This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here
Finding a new job is a long and arduous process. There’s countless online applications, rejection emails, and in person interviews that you never hear back from.
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a fear of being negatively judged or evaluated by others. People with social anxiety disorder may experience intense feelings of anxiety and discomfort in situations where they are around other people.
This can make the job search even harder, since you are actually being judged by others, rather than just fearing it in your head.
It’s not uncommon for people with social anxiety disorder to avoid some or all social interaction, which can have a negative impact on their lives, especially when it comes to finding employment.
From my personal experience with social anxiety, I’ve put off searching for another job for years because of the emotional and mental toll that it has on me.
In this article, we cover some strategies for managing social anxiety disorder while searching for a job.
1. Carefully consider the type of job you want
Consider the type of job you want that fits your anxiety needs. For example, you may not want to be a cashier or go on sales calls. If you’re afraid of public speaking, telemarketing is a bad idea.
Job seekers with social anxiety also need to consider whether you want to work in a quiet office or a busy one, or even work at home. Some people with social anxiety find that a quiet workplace helps them do their job better. Others feel more comfortable in a busy environment where they can focus on their tasks without worrying about socializing.
In my previous role, I worked in an open floor plan office, with lots of people walking by my desk. I had constant anxiety that everyone was looking at what I was doing and judging it. When I transitioned to working from home, I found my focus improved immensely and I wasn’t exhausted at the end of each day.
If you have social anxiety, it can be helpful to work with a coach or therapist to help you decide what kind of job might work best for you and then come up with an action plan for how to get that job
2. Look for a workplace culture that supports your anxiety management
A workplace that has a high-performance culture can be especially stressful for someone with social anxiety. These workplaces emphasize hard work, the importance of being competitive, and the need to prove yourself to your boss and coworkers.
But there are workplaces out there that are more inclusive and supportive. They also value employees who take initiative, are willing to learn, and are eager to help out when needed.
So how do you find a supportive workplace? Here’s what you can do:
- Do some research on companies that have been known to have an inclusive workplace culture.
- Consider the types of jobs you’re interested in and research what those companies value.
- Use LinkedIn or Facebook to reach out to people who work at these companies– they might be able to give you more insight into your potential fit there!
This is a graph of major categories of workplace culture types:
3. Look for a job while you still have one
If you can, try to find a job while you are still employed. This way, the job search process while be less stressful. Rather than worrying if you’ll move on to the next step in time to make a rent payment while unemployed, each rejection will just be a disappointing email. It can really be the difference between a stressful, exhausting process, and one where you feel comfortable waiting to find the perfect role.
You can see from reddit user ogdoc’s graph of his job search that he had to go through more than a hundred applications before getting only 2 offers
Here are some of the things that I did to make my job search less stressful and more productive:
1. Create a list of qualities that you enjoy and dislike about your current job. Using this list, you can quickly filter out roles and companies that don’t seem like a good fit.
2. Make use of your network before your resume goes out into the world. Before sending out my resume (and even after), I made sure to talk with people in my network who might be able to help me find a job or practice interviewing skills with them.
This helped me feel prepared before I started looking. It also helped me get feedback on how my resume looked and what I could do to improve it (e.g., bullet points vs paragraphs).
If possible, try to find friends or family members who work at companies where you want to work, or try volunteering at those companies so that they can see your potential first-hand and recommend you when an opportunity arises.
3. If your current employer offers any kind of training or mentoring program, take advantage of it. This will make it easier to jump into your next job, and the skills you learn can also help you land a higher-paying position.
4. Prepare for the interview
If you have social anxiety disorder, you know that it can make even the most basic tasks seem like a challenge. And when it comes to job interviews, the thought of walking in and facing a room full of strangers is enough to send your anxiety through the roof.
In fact, performing poorly in front of others is one of the most common fears that people with social anxiety have.
Here’s a video from Linda Rayner, a career strategist and coach, with tips on how to manage your nerves during interviews:
One way to get over this fear is to learn more about the interview process and what you can do to prepare for your job interview. The more you know about the interview process, the less frightening any aspect of it will seem.
You can usually find this information in the job listing or on your potential employer’s website. Make sure you know exactly where you’ll be going and how long it will take to get there. If possible, try to visit the location ahead of time so that you can familiarize yourself with the building and parking lot. If not, try driving by ahead of time so that when you actually go in for your interview, you aren’t getting lost or stressed out about being late.
When practicing your interview skills, remember to practice nonverbal cues such as eye contact and hand gestures so that they will be second nature when the time comes for the real thing. You want to make sure that these nonverbal cues are natural so that they don’t come across as forced or fake during your actual job interview.
Of course, being prepared for the logistics of each interview won’t help as much during the actual interview. So its important to get ready for the main event.
5. Practice your answers to common questions
Here’s what to do:
Find out what questions are likely to come up in the interview and make sure you’re ready to answer them. You can find some sample questions at the end of this article.
Practice your answers out loud. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident when it comes time for the real thing.
Practice with a friend or family member who can give you feedback on your answers. You want to know how well you’re answering the questions so that you can improve them before the interview.
Try to relax before the interview. If you feel nervous, take a few deep breaths and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Then try to put yourself in a positive mindset by thinking about all of your qualifications for the job, how much you want it, and why it’s so important for you to get it. This will help reduce your anxiety when it comes time for the interview!
Practicing these steps will help make sure that when an interviewer asks a question that catches you off guard or makes you feel uncomfortable, you’ll be able to respond as best as possible without letting the anxiety get to you.
6. Don’t push your comfort zone too far
With social anxiety disorder, it’s important to be careful about how and when you push your comfort zone. If you push too far too fast, you may end up feeling more anxious than if you hadn’t tried at all.
For example, if you’re going to a job event, don’t just show up and start talking to people. Try to get there early so that you can practice interacting with people before the event starts. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Use the time before the event starts warm up your social skills by talking with the receptionist or other staff members.
- Walk around the venue and introduce yourself to people who look busy.
- If possible, try to find a friend who has social anxiety and go to the event together. This way, one of you can help calm the other when things get tough (which they inevitably will).
During my own job search, I could handle interviews well enough, but social events were terrifying. When I stayed for hours, or talked with many people, I felt emotionally drained afterwards and on edge the rest of the day.
Now, I’ve accepted that pushing myself harder wouldn’t fix this problem, and I set my goals for these events at a much smaller scale. I determine to make an appearance, and talk with only a handful of the interview team before excusing myself. That way, I could still connect with the interviewers and show interest in the company without being pushing my emotional state too far.
7. Run through job search scenarios that will trigger your anxiety
By practicing how to handle job-search scenarios that cause your anxiety, you’ll feel more confident and in control of the situation. Being exposed to stressful scenarios, even practice ones, can show us that hypothetical worst case scenarios in our heads are actually not as bad and actually manageable.
Here are some steps to take:
1. Write down 5-10 things that you think will make you anxious when searching for jobs. For example: “I might look stupid because I don’t know what I’m doing,” or “I might get rejected for not being good enough.”
2. Practice each of these scenarios at least once and rate how anxious it makes you feel on a scale from 1-10 (1 = very little anxiety, 10 = extreme anxiety). Ask yourself how much time you want to spend feeling this level of anxiety. If it feels like too much, then plan to spend less time doing this practice exercise next time.
3. After practicing each scenario several times and rating your anxiety level each time, try doing the scenario again without the rating scale. How much do you feel now? Rate it on a scale from 1-10 (1 = very little anxiety, 10 = extreme anxiety). Keep practicing until it feels comfortable (8 or less).
4. Then move on to the next scenario and repeat until all scenarios feel comfortable.
If any scenarios still make you anxious after practicing them several times, try finding ways to make them more comfortable (for example: “What if I practiced with an online service instead of talking to a person?”) until they aren’t so uncomfortable anymore.
8. Reward your successes during the job search
If you’re suffering from social anxiety, you know how hard it is to go out and talk to people. But if you’re looking for a job, you can’t just sit at home. You need to go out and actually talk to people! So how can you make this easier?
Reward yourself for each interaction during the job search. For example, if you just finished a stressful phone interview, treat yourself to a cup of coffee or something else that makes you happy.
In the same way that rewarding yourself for a workout can help you stick to a fitness routine, rewarding yourself for making progress in your job search can help you stay motivated and keep going.
9. Practice Positive Self-Talk in Your Daily Life
The job search process has a lot of uncertainty, and it can be easy to blame ourselves for not getting the job or picking apart every answer we gave during an interview to find our mistakes. Practicing positive self-talk can help you to be more resilient to this.
Positive self-talk is a great way to overcome anxiety in the workplace. Whenever you have a negative thought, replace it with a positive one. This will help you catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control.
For example, if you say “I’m so stupid” when getting angry at yourself for making a mistake, try to replace that thought with a more realistic one like “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”
If you catch yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, try to replace that thought with something more realistic and productive (like “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I can prepare for it today”).
10. Practice Mindfulness
There are many ways to treat social anxiety, and one of them is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of what you’re doing, and it’s been proven to help with a variety of mental issues.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. One effective method is meditation.
Here’s how to practice mindfulness through meditation:
Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for between 5 and 20 minutes. This could be your bed, couch, or even just a chair. Make sure that you won’t be disturbed during this time.
Sit with your back straight and your eyes closed or looking down at the floor. Focus on your breathing by paying attention to each breath as it comes in and goes out.
Try to notice the feeling of the air as it enters your nose, travels down your throat, and fills your lungs. Then try to notice when the air leaves your body as you exhale through your mouth or nose. Don’t try to change anything about this process — just observe it without judgment.
If you are too distracted by thoughts, simply bring yourself back into the present by focusing again on your breathing. Keep doing this for at least 5 minutes (and up to 20 minutes if you like). You may find that after a few minutes, thoughts start coming up that make it hard for you to stay focused on breathing — this is normal! Just keep bringing yourself back into focus on each breath until the time is up.