These 3 Words Are Stalling Your Job Search

job search stalled

Are you out of work? Or are you overworked, in a career you hate and want out? With more than 84 percent of Americans surveyed saying that they want a new job, chances are that you are unhappy and want something better. What you may not realize is that three words are holding you back.
NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) aka Negative Self-Talk
Early in my coaching career, I was taught about neuro linguistic programming and how our thoughts impact our ability to achieve. It's a fancy term for negative self-talk. For some strange reason, humans spend more time with negative thoughts than positive ones. (Ha, who knew, right?) The result is a form of analysis paralysis. We often don't make any decisions until it feels safe to do so. And when we are backed into a corner, our animal instincts kick in with a "fight or flight" approach to problem-solving.

Unfortunately, for most of the people who are unhappy in their current career situation but haven't technically hit rock-bottom yet, the result is no action. And no action means no results.

3 Words Holding You Back: I Am Afraid
I run a job search accelerator program. Most of the time, these folks are close to desperate. They join the program expecting to dive right into what's wrong with their cover letter, resume or LinkedIn profile. But instead, I make them finish the statement, "I am afraid..." in as much detail as they can and send it to me.

Why? Those three words are at the heart of every stalled job search and dead-end career in America. You see, your inability to move forward comes from fear. And here are some of the most common fears:
  • Failure.
  • Making a mistake.
  • Looking stupid.
  • Finding out you aren't talented.
  • Rejection.
  • Being wrong about what you really want.
  • Doing your best and still not getting any results.

Address the Fear, Remove the Roadblock
When you finally open up about the fears and rationalize your situation, you will find a great sense of relief come over you. Often, this cannot be done alone. You need outside influencers who can provide you new, positive self-talk that can replace the negative thoughts. You need support from people who can remind you that your fears are unfounded and unrealistic. But most importantly, you need an objective person you can believe in to say repeatedly, "You can do this and it's going to be OK." When you have this, you'll find it easier to see what's possible in your career because you will no longer be blinded by self-doubt from your fears.

If you want a better career in the next year, you must find a way to work through your fear. Once you have clarity, you'll find motivation to move forward. Lose the fear and you'll feel so much better, it will be easier to do what it takes to get that new job. Otherwise, fear wins and you lose in the career game.

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• Being wrong about what you really want. - I've got 25+ years of experience in customer support & admin but I'm being TOLD to look for ANY position whether or no I want to work at the company, travel 2-3 hours each way or have skills for the job.

• Doing your best and still not getting any results. - Apparently experience doesn't count without a degree.

December 04 2013 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is a great article about being afraid in both your job search and in your career. I agree that being afraid is something that a lot of people face in these areas. Overcoming that fear will enable you to soar in your job search and your employment, no matter what that may be. If you actually can't find any jobs, you can try using a free source like which can greatly help in your search.

September 07 2012 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

from the person who wrote, "Well, I have three words for YOU: "I'm bad at math.'" Guess what your problem may be? I'M BAD AT MATH contains FOUR words, not three. Maybe you're not afraid, but you probably should be!

August 27 2012 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mr. Newman

Well, I have three words for YOU: "I'm bad at math!"

August 25 2012 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really do not think the three words "I am afraid" are holding most people back from obtaining a job.
The couple of phrases that I see causing problems are "I am old," or "I am inexperienced."
It is ironic that companies want people with experience that can step right in a fill the position, yet they will not look at older (50+) unemployed candidates.

August 23 2012 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I’ve had 4 jobs and over 13 years. I’ve never worked anywhere that I wasn’t promoted and received multiple raises. I’ve never been fired/laid off. In one scenario ¾ of the company was let go and stayed. Yet, now I’m constantly afraid. It’s the most debilitating aspect of my career in the last 4 – 6 years. So many times in my past I can look back and see that because I was fearful, I didn’t knock it out of the park like I could have. Yet, when I was really young (in my early 20s) I remember having zero fear and taking some pretty incredible risks all of which paid off. I remember flat lying about my expertise once when I was 20 yrs. old because I knew I could figure it out as I went and do a better job than anyone else. I spent 80 hours a week working and I did figure it out and do a better job than anyone before me. That was wrong of me to do, but it did pay off and I received a huge amount of additional responsibility because of it.

I’m completely different now. Maybe it’s because I have a family and don’t spend 65+ hours a week working like I did? I get glowing reviews once a quarter yet I’m still afraid of being fired or laid off. I am more hesitant to apply for jobs that I’m a little under qualified for and although I’ve been promoted once in the last 4 years, I still am not manager level. I find myself constantly being more self-critical. Maybe it’s the environment I’ve worked in recently that hasn’t help. Who knows. All I know is this article is true and I’m going to take it to heart. I think fear is really debilitating. Whether it’s warranted or not, because I’ve failed a few times recently or because I work less than I used to? I don’t know – all I know is the fear doesn’t really help anything.

August 21 2012 at 2:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

People who think and behave like this are the types of people who 'should' be unemployed.....they have to come from somewhere. We can't have 100% employment. There has to be a base of 'unemployable' people..... people who lack confidence, lack assertiveness, lack education, lack self-discipline, lack courage.... ad infinitum.

August 21 2012 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

3 words - Democrats Love Welfare.

August 21 2012 at 12:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SHK B 4 LIKKING's comment

3 Words -- Romney exports jobs.

August 22 2012 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I applaud Mike Asbell's comment challenging people to write down their dream, getting it on paper so the dream becomes a pursuit/goal. By putting the dream on paper (I would add that it should be read daily) our mind begins to focus on where we want to go and begins moving in that direction. Research on goals has repeatedly shown that a small percent of our population (3-5%) puts their goals on paper and reads the goals daily, yet that population is immensely more successful than those that do not put their goals on paper.

August 21 2012 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just a quick note that the article falls short on the obvious: it fails to acknowledge that there are times when the negative self-talk may reflect an actual previous job experience in which there was, for example clear failure, mistakes and rejection. Positive affirmations are uselessly naive and ineffective in reassuring a job-seeker who has fallen on his or her face that it wil be "okay" when experience teaches otherwise and fears may be realistic. Even for those where the failure is not so absolute, current job miseries often include negative self-attributions for not dealing with the immediate circumstances better, mentally situating the person in non-action mode. It may be quite helpful to have an article that outlines (and normalizes) the contours of stuck thinking for most everyone seeking to escape an unhappy employment as a means of understanding what kind of work environment might be more suitable in the next round.

August 21 2012 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cleburton's comment
Franklin Newman

Or one's life experience. Doing your best but still getting nowhere isn't a fear; it's today's reality.

August 22 2012 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Franklin Newman's comment
Mr. Newman

It's true, Mr. Newman, that often, our efforts and successes are ignored. But if you do your best to achieve something new and have a 50/50 chance of failing anyway (or even a 90 percent chance of failing) compared to wanting to try something new but you are held back from even trying by fear, you have a 100 percent chance of failing at that "something new."

Some fears make sense. Maybe we need to listen to those. Other fears aren't really based in logic or truth. We need to be able to figure out the difference. But when we can't, I wish my default mode was "I'm going to go for it!"

August 25 2012 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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