One of the most difficult challenges for people who have social anxiety is finding employment or getting a job that they like. For many, just the idea of going to work and meeting with a boss becomes a nightmare and a very frightening situation that they’d rather avoid at all costs.
This social anxiety often stems from our fear of disapproval – not just from bosses or managers, but also from coworkers, customers, or anyone else that we may need to interact with on a daily basis while at work. This fear of disapproval can be so strong that we try to avoid these situations entirely.
For many people with social anxiety, we actively avoid trying to find a job because we have such a great fear of having to interact with people. Often staying unemployed just seems more “safe” and “comfortable.”
A great summary of research published in the journal Psychiatric Services has identified several ways that people with social anxiety experience job-related problems. These include:
- Reduced productivity and job performance
- Lowered educational attainment (not finishing high school or college)
- Increased unemployment
- Financial dependence (more likely to live at home)
- Reduced income
- More likely to decline a job offer or promotion
- Increased absenteeism (not going to work, even when not sick)
These are the many ways that social anxiety can hurt our work and career, and even stop us entirely from finding a job and being able to financially sustain ourselves.
As you can see, many of the things listed above can feed into each other.
For example, those with social anxiety are more likely to be unemployed, but also more likely to decline a job offer. They are also more likely to not finish college due to their social anxiety, which is an important factor in finding employment.
The effects of social anxiety on unemployment hit young people particularly hard.
According to research (PDF) done by Trust’s Youth Index, an annual index that tracks concerns of young people over time:
- “More than half of unemployed young people feel anxious about everyday situations, with many telling us they avoid meeting new people and struggle to make eye contact. This not only has an impact on the social interactions of young people, it also affects their general health. Worryingly, more than a third report that anxiety has stopped them from looking after their health or eating properly.”
A large percentage of young people today are unemployed due to their anxiety issues.
Unemployment can often feed into other mental health issues, for example one study shows that young people who are unemployed often experienced increased mental health problems like depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem.
This makes a lot of sense…
Having a job, being productive, and feeling like you are “contributing” to society in a positive way can be hugely important for a person’s happiness and self-esteem. Individuals with social anxiety often have great trouble fulfilling this need.
Do you have social anxiety? Are you also unemployed?
If yes, I’m sure much of this article resonates with you on a personal level. And don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone in this struggle.
I believe self-esteem is incredibly important to a healthy economy and healthy workers. People need to feel confident in themselves if they are willing to try new jobs, interact with new people, and adapt to new work environments.
A person with social anxiety will often have difficulties in these areas of life. Their fear of disapproval is often rooted in the belief that they are inadequate and inferior. And these destructive beliefs ultimately stop you from reaching your full potential.
If you’re socially anxious and unemployed, here are some tips:
- Remember that most people aren’t judging you. Social anxiety is often characterized by the idea that we have an imaginary audience following us everywhere. But most of the time people are too concerned with themselves than to be busy judging you. So don’t be too anxious about what people are thinking – there’s a good chance they are too busy worrying about themselves than to be worrying about you.
- Don’t expect to please everyone. We all have our fair share of differences, and it’s unrealistic to expect us all to get along perfectly. Accept the fact that you’re going to mix better with some people over others and don’t feel obligated to win everyone over. This is an important perspective if you just had a bad job interview, because some people you’re just not going to click with – and that’s okay!
- Reflect on your positive traits. Focusing on your strengths can be very important in building self-esteem and overcoming social anxiety. We can overcome many insecurities by recognizing skills and talents that distinguish us positively from others. I believe everyone can discover something positive in themselves if they do some honest self-reflection. Try to make a list of 5-7 of your key strengths.
- Gradually expose yourself to social situations. If you’ve been unemployed for awhile, you may feel extremely uncomfortable just jumping right into a new job. Try slowly exposing yourself to social situations again by volunteering a couple times a week. This is just one way to hone your social skills outside of a job – it can also be something positive to put on your resume.
- Ask friends or family if they can help. Many people find jobs through people they already know, whether they be friends or family. It’s always a good idea to ask people that you’re close to if they know of any job openings. To start, their recommendation could help you get a job you wouldn’t get by yourself. And even better, if you end up working with people you know (like a good friend), that can often make your job experience way more comfortable and enjoyable.
- Learn to fail forward. Failure is often unavoidable. You aren’t going to nail every job interview. And you aren’t going to get every raise. The goal isn’t to avoid failure, but learn how to take these failures, learn from them, and persist forward. Use them as a source of motivation, not something that makes you quit. You will rarely get the first job you apply for, so be persistent and don’t give up at the first sight of failure.
These are just a few key things to keep in mind if you have social anxiety and are looking for employment.
Of course, looking for a job (with or without social anxiety) can often be a very stressful and difficult process. So no matter what, try to be patient with yourself and take small steps forward each day.
If you’d like to learn more in-depth tips, advice, and exercises for how to overcome your social anxiety, I recommend my 3 month system The Social Transformation Course, which teaches everything I know about the subject.
Otherwise, feel free to sign up to my mailing list below for more free information and advice on how to best manage your social anxiety and stop it from having control over your life.
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