FOMO in your job search

The career coaching work I do is centered around a holistic approach to changing careers. We don’t just jump into updating resumes and applying for jobs. Why not?

Usually, my clients come to me because they are struggling with a series of questions. 

  • They’re not sure whether to quit their jobs – or to stick it out.
  • They’re not sure whether the career path they’ve been on for decades is something they want to keep doing.
  • They’re not sure whether the rewards from their work are worth it anymore (or whether the downsides are still bearable).
  • They’re not sure whether they have anything to offer – especially if they’re later in their careers, or have been in a toxic work environment for a while.

The path forward in their job search isn’t as straightforward as clicking ‘apply’ for a job with a similar title to one they’ve had in the past. 

This isn’t the same kind of job search they’ve done before, and the idea of making a significant change is overwhelming. There are just too many options, and it’s impossible to know where to start, let alone how to present themselves for something new.

And once they start down the path of thinking through what the new career options would be, some of my clients end up with a bad case of FOMO – the fear of missing out if they don’t explore all the possible options out there.

They live with a constant background question: “what if there’s something else that I’m missing?”

This kind of FOMO can be paralyzing, and can drag out a job search for much longer than is necessary, without actually creating an added benefit.

What do you do with FOMO?

The first step is to examine what fear is underneath this fear of missing out. It’s not really about missing out on some unicorn of a job opportunity.

This is a fear about making the “wrong” choice. About ending up in yet another job:

  • that you’re unhappy with
  • where your values are compromised
  • with a horrible boss
  • with a company that drastically changes direction
  • without the balance you’re seeking
  • without the growth opportunities you yearn for
  • where it feels hard to show up every day.

There is truth to this fear. Anytime we make a change in our lives, we are taking a risk. We can never know for certain that things will work out exactly as we’d hoped. Part of the process of the coaching we do is getting comfortable with the risks involved in this change, where to stretch yourself (even if it feels uncomfortable), and where to respect your desire for safety or security. 

The other piece of dealing with such a big (potential) life change is to recognize that there isn’t really a “wrong” choice. This is not the end-all, be-all, final choice of your career. 

It’s an opportunity to choose the next right thing for your career, and life as a whole. There will be another next step after that, and another, and another. This career shift is about making one choice in a series of many choices – and you don’t need to put so much pressure on this particular one.

Addressing FOMO in practical ways

This isn’t just about getting over your fear – it’s about taking some practical steps so you can move forward, without the fear driving your decisions.

Priorities

In our coaching work, we start with getting clear about what your priorities are in this stage of life – because this is the foundation that supports your ability to know what options to pursue, and which to eliminate.

For example, perhaps your spouse is not working, and finances are at the top of the priority list. Second might be a focus on mental/emotional health, so you can effectively handle your current job, a job search, and your family commitments. Third might be family. And this order might mean coaching around saying no to some other parts of life for right now – and dealing with the FOMO that arises from that.

Identifying Potential Options

Once we figure out the order of your priorities, that will shape the action plan, and the type of opportunities you consider. This part of career coaching is more like putting together a puzzle – we sometimes have to move the pieces around and try them out in different ways to see what fits.

In our example, there might be a few options to consider:

  • Keep your current job while finding the next opportunity so there is no gap in income
  • Pursue side gigs, freelance, or consulting work to cover the income gap while looking for the next career step
  • Negotiate a part-time schedule or other options to give you the head space and time to focus on a career change
  • Talk with your spouse about picking up some paid work so you can pull back for a period of time

Planning and Action

The action plan is also about identifying a limited number of options to pursue. While we might start out with 10 potential paths, through our coaching we have to decide which ones would be the most realistic and productive to work on, especially with a limited amount of time and energy.

Then, we move into action – taking small steps every day to explore the paths, gathering data, and weighing these options against your priorities and needs. That process of assessing leads to some decisions about which ones to keep pursuing, and which ones you need to close off. And if the idea of eliminating options makes the FOMO rise up again, we spend time exploring why – and whether it’s not the right opportunity at all, or just not right for right now.

Making a Decision

The final piece in combating FOMO in your career change is to have a clear process for making a decision. We work to outline this in our coaching, with elements including:

  • Knowing the criteria for evaluating opportunities, such as job responsibilities, learning opportunities, length of commute, and compensation
  • Who your “personal advisory board” is and how they can support you in making a decision
  • Asking yourself to imagine this outcome a year or two from now, and notice how you feel, what concerns you have, what fears come up, what excites you.

When you come to a decision, there will still be some nerves, some self-doubt, some questioning, even if the opportunity seems perfect. This doesn’t mean that the FOMO is telling the truth – but rather that this is a natural reaction to making a decision that shifts your life.

Celebrating

So the last step in combating FOMO is to celebrate the decision! To recognize that you’ve done the work to evaluate your options carefully, and according to the values and priorities in your life. You’ve done the research, examined your concerns, talked with people who know you well. 

And, you remember that this is but one career decision in your life. Every previous decision has served you in some way, even if the conditions were miserable. Each job has created learnings and opportunities. This one will, too – and, because of all the work you did to get here, you’ve made this decision with deep intentionality, and that will make a huge difference going forward.

What do you think?

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