect us from danger. When our brains feel that fight or flight response our natural reaction is to get as far away to feel safe again. It can be both a physical place or an idea that’s bringing in the reaction. M. Schauer writes that those suffering from anxiety or PTSD may find themselves even more sensitive to fight or flight responses in a piece that he wrote on traumatic stress responses in the Journal of Psychology.
There are times that our fight or flight symptoms are genuinely keeping us safe. So I don’t want you to always turn it off. But we also begin to condition ourselves to shelter from feelings of nervousness. Even feelings of excitement. Feelings that we feel anytime we go into something that’s unknown. And then eventually we just get conditioned to avoid anything difficult or any change at all costs.
It’s so much more comfortable to stay in our current situations, in our uncomfortableness, in our unhappiness, because we’re simply afraid, but having that awareness that our brains may playing tricks on us, can help us take a step back and start to look at things more objectively.
New Job Anxiety: 3 Types of Fears
There are three types of fears that I’ve noticed many of the teachers I work with who are thinking of leaving the classroom often battle. And this is not just unique to teachers leaving the classroom. I think all humans struggle with these in one way or the other. But I’m just going to be using you career-pivoters out there in my audience for the majority of these examples.
The three types of fear are fear of failing, fear of change, and fear of what other people will think of us. I’ll also talk about strategies you can use to battle these fears.
The Fear of Failing
First, let’s get into the fear of failing. You may not ever really even want to start your job search because you’ve heard from someone else that a career change from teaching is impossible, or that it’s really hard. Or you might just be internally struggling with imposter syndrome. And don’t think you’re as qualified as everyone else who’s actually landing positions.
Or maybe you just haven’t committed because you’re too afraid to admit just how much you desire a career change. And you’re afraid that if it doesn’t happen for you, the heartbreak and the pain is going to be too much for you to take.
But is that true? This fear of it will happen for everyone else, but not me? Can that actually be a true statement?
If something happens for one person, we need to reframe our thinking that it is possible. If any other former teacher landed a role, you can too. We know everyone can achieve anything with time and dedication and hard work. We tell our students this every day. But fear starts to sneak in and try to trick us into thinking that this isn’t true when it actually comes to ourselves.
I’ve watched teachers go into software engineer roles, director of education roles, positions where they earn multiple six figures. Is this easy? No. I want to say with total transparency, no, this is not going to be easy.
Is it impossible? Absolutely not. If it is possible for anyone, it is possible for you. Period. There is a difference between being realistic or letting fear keep you trapped due to the limiting beliefs you’re selling yourself.
Overcoming the Fear of Failure
You may need to upskill and you may need to upskill a little bit more than the next person. You may need to work on your networking to get your foot in the door. Or you may need to revise your resume a couple extra times. But it is possible for you too. If you continue to tell yourself that something is impossible just because you’re afraid, one strategy is to just surround yourself with those voices who remind you that it is possible.
My favorite book that I always recommend for people stuck in this phase is, Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. Find the community, the resources, that lift you up, and limit your interactions with those who are bringing you down and continue to tell you that something is impossible. And looking at it objectively, if someone else has successfully done something, that means you know that there’s a plan on how they actually got there.
That’s one of the reasons why the Teacher Career Coach Course is so unique. Thousands of teachers have gone through the course in the last three years and used it as their plan, their blueprint, for a career pivot. And we continue to shape it with updates to reflect what has worked and not worked in the past. So you don’t have to waste any time figuring it out all alone.
Defining Failure & Success
Combating that fear, the only way that you’re not going to find a new career is if you totally give up. That’s the only guaranteed way that you’ll fail. And I want to remind you that success is not perfection in many areas of your life. You can have different benchmarks for success throughout this journey. Success may be landing your first interview and getting feedback on what you need to add to become a stronger candidate in the future. It’s probably going to be hard to identify it as a success at first because it stings. But it’s still growth towards your ultimate goal.
Success might be becoming a content writer on a marketing team at a company that you love, with the intention to grow into the marketing manager one day. Those people that you likely admire have started to get really great at failing.
After I left teaching, I applied to some really impressive titles, and, spoiler alert, I failed. I applied for roles and took interviews that were “out of my league.”
Like this multiple six figure salary job that would’ve required Jonathan and me to relocate to Spain. I took opportunities that pushed me to grow, like speaking in front of hundreds of people, or being on camera for the first time, or even launching this podcast, and all of that came with a level of risk that I would fail publicly.
Fear of failure isn’t just unique to career hunts. Going back to my most recent changes, I was terrified to fail at being sober. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I was better if I inevitably let myself down and caved and messed up again. But in my career, and in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today without hundreds of fails, because the biggest successes in life do not come without the risk of failure.
The Fear of Change
Another fear that many often have is the fear of changes. Many of the common fears are changes like losing your summers off, taking a 401k over a teaching pension, working different hours than teaching.
And I hope you understand that I am not downplaying anyone’s firm non-negotiables when it comes to the career hunt. You know yourself best and your own personal situation and what can and cannot work for you.
But I’ve often seen change bring the same type of strange tummy fight or flight that fear does, and it makes people want to run from it. Even when looking at it objectively, that change brings on far more positives than negatives.
Some people use fear as an excuse to never truly get started. They always run to the worst case scenario in their head. Like, what if the next job is truly worse than this one? And while that is a valid concern, what is the worst thing that could happen from that situation?
If you took a job and you were able to work there until you got the next job, you would be getting resume building experience. A foot in the door in the new industry. And then you can reevaluate where you go from there. Whether it’s back to the classroom or leveraging this new experience into a new role that you can apply to year round without breaking a contract for.
This is not an ideal situation, and there is a level of risk that comes with taking any new position. But is not trying going to be something that you constantly resent yourself for? Because what if the next role is truly better than the one that you have? Those are always going to be the questions you have to ask yourself. And make sure that fear is not always pushing you into just thinking of the negatives.
Fear & Anxiety: Interviewing for a New Job
Bringing awareness to these fears isn’t just for your mental health. It’s also going to help impact your success on achieving your goals. Because your mindset impacts your decision making. And you’re going to start to bring to life the results you fear if you continue to dwell on them. You do not make the best or most sound decisions if you are filled with fear.
I have seen threads of teachers stating what would be non-negotiables for them in their career hunt. And I worry that some of these non-negotiables are based out of fear and not fact.
I’ve seen things like if they ask for more than three interviews, it shows that the company must have a micromanaging type of culture. Or if they move an interview or a contract back a couple of weeks. Or if the company doesn’t list the salary on the job description.
Let’s think about this objectively. If a company pushes back the interviews or the contracts, don’t take that as a definite sign that the organization is chaotic. From someone who has personally done the HR paperwork and accounting to hire on employees for her own company, there are a lot of moving parts that can easily make this process get moved back weeks.
I wish I could say everything was always in my control and on my timeline as a CEO. But other roadblocks and deadlines get in the way. And even from an employee standpoint, I was renewed on an annual basis for a past employer and during that process. Often it took them months for the contracts to be rewritten. They always intended to get them signed months before the renewal date. And then something would always end up happening that would push that date back.
That doesn’t mean that it’s a terrible company or disorganized company to work for. I loved that role and looked forward to the renewal contracts. And, if given the opportunity, I would’ve gladly gone through five interviews to move to Barcelona for that high paying position in Spain. If it doesn’t sound like a job worth fighting for, move on, but don’t let fear be your decision maker for you.
Turning Down a New Job because of Fear & Anxiety
I’ve heard from a former teacher that actually turned down a job offer last minute due to fear. She said that she decided that an account executive role was not going to be as stable as teaching. And then spent a few days talking to her friends who asked her why she would do that. She called the company and begged them to consider her as a candidate still. And luckily they still handed her the role. She’s worked there for a year and she loves it.
But not everybody is going to be that lucky. If you, in your interview or during the job process, look like you have doubt about the role, the hiring manager may take it as a red flag and hire someone else instead. Remember, any hiring manager’s worst nightmare is to hire someone that they think is a great fit and excited about the role. Only to have to go through the entire process again in six months.
I’ve also had people who have reached out on the verge of declining interviews out of frustration due to last minute cancellations of their intended interview time. And here’s what I told them. It’s so easy to be discouraged and I get how much this stinks. But if it is a great opportunity outside of a reschedule, I would not dismiss the opportunity to interview.
Remember, I’m always on everyone’s team here. But I just want to remind you that fear or stress might be impacting your decision making. Especially if you walk away from the opportunity to interview just due to a simple reschedule. Things happen outside of everyone’s control, and showing that you understand that from a candidate perspective is also important.
I’ve personally had to cancel important meetings due to tech issues, internet outages, personal emergencies, last minute rushes to the emergency vet, human resources emergencies that took precedent over everything… And while an explanation might feel better, it’s also embarrassing and somewhat unprofessional to tell someone who doesn’t need to know every detail about the reason for the reschedule.
Noticing Risks & Red Flags
I say all of this with love. It is not a bad quality for you to be cautious. I’m such an uptight person, I’m constantly, always evaluating the risk. There are true red flags out there. And if you think during the hiring process they’re doing something illegal, like asking you whether or not you intend to have kids soon, if they clearly outline the job duties and you’ve talked to a few people and it just doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, or if when they get to the salary it’s just far too low for you to take it, walk away.
There are a lot of reasons to be cautious, and these are not small decisions to be taken lightly. But if you are on the job hunt and you are aggressively looking for red flags, you’re going to find them.
The Fear of Financial Instability
Another fear that comes with this is financial instability, and that comes with any sort of job change. And this is not something I take lightly. Yes, what if the role pays more, but what if it’s not stable?
And unfortunately, every job, even teaching, doesn’t come with stability or a guarantee. While there are not mass teaching layoffs happening right now, there have been in years past. So you’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons on whether taking the risk is worth it for you. And if your concerns about this position or this company’s stability are reasonable.
Look at the company’s Glassdoor. Try and find other employees and see what they say about it. How long has the company been around and what would happen in the worst case scenario if you did get laid off.
Fear & Anxiety about New Job Changes Affecting Others
In addition to all of these other fears, there’s always this huge fear of creating any sort of life changes around others, especially if you’re a family member. If you’re a puzzle piece, everything around you changes and you feel like your changes are going to impact other people in a negative way as well.
Many teachers are so used to giving due to the nature of our work and our hearts, that we forget that it’s okay if we do something that’s in our best interest. Stop letting fear of other people’s perceptions hold you back. If you haven’t listened to episode seven about battling teacher guilt, I highly recommend you check that episode out.
Now this may shock you to hear, but there are actually teachers out there who are afraid of the idea of earning more income. Stop letting fear of other people’s perception of you hold you back from making the right choice for yourself. You can have the heart of a teacher and not be in the classroom. You can have the heart of the teacher and earn more money.
People often associate higher pay with more stress, which is actually not always true.
People also associate higher pay with stigma and judgment from others.
You will still be a good person even if your new position has the word sales in it. And you may have not identified other factors impacting your fears right now, because even diving into that can be scary and painful.
Healing & Navigating Fear Mindset
I have lived on my own since I was 17 years old. At times I worked two jobs to pay my own rent until I landed a bar tending job that helped me pay for my college tuition to become a teacher. There’s far more to that story, but I’m going to keep it short. I have a money scarcity mindset. I have to see a very, very generous amount of savings to know that I am safe to take care of myself from years to come, because I never had the traditional support system that I could fall on.
Circling back to my story with quitting drinking, I had to acknowledge and sit with the trauma that led to my alcoholism. I had to feel emotions that I had been too afraid to feel for 20 years. And digging into what is truly happening with ourselves is something that’s so painful that often we are too afraid to do it.
But in order to heal, we have to feel our feelings. We have to acknowledge them and we have to name them. You may have past traumas besides just teaching and the stress of this career change that impacts how you navigate fear, what you feel you need from a career, how you view success, or why you may believe that your worthiness is defined by your career title.
Is Fear Playing a Role?
Maybe a new job isn’t what you need, but fear and anxiety might be still playing a big part of it. Fear may be holding you back from doing something that you know is best for you.
Maybe it’s holding you back from seeing a therapist.. maybe it’s holding you back from fixing your relationship with yourself… maybe fear is holding you back from starting a side hustle, or making new adventures, or going on that vacation alone, or voicing your concerns at the next PD, or breaking up with a toxic friend, or leaving your school for a neighboring district, or running for office and shaking up the local politics scene.
Fear is an emotion that we are supposed to feel, and overcoming the emotion of fear and pushing past it, is where growth comes from. This year, I’m going to continue on my new path and I choose to be bold and try scary things. And I ask that you do the same. I hope that you’re going to join me in 2022. I want you to pick one big, scary thing that you know in your heart is good for you but you have been too afraid to try.
Committing to Facing Your Fears
I’ve heard from so many teachers that don’t tell anyone about their journey in case they change their minds, only to have wasted months of networking opportunities once they finally commit., I’ve heard from countless people who say that they put off joining the Teacher Career Coach Course for months longer than they should have, because they knew that investing would make them “truly committed” and then they regretted the time wasted.
I don’t want you to sit around and wait for whatever it is that you are wanting to do. I want you to be bold and brave and follow your heart, and I want you to take action so that you know you are serious. If it is personal or private, tell one person that you truly trust what you plan to do.
You have to release the intention, you have to put it out into the universe, and you have to hold yourself accountable to not let fear hold you back when things get hard if you truly, truly, truly know that this change is for the better for you.
Also, before I end the episode, being transparent about my struggle with alcoholism was something that I was terrified to do as well. But it helps keep me accountable. I know that some of you may think less of me after this. But it is part of my journey. I hope that it can help any audience members who noticed similar behaviors in themselves find the support that they need.
If anything that I said resonated with you, one of the books that truly changed my life was, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. It’s great for anybody who is struggling and really needs to overcome the fear of missing out when it comes to socializing without alcohol.
Lastly, thank you for allowing me to use the space to be vulnerable, accepting me with my flaws, and growing into a better and stronger version of yourself alongside with me. I’m so excited for you and your journey this year. I can’t wait to see where you go with it. I’ll see you on the very next episode of The Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
If you’re thinking of leaving teaching…
If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan – there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.
Start with our free quiz, below, to get alternative job options for careers that really do hire teachers!
Taking the First Steps to a New Career
If you’ve already taken our quiz, it may be time for the next steps. I want to help you get some clarity in the options available to you. To know EXACTLY what you need to do (and not do) in order to get your foot in the door. This knowledge may help quell some of the anxiety you feel about the big changes that come with a new job.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they try to navigate this process alone. Often, they put off “researching” until the very last minute. Which sets them up for a very stressful application season – trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
If you are considering a career change from teaching, I have a resource that can help you today. With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience, I’ve created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom.
In the Career Transition Guide, I’ll walk you through the factors to consider and answer those first-step planning questions including:
- A compiled list of over 40 careers that teachers can transition into
- An overview of how to read job descriptions
- How to evaluate the risk of leaving a full-time teaching job for the unknown
- Example translations from classroom-to-corporate resumes
- A checklist of everything you’ll need to do for your career transition (so you know you aren’t missing anything!)
- and more…
Take the first steps on your path to a new career now for only