I was speaking to a group of college students the other day and I was asking: “Who is looking for an internship right now?”
A young woman raised her hand and said, “I am but I’m not sure how to do it, exactly.”
I explained how she could get help with her resume and showed her a list of internships. But then she said:
“I know about that. I have a resume. I just can’t apply.”
“I think I won’t get it. I don’t feel like anyone will like my resume. What if they don’t pick me?”
I saw other heads in the room nodding in agreement.
Ahhhh… and then I realized the question wasn’t really about how to get an internship. It was about facing the fear of applying.
How do you get past the fear?
That’s the real question. And who of us hasn’t faced that one.
The question isn’t how do we find a new job or how do we leave a relationship that isn’t working or how do we move forward with our life after tragedy or crisis. The real question is often, how do we get past our fear of leaving the safety of whatever it is we think we have (a job we don’t like, a relationship that doesn’t work, a life on hold).
The saying is: Everything we want is on the other side of fear, right?
But how do you get to the other side? I asked the students in the class, “What is your fear if you apply for an internship and you don’t get it?”
“Feeling like you failed.”
“Feeling like your dream is crushed.”
“So, if you don’t apply, then you don’t have to feel that. You can hope something comes along, maybe?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
Hmmm. It feels risky to put yourself out there. And yet, that is the only way we can move forward. So, I had them do something.
“Everybody stand up. Now go find another seat to sit in.”
Oh, the look I got. They kind of stared and me and then they did it. Reluctantly.
“You didn’t like that did you?”
They all agreed.
“You just experienced your no voice. You wanted to stay in your seat. Why?”
“Right. It might not be the best seat, but it’s the one you chose two weeks ago and you are sticking with it. In fact, you will probably sit in that same seat for the rest of the semester because it’s human nature. We naturally cling to comfort in the smallest ways and resist risk or anything new. You resisted changing seats because you were annoyed with me. But, we do this in our everyday decisions too.
We resist doing something we haven’t done before rather than take a risk of even the mildest discomfort.”
“But,” I explained, “there are rewards to saying yes and facing our fears. What if we get the internship? What if that internship leads to a job or a great contact for the future?”
“What if” can only happen if we “get out of our seat” and make ourselves a little uncomfortable but excited about the possibilities too.
So we discussed options:
- Find someone to help you have more confidence. Ask for help. In this case, a career coach, or a professor. Maybe find someone who has had that internship and get some help applying.
- Let go of the word “failure”. It’s really just learning. It’s just trial and error, figuring out what works for you. Then getting up and trying again. The most successful people “fail” a lot.
- Take small steps toward a big goal. Keep taking small steps.
Dare yourself to do new things on a regular basis. Knowing and learning, when you do something for the first time, you should not expect perfection. It’s okay to be imperfect and it’s far more interesting anyway.
Trying small new things. Facing fears will give you practice and confidence to try bigger things.
And studies show the courage you gain from facing any fear, transfers to other parts of your life.
You get to carry it with you toward your big goals and dreams.
Or, we can wait. You know, just kind of wait for something to happen to us one way or the other. Let fate decide. Wait for the wind to blow.
Say yes. Yes to new, to adventure, to getting up and taking a different seat.
Say yes, face fear, and may the FIRSTS be with you.