The Other Side of Fear: Pivoting to Your New Role

Written by alumna Marissa Lee

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic tens of millions of people have requested unemployment benefits. According to David G. Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, we might see an unemployment rate of 20%. That’s significant and rivals the unemployment levels attained during the Great Depression. With these numbers, it’s not a surprise that people are taking a “wait and see” approach to pivoting to a new opportunity. However, pandemic aside, LinkedIn Learning research shows that 47% of all professionals ages 35 – 44 say they aren’t sure what their career path should look like, even after spending more than a decade in the workforce. To take this a little deeper, research shows the average American has been in the same job for 9.88 years, rising to a substantial 13.91 years for professionals over 55 years of age. This can lead one to draw the conclusion that whether we are in crisis or in a season of certainty, people are averse and belated in moving to their next opportunity. One of the biggest factors holding people back is fear.

Fear is the feeling manifested because of the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or be a threat or detriment to your progress. Fear is an enemy of success. It causes you to second guess yourself. It makes you think of everything that could go wrong. It shows up in the form of an excuse. Fear has caused people to hide themselves since the foundation of the earth and continues to keep people from fully realizing their potential. When it comes a career pivot, fear usually reveals itself in four major ways:

  1. Fear of Failure
  2. Fear of Rejection
  3. Fear of the Ambiguity
  4. Fear of Falling Short

Fear of Failure is the fear of doing something and later finding out it doesn’t work. It’s not a good feeling so in an effort to avoid failure, people decide not try at all. They choose to play it safe and stay with what they know. It keeps the person stuck in that moment, space, or role and makes it difficult to move forward.

There are benefits in failing and they can actually help you conquer your fear of failing. Past failures hold the key to all the ways you shouldn’t be doing something. Ask yourself what are the biggest lessons learned and how you can use your learnings in the future. Another thing that can help you overcome your failures is showing yourself some grace and giving yourself space to fail. I’m not saying to go in with a mindset to fail. I’m saying to leave it all out on the proverbial floor and be kind to yourself if you come up short. This will help you get more comfortable with putting yourself out there.

Fear of Rejection is the fear of doing something and others discard it or cast away. Whether it’s a romantic or work relationship, it doesn’t feel good to be or be perceived as “unwanted.” A great example of this is applying for a job and receiving that “we regret to inform you email” or worse the company just “ghosts” you and you don’t hear anything. Often times people internalize this rejection to mean they aren’t good enough or they are lesser than and that hurts. Depending on the individual, rejection is processed differently and on a deeper level especially if encountered numerous times in the past.

If rejection is stopping you, you have to find a way to overcome it. First it’s important to understand what aspect of rejection is holding you back from pivoting to your next role. Are you worried about being told no or is it something deeper? You have to figure that out and further address those concerns. In addition to that, I would say keep things in perspective. Remember a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean a “never”. It mean a better “yes” is on the way. I’m a witness to this. Hindsight is 20/20 so I’d encourage you to reflect on the times you’ve been told “no” and write down the “yes” that followed or the things the “no” kept you from. I’m sure you will look at your situation differently.

Fear of the Ambiguity is the fear of the unknown. You may fret because you just don’t know how things will turn out. Most people who are scared of ambiguity worry if they take the leap and it doesn’t work out then they will have sacrificed their security. A sense of security is valuable especially at times like this so if people can’t identify a sure opportunity they usually decide to stay put. I’m going to let you in on a little secret…no role is 100% secure whether old or new. You can still be in a vulnerable position if you fail to position yourself appropriately and show your value. I’ve seen where people stay in a role for years and get labeled a talent “blocker” because they haven’t managed to demonstrate valuable contributions and they are preventing someone else from transitioning into that role who can make an impact. I say all this to say, the known can be just as much as an enemy as the unknown.

If you struggle with this fear really make an effort to embrace change. We all know what they say, “the only thing constant in our lives is change” and that’s true. When we started of 2020, no one was planning for a pandemic. It didn’t even cross our minds but it came and we had to adapt. Lean into change and exercise your resilience muscle to help you conquer this fear.

Fear of Falling Short is the fear of not believing in yourself and what you bring to the table. It’s a confidence thing. It’s the self-sabotaging and deprecating mindset that you don’t have what it takes especially when it comes to transitioning to a new role. It’s the constant questioning of your skills and abilities and not in a productive way. It’s believing that regardless of your accomplishments you are a fraud. Those feelings are known as imposter syndrome and according to research 70% of people experience these feelings so you are not alone. Even I have questioned my capabilities and competencies to be effective in one of the roles I had so I know what it feels like. I also know that it’s toxic and can stifle your career and wreck your career experience if you let it, so don’t let it.

If you struggle with the fear of not measuring up to the standard needed for a new role, remind yourself of your worth. Sit down and write out your accomplishments then celebrate yourself. Give yourself permission to be great! Come up with a mantra that encourages you. Hype yourself up! Do what you need to do to get yourself in the right frame of mind so you can articulate and position yourself for the role you want to pursue.

A couple of the things I cover in the SOW EVOLVE Bootcamp are mindset and toxic behaviors. Sometimes we have to unlearn and deprogram ourselves to preconceive notions and archaic beliefs to ensure we can position ourselves for success. Fear is one of the feelings you have to learn how to detach from if you want to take the leap and pivot to your next role. Once you deal with fear and other limiting factors you will have more clarity around if and when you should pivot. In my new eBook Pivotal Moves-Shifting to Your Next, I discuss some things you should consider while thinking about a pivot and even included a short assessment to help you go deeper in your evaluation. Once you determine if you want to pivot you have to understand what you want to pivot to, what transferable skills you current possess, understand how you need to reposition your personal brand and then actually pivot.

Final Thought

Your next role is waiting for you but it may be on the other side of fear. Overcome fear and you will have conquered half of the battle to making your next move. Don’t extend your stay in role because of fear. Don’t allow fear to make you forfeit your next opportunity.


Marissa Lee is a global HR leader, career strategist, and author with a unique approach to helping us rethink the relationship between employer and employee. For the past 10 years, she has combined her passion for people and processes to provide strategic business solutions for Fortune 500 companies in the fashion and chemical industries. Marissa is the founder of SOW EVOLVE, a career and business consulting firm which helps organizations and individuals address contemporary culture and career ownership issues.  If you would like to connect with Marissa, you may do so via LinkedIn or email at

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