The year of fear

I haven’t written for a while, partly because in a world full of ChatGPT related content there is a shed load of white noise out there and I have wanted to write something from the heart that I felt could add some value.

Also, like most of us, I wear many hats. A company founder, investor, father, husband and recruitment consultant. Many of those alter egos have had a bruising time of late. That’s one for the website blog once I have processed them myself. This newsletter was started with the intention of wearing my recruitment consultant hat so I’m going to stay on track.

Vicarious careers was created as a chance to take a look at other people’s careers and decisions through the looking glass of a recruiter, with a few of my own thoughts dropped in.

We all know work has changed. From being pulled back to the office to mass layoffs. A ‘year of fear’ is how I would describe 2023. For many, the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs came in to full effect.

If you’re not familiar with Maslow. The basic premise of this principle is our needs change depending on our circumstances. If you were homeless on the street, your basic need would be shelter and food. If you have shelter and food, you may be thinking about building an extension.

The short of it is what we ‘need’ is often more of a ‘want’ the further up the hierarchy we travel. This is why I wrote Find your why, why? because life is lived in chapters, a rigid view of your ‘needs’, ‘wants’ and your ‘why’ is a surefire way to frustration. Change is constant!

Those ‘wants’ in 2022 and perhaps in the years proceeding the pandemic have been very prevalent in the world of work. Remote working, flexibility, salary expectations, the need for purpose in our work. Dare I say it for some a sense of entitlement as to what an employer should be delivering?

Hold your horses! I’m not judging anyone here.

I hear stories from founders doing their best to provide all the ‘wants’ for their employees and struggling with low productivity and poor profit margins in the process. I also hear from employees who feel unfulfilled in their work.

News Flash! Work is a relationship, not just between your employer and yourself, or in the case of those of us who work for ourselves, our clients and ourselves. But also between sacrifice and goals. What will you sacrifice to achieve your goals? Note the word ‘you’.

“For many, the high demand for talent has created an environment where we have asked ourselves, “why isn’t my (client / employer) giving me everything I need?”

Why am I not jumping out of bed raring to get to work loving every minute of my working week? Despite the skewed posts about ‘Ikigai’ only a tiny minority of us will gain everything we need to feed our soul solely through our work. Work for many of us will be a way to fund our other pursuits and passions.

The new snake oil being touted by Guru’s is you will have an easy life without sacrifice and have everything you could ever wish for without hardship if you follow their latest 12 week plan. Don’t believe it, I frequently take a look at the ‘exited my company’ claims and ‘serial entrepreneur’ taglines I see on so called Gurus profiles.

Their companies were often brought as an asset sale for peanuts. So don’t believe all you read on social media. I have been on the journey with founders who have successfully exited, for some of those founders on multiple occasions. They sacrificed! for some it was their time for others’ health and family. Many failed multiple times before the ‘exit’ they are known for.

2023 became the year where all the above stopped, for the many finding work has become a full-time job, as jobs dried up and job security has become harder to come by a sense of fear has crept over society. For founders, funding has been harder to come by. New clients even harder.

Exasperated by a background of fears over AI taking jobs, global war and economic headwinds, fear has humbled us all. What we once saw as ‘needs’ very quickly we’re seen as ‘wants’ as salary expectations for many dropped. The willingness to work on a hybrid basis became an option where before it was non-negotiable.

For those in employment, watching their colleagues take a box of their belongings out the company doors for the last time, or their name disappear from the company Team’s list created a little more gratitude and a lot more fear. A few less gripes about being asked to pick some of the mundane work tasks up.

2024 brings with it new opportunity. Investment is starting to pick up in the VC markets and, despite headwinds, there is forward momentum. So will we forget the lessons we learned during this period?

We each had our own experience, but taking a moment to reflect on our life goals, and what we are willing to sacrifice to obtain them alongside weighing up the reality of what we thought we needed versus what we wanted may be worthy of contemplation.

But… there is more to this story. Fear is a two-sided coin. Fear of change vs fear of stagnating. Fear of the unknown vs the reality 90% of what we worry about never actually happens.

For years, I have seen candidates excited to leave their employers for genuine reasons (often stagnation as a catalyst) getting through a recruitment process, excited to receive an offer. The moment they do, they start to grab on to the comfort blanket of the familiar.

“My boss isn’t that bad” they said they would do this and that (none of ‘this and that’ addresses the reasons they wanted to leave!). Fear is healthy. It keeps us humble and drives us forward when positioned correctly in our minds, but it also stifles dreams and curtails careers.

Fear isn’t going to leave us, so learning to position it in a healthy way is vital in a changeable world.

my closing remarks…


  • Fear is normal, accepting it, allowing the emotion to settle and allowing your logical mind is key to making a good decision.
  • Don’t make decisions when emotional.
  • Think of both sides of your fear. What if I do nothing? What if I do something? Each situation is unique, but there will always be two versions of your fear try and see both sides.
  • The chemical reaction in your body to fear is the same as excitement, you can choose how you position it.
  • Fear isn’t fact. Just because you had a thought go through your head doesn’t make it a fact.
  • Fear can be real, use it as a catalyst to make changes. I was let down by someone I thought was a friend at the end of 2023. The impacts have created long-lasting ripples for my family. Rather than fear for the future, I chose to be fearful of becoming cynical and seeing the worst in people. I feared the prospect of becoming closed off to trusting people more than I fear being conned again. Choose your fear!


  • Practice gratitude. Before you moan about what didn’t happen this week, think about the good stuff that did.
  • Sentiment. Like many things, the sentiment behind something is often more powerful than the act its self. Free fruit and pizza, ‘What a joke!’ what was the sentiment behind it? I can promise you many bosses didn’t take the time to buy that pizza for the team. I’m not asking you to become a slave. I’m saying look beyond the act to the sentiment behind it.
  • Your boss isn’t a mind reader. Tell him/her what you ‘need’. Keep in mind ‘wants’ often take longer.
  • Don’t let fear guide your thoughts. The emotion will come first, acknowledge it, let it pass, then apply logic. For many of the candidates who chose to stay with the familiar, it didn’t work out. None of them were willing to acknowledge they were scared during our conversations. Instead, they offered up false objections to justify the fear. Own it! We all get scared. It’s a natural instinct and not a weakness.
  • Logic is the antidote to fear. Often a 3rd party can give you a different perspective and provide the logic you need where fear doesn’t allow. Think about your North star before you need to.
  • Your job is not who you are, don’t make work your life. You make yourself vulnerable if you place your self-worth in just one area of your life. Like me, you have many alter egos.

Thanks for taking the time to read my musings. I hope at least some of it struck a chord.

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