Overcoming Self Doubt When Making Your Next Career Move

“Research in science, psychology and education shows that self-doubt and fear – powerful impediments to progress – can be overcome with focus, careful practice and knowledge of brain chemistry.

Strayer University, Washington Post


Self-doubt is one of the largest barriers people face when seeking a new career opportunity. No matter how experienced you are in a certain field, shooting for a new role takes you into ‘the unknown’ which in turn makes you question everything – “Do I have what it takes?” “Am I good enough?” “What if I fail?”

When self-doubt becomes overwhelming, retreating back to the ‘role you know’ can seem like the most appealing option. However it’s not long before the frustration of feeling stuck in a job that no longer fulfils you catches up with you. You know you need to make a change but taking that step feels just as daunting as staying where you are. So what now?

For many people, experiencing a challenging event such as redundancy or conflict with co-workers is the catalyst for looking for a new role. This means they begin their job search journey with their self-confidence already fractured, leaving a space for self-doubt to really take hold.

Ironically successful career development is driven by two types of belief; belief in yourself and what you’re capable of, and belief that there is a better ‘career fit’ out there for you. But when this important resource eludes us, how on earth can we get momentum going?

Understanding Self-Doubt

Human beings have a need for physical, mental, and emotional safety and so our brains constantly scan our lives for anything that may jeopardise these. Research has shown that uncertainty is perceived by our brain as one of the greatest threats to our survival, in that humans are better able to cope with a guaranteed negative event on the horizon, rather than not knowing what to expect at all.

The self-protection function of our brain creates anxious thinking patterns to alert us to the potential danger so that we can respond. Unfortunately, these thinking patterns – if left unchecked – become a huge part of the problem when looking to develop our careers.

4 Common Self-Protection Thinking Patterns
Below is a list of some of most common fear focused thinking patterns people experience when looking for a new job. Any sound familiar?

Fortune Telling / aka, predicting a guaranteed negative outcome:
“I’m never going to find a new role.” “I’m terrible at interviews, it’s all going to go wrong when I meet them.”

Black & White Thinking / aka, it’s all or nothing with no middle ground:
“If I don’t get an interview for this role I should just give up.” “I didn’t get an interview so I can’t be good enough.”

Mental Filtering / aka, filtering out all the good results and evidence and focusing only on the ‘bad’:
“Nobody seems interested in me.” “I’ve not got as much to offer this company as others do.”

Emotional Reasoning / aka, believing that if you feel something then it must be true:
“I’m not good enough for the roles I’m applying for.” “Career progression happens for other people, not me.”

It’s natural to experience fear focused thinking patterns across every area of your life, this is your incredible brain doing what it can to protect you. However, it’s when we stop challenging these primal thoughts (and even worse – believing them) that our confidence unravels.

So how can we move out of the grips of self-doubt to achieve our career goals? As we say at Evolve, to overcome something you must first understand it, and so this is the first step. Let’s start with looking at the definition:

“Self-doubt is a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Collins Dictionary, 2021


OK, so if self-doubt is a lack of conviction in ourselves and our abilities then we need to invest time and energy in rebuilding faith in both. And the great news is that you can do this in steps that take 15 minutes or less!

The Answer is Small but Mighty

At Evolve we encourage our clients to take a ‘Small yet Significant Win’ philosophy to attaining their career goals:

Small – the first, easy to take, step you can do today to move closer towards your career goals.

Significant – something that has meaning attached to it so that you’re drawn towards doing it – nothing will stop you.

This philosophy works brilliantly because every time we achieve something the reward centres of our brains have a party, releasing chemicals that stir feelings of pride and happiness. This leaves us feeling fired up to go after the next small win, and so it goes until one day we find ourselves in our first day at a new company, doing a job we’re really excited to do.

And this is the real magic of small wins, they transform your belief in yourself and what’s possible for you to do/be/achieve in your career, sometimes without you even noticing it. We see this awesome phenomenon in the people we work with every day.

Here is a list of examples of real life ‘Small yet Significant Wins’ our clients have begun with that have led them to being in careers they love.

Small yet Significant Wins

  1. Spent 20 minutes reflecting on their achievements over a coffee to boost their confidence.
  2. Sought an opportunity to volunteer their expertise to rebuild belief in their strengths and skills.
  3. Made a 3 minute phone call to a sector specialist recruiter for information and advice.
  4. Directly approached their ideal employer on LinkedIn.
  5. Booked on to a virtual networking event that led to meeting somebody who later invited them for interview.
  6. Followed up an application they were initially rejected for online, only to be asked to submit their CV again and landed the role. True story!!

So over to you now tiger, what 3 Small yet Significant Wins will you begin with this week that will begin to restore your self-belief and nudge you closer towards your career goals? Don’t underestimate a thing, every small step matters.

If you take small steps every week you’ll soon see that for you and your career – anything is possible.

Team Evolve

If you’d like some further support with nailing more Small Wins in your career journey, keep an eye on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages as we’ll be sharing top tips and inspiration every Wednesday!


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The Evolve Company - Coaching in Hampshire

Team Evolve