It can be incredibly hard to make money when you have a social phobia. The stress of job interviews makes it harder for you to get a job, and the phobia also makes it difficult to keep jobs - especially those that involve a lot of interpersonal contact or multitasking. Even so, there are people with a social phobia who have had incredibly productive careers, such as Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, J. K. Rowling or Warren Buffett. To have the most successful career possible, you should work on managing your anxiety disorder, picking the right job, and learning how to present yourself in a way that will impress potential employers.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a job that goes well with an anxiety disorder
Step 1. Know which jobs are a good fit for you
If you have a social phobia, it is not the best idea to find a job where you avoid people altogether as it could isolate you and heighten your fears. Instead, you should look for a job where you can be in touch with people on a daily basis without getting overwhelmed. Look out for jobs with:
- A low level of stress - Avoid intense work places where there is a lot of pressure, as this will increase your anxiety.
- Low volume - Loud noises trigger feelings of fear in many people.
- Few interruptions - Too much multitasking is also often a source of anxiety. Look out for jobs that allow you to focus on one task at a time.
- Limited contact with other people - While you shouldn't have a job where you have to deal with people all the time (like a cashier or customer service representative), you shouldn't have one where you are completely isolated. Choose a job that focuses on individual contacts.
- Few group projects - group projects not only force you to interact with one another, but they can also increase insecurities and be another cause for fear.
Step 2. Find jobs that give you a lot of independence
Activities such as writing or computer programming are particularly suitable for out-of-touch people. But still make sure that you interact with people on a daily basis, otherwise such jobs can increase your fears. Some good activities that don't involve too much human contact but are still not lonely:
- Laboratory analyst
- Insurance statistician / accountant
- Financial analyst
- Building supervision
- Graphic designer
- Web designer
- Office cleaner
Step 3. Find jobs where you can interact 1 on 1 with people
Most people with a social phobia find it easier to deal with face-to-face contacts when you are only with one person at a time, without time pressure. A few jobs that encourage uninterrupted contact on a 1-to-1 basis are:
- Financial advisor
- Electrician, plumber, bricklayer, etc.
- Nanny or caregiver
Step 4. Look out for jobs that involve dealing with children, animals, or the outdoors
Childcare may seem stressful, but many people with a social phobia find it easier to be around children. Working with animals (veterinarian or animal shelter) or with nature (gardener, florist, environmental scientist, forest ranger) can also have a calming effect on people with a social phobia.
Part 2 of 3: Getting a job
Step 1. Focus on your skills, not your phobia
The most important thing in getting a job is to focus on what you have to offer. Remember: applying for a job is not a one-way street. You have to convince employers that you are a good candidate for the position, but they also have to convince you that the job is right for you.
Step 2. Don't feel like you need to mention your social phobia
Your cover letter, résumé and interviews are there to highlight your skills. There is no reason why you should mention your phobia or apologize for it. Remember, shy, calm people are generally considered to be more trustworthy, which is why your reluctance to use them during an interview can actually be an advantage. However, you may want to address your phobia if:
- You are applying for a job in a workplace that is known to hire people with disabilities and where diversity is encouraged. Being open with your employer can make your relationship a lot easier.
- You believe that your employer will notice your phobia and ask questions. If so, then admit your phobia and turn it positive. For example, “I'm a little nervous today, but I want to educate myself to perform when I'm nervous. It's the best way to develop and get better."
- You think you will need concessions, such as a less noisy office. (Your employer cannot charge you anything or pay you less for reasonable concessions). In order to benefit from the Disability Employment Act, you must submit an application to the competent authority and inform your employer about your disability and any concessions you may need.
Step 3. Prepare for job interviews
The best antidote to being nervous during an interview is perfect preparation. When negative thoughts come up - "I'm so scared …" … "I'm so nervous …" - then you can remember that you are well prepared.
- Be ready to address any gaps in your résumé - e.g.: "Yes, I had some part-time jobs until I realized I needed to develop my skills, which is why I did additional training." You can also address the trainings that you did between different jobs.
- Be ready to answer common questions: What is your biggest weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years? What are you interested in at this point? Why are you giving up your current job or have you given up your last position?
- Tell your answers like short stories. You should be able to tell a compelling story about your career path or specific skills that you have acquired. Always have concrete examples from real work situations at hand so that you can confirm your statements with them.
Step 4. Make contacts
Studies have shown that referrals are five to ten times as effective as applying directly to a company. Even so, establishing contacts can be difficult, especially for people with a social phobia. Here are a few tips on how to network yourself:
- Use LinkedIn. Connect with people who can help you there and keep your profile up to date.
- Organize yourself. Make a table of contact details for people you respect and would like to work with. Quality is more important than quantity here.
- Make an appointment to inquire again. Keep reminders in your calendar so that you can write to your contacts. It doesn't have to be a big deal. All you have to do is send a simple email asking how they are doing and whether there is anything you can do for them.
- Stay in touch in a creative way. Stay informed about your contacts on LinkedIn. When someone gets promoted or starts a new job, congratulate them. If you see a newspaper article or blog that someone might like, share the information. If you share a hobby, you can send the person articles about it.
- Say thanks. Don't forget to thank your contacts whenever you've taken their advice and it has helped you. A little gratitude goes a long way.
Part 3 of 3: Coping with a social phobia
Step 1. Talk to a therapist
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be very effective when it comes to mitigating social phobias. A therapist can help you identify your fears and teach you relaxation techniques to better deal with them. Step by step, your therapist can help you overcome your fears. In severe cases, antidepressants may be prescribed to lower your anxiety threshold and make therapy more effective. If you have a social phobia, the first thing you should do is contact a therapist.
Step 2. Learn coping strategies
Everyone knows fear. It is the body's natural response to stress or danger. Some people have an exaggerated reaction, either because of their disposition or because of experience. Fortunately, there are proven strategies you can use to control your phobia.
Step 3. Get to work early
Arriving early gives you time to get set up and prepare for the day. It is also much more likely that you will see people one by one if they gradually roll in - otherwise you would end up in an office where everyone is already there.
Step 4. Write down your thoughts and rate them
A social phobia is triggered by exaggerated fears: "Everyone is staring at me … This is going to be a disaster … I sound like an idiot." Writing these thoughts down will make it easier for you to spot the exaggerations and combat them. Replace these with realistic expectations.
For example, you may be supposed to give a lecture and worry that it will go bad - you will appear extremely nervous, no one will listen to you, etc. Replace these thoughts with more realistic assessments: I am well prepared and have put together a convincing lecture - if things don't go well, it's not the end of the world either
Step 5. Convert your phobia into excitement
The symptoms of your phobia - increased heart rate and breathing, increased alertness, a tendency to sweat - are more or less the same as the symptoms of excitement. This may sound trivial, but it makes a difference how you name your feelings. Do not think that you are afraid, think that you are excited. This creates more confidence than panic.
Step 6. Practice deep breathing
Deep, calm breathing has a calming effect that lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Do these breathing exercises at home regularly so that you have them ready when you want to combat your phobia:
- Slow Breathing - Inhale as you count to four, hold your breath for a second or two, and then exhale as you count to four. This is helpful to calm your nerves.
- Resistance Breathing - It also has a calming effect when you create resistance while breathing. You can do this by exhaling through your nose, by pursing your lips as you exhale (as if you were blowing air out), or by making a sound as you exhale (like "ohm" or the word "relax")
Step 7. Focus on the outside world
The fear increases when you observe your own performance: I am not convincing enough; My hands are wet with sweat; I am nervous; It's going to be a disaster. It can be helpful to focus your attention on the things around you. This will divert your attention from yourself on the one hand and concentrate on the present instead of fears about the future on the other.
- Describe the things around you - draw your attention to your surroundings: the carpet, the walls, the furniture. Describe it in detail, e.g.: "This table is made of oak, very stable, with a dark varnish." Sometimes it can also be helpful if you touch the things you are describing.
- Focus on the people around you - listen carefully to what they are saying. Pay attention to their behavior or clothing.
Step 8. Accept discomfort too
No matter how many coping skills you know, the truth is that at times you will be nervous. That's okay, it happens to all of us. Sometimes you have to accept discomfort in order to do something that's worth it. Focus on why you are taking on the task. For example: "I'm scared, but it's worth the job for me." Or: "I'm nervous, but it's worth promoting my career to me."