Resume Writing: Fear of the Blank Page

C. Jane Taylor, Author

Halloween is almost so here, so this month we are taking a look at fear and how it can play into and interfere with your career path and your resume.

Finding the right image for this blogpost was challenging. I wanted something scary, but not triggering like snakes or sharks. (Pro tip: if you are triggered by them, do not do a Google search of the word ‘fear.’ Just don’t do it.) The image I found suits my purpose—a little bit Blair Witch and a little bit blinking-cursor-blank-page anxiety—because the fear I’m talking about comes from within. Granted, so do great works and great ideas, but only after fear is allayed.

So many of the interviews I do with my resume clients include the phrase “I’m afraid it’ll look like I’m bragging.” To which I respond (usually in a friendlier tone than this may sound), “Please don’t be. If you’re not willing to brag about – or at least thoughtfully illustrate – your incredible accomplishments in your resumé, how is your future employer going to learn about them?”

Similarly, in the tailored resume questionnaire I send out once my clients and I start working together, I often include this question: “Why are you so good at what you do?” It trips people up sometimes. I’ve been told that ‘why’ can be a triggering question. I don’t see it that way. I really want to know why you are so good at what you do so that we can leverage your strengths to land your new position. If you can reframe your ‘why’ into self-reflection with the curiosity and delight of a child, perhaps we can plumb the depths of who you really are, convey that spark in your resumé, and ultimately land a job that allows that person to shine.

That kind of self-reflection takes work and can certainly be scary. But there is nothing to be afraid of here, other than your true nature.

“Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger; it has strong roots in human evolution. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently resulted in life-or-death consequences.”[1]

This sparkling truth from Psychology Today has no place on your resume or in your job search. But fear is a legitimate teacher even when snakes or sharks of the ancestral world are not involved.

Here are some real fears that might arise as you start to tackle writing or rewriting your resume:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of not doing a good job
  • Fear you will be judged (you will be)
  • Fear of appearing inadequate/under-qualified/overqualified
  • Writer’s block
  • Fear of writer’s block

When these very real fears become barriers to your progress toward a more fulfilling career, it’s time to get some help. A little anxiety and be motivational, but too much can be stultifying.  

Me and my colleagues at FromWithin Coaching are not afraid to delve into your talents. We’re not afraid to help you identify and even glorify your achievements and what really makes you tick. We are not afraid of the blank page. We will work together with you to make sure your career path and your resume really reflect who you are so that the work you end up doing is in alignment with who you really are.


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/fear

Photo by NIKLAS HAMANN on Unsplash

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