Imagine going to work and feeling as if every day were your first day on the job. The butterflies, the sweating, the hyperventilating — there are all there to greet you as soon as you step into your workplace. Sounds terrifying, right? Well, if you suffer from social anxiety, you probably know what I'm talking about. But not every job has to be that way!
In this article, I discuss some of the best careers for social anxiety which won't make your life a living nightmare. But before diving in, let's first understand what social anxiety is and how it takes its toll on life.
WHAT’S SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER?
Most of us suffer from social anxiety to some degree, especially when you consider that Americans fear public speaking even more than death! But people actually diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) take fear to a whole new level.
Far from mere shyness, those afflicted with SAD live in complete fear of interacting with strangers and sometimes even loved ones.
It's become a serious, recognized mental condition affecting about 15 million American adults (roughly 7% of the population).
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One of the unfortunate consequences of SAD is that you miss out so much on life by constantly passing up social invitations or work opportunities for fear of being rejected, embarrassed, ridiculed, criticized or judged in some way.
As someone suffering from a chronic illness, I know a thing or two about seeing life pass you by and it can be terribly hard to come to grips with at times.
Still, whether we like it or not, we all need to find a way to make a living despite our hardships, right? (Unless, of course, we're completely debilitated). Fortunately, there are options for social anxiety sufferers but before I get to them, let's touch on some tips to help you in your search...
I'm not anti-social. I'm just not social. – Woody Allen #socialanxiety
TIPS ON CHOOSING A CAREER
Pick the Right Work Environment
The environment of a workplace should get as much consideration as the career itself. So, look for surroundings that have:
- Low stress
- Low noise
- Few distractions
- Few group projects/activities
Now, most careers don't meet all these criteria but the ones listed in this article meet at least one or more.
Look for Fixed Standards
Don't ALL jobs have standards? Well, sure. But some jobs like computer programming have fixed standards where something like computer code either works or doesn't.
In contrast, the standards in careers like advertising are more subjective. As such, it's much harder to predict how conversations will go with your boss and co-workers in regards to your work. Will you be judged or praised? You never know in a career like advertising. But in a job with fixed standards, there are fewer surprises.
Give Yourself the Chance to Improve
I'm probably not the first to tell you that attempting to avoid ALL social interaction only reinforces your fear. By imagining people talking badly behind your back, you never get to experience the other possibility — people actually appreciating who you are and what you do.
While therapy can help, the best way to overcome this fear is to get out into the world and practice (easier said than done, I know!) But it doesn't mean throwing yourself into a customer service or retail job as that would probably overwhelm you.
Instead, you want to take baby steps to increase the amount of human interaction over time, which is what most careers listed in this article offer.
Now, in order to take these baby steps, you need some tricks on how to survive work in the first place...
TIPS TO HELP GET THROUGH THE WORK DAY
Get To Work Early
Getting to work before anyone else does makes it possible to avoid the stares from your co-workers as you walk through the door, which can send you into a state of panic! Arriving early also gives you more time to mentally prepare for the interactions you expect to have that day.
Break Your Day Into Small Chunks
The thought of surviving a full, 8-hour work day can seem daunting. But by breaking the day into 30-minute chunks, it suddenly becomes more manageable. Getting through this short period of time becomes your main focus, without concern for what comes afterward.
Focus On Your Task
It's easy to concentrate on tasks when there are challenging; the trick is to pay attention when there are boring. Why?...
Because your mind is more likely to wander and ruminate on fears when doing mind-numbing stuff.
One of the best ways to bring the "monkey mind" to a halt is by practicing mindfulness — the process of being hyper-aware of what you're doing in the present moment while acknowledging and accepting whatever feelings or thoughts arise.
BEST CAREERS FOR PEOPLE WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY
The professions listed below are good choices for someone afflicted with social anxiety but there are not perfect and I've noted why. There are also several professions I chose not to include for a couple reasons:
- There are jobs instead of careers (e.g., kennel operator).
- There are dying careers like truck driving, warehouse/inventory management, and librarianship (which is what I have my graduate degree in...oops! Well, that and Information Science, which proved more valuable in the end). After all, what's the point of investing in college or trade school when the field you plan to enter is on track to become obsolete?
With that said, here are some careers worth considering...
Dog Trainer | Pet Stylist | Veterinary Technician | Zoo Keeper
A career working with animals can be especially rewarding if you're an animal lover. Plus, there's less human interaction than other careers (unless you're a veterinarian). Of those mentioned, zoo keeping has the least amount of face-to-face time.
Computer Programmer | Quality Assurance/Software Tester
If you're great at problem-solving and focusing for long stretches of time, a career in computer programming or QA could be a good fit for you. It's among the best examples of a career with fixed standards and you won't have to spend much time with people.
Contrary to what some articles suggest, I don't believe Graphic Design is a good computer-based career for someone with SAD. First, its standards are too subjective and second, it involves too many meetings with clients discussing endless details.
Hotel Receptionist | Office Cleaner | Security Guard
Taking the graveyard shift for any number of jobs is a good choice because you'd have fewer interactions with people and sometimes even none at all (e.g., office cleaner). But there are safety concerns when working during the night, especially for security guards.
Firefighter | 911 Dispatcher
Do you notice something missing here? Yes, Police Officers. That's because the fine people in blue interact with the public A LOT, which makes it a bad choice for someone with SAD. Firefighters, in contrast, hardly deal with the public at all.
Firefighting is also a good choice because of the number of days off between jobs, giving you time to recuperate not just from the job itself but from your social anxiety as well.
Now, if there ever was a career requiring laser-like focus, a 911 dispatcher would be it. And with such intense levels of concentration required, it's easier to keep your fears at bay. Plus, you won't have to engage in idle chit-chat since far more pressing matters demand your attention!
Columnist | Copywriter | Speechwriter | Technical Writer
There are many aspiring professional writers which is why writing has become so competitive in the internet era. Still, some fields are easier to get into than others including technical writing and copywriting. Generally speaking, the more specialized you are (e.g., product manuals), the better your chances of breaking into the industry.
Ideally, you'd want to freelance, right? But before attempting to strike out on your own, try to get some experience working for a company first. This way, you can work on improving your social anxiety while gaining the skills needed to land freelance gigs on sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, and Upwork.
For more information about becoming a freelance writer, read this post.
Managing the bookkeeping for clients is a straight numbers job where contact with people is limited. It's also another good example of a career with fixed standards.
For many people suffering from SAD, the office environment is one of the worst places to be stuck in. That's why something like landscaping sounds appealing — you're outside all the time with little human interaction. Having said that, you will have to deal with difficult clients on occasion who routinely change their minds about what they want.
Electrician | Plumber
If you want a great salary AND independence, train to become an electrician or plumber. And unlike landscaping, clients are generally less fussy since it’s tough to have an opinion about something which they don’t understand! 😉
Affiliate Marketer | Blogger | eCommerce | Dropshipping
Interacting with people isn't the real issue for social anxiety sufferers — it's interacting with people IN PERSON. By working online from home, you no longer have to face this fear. Now, this probably sounds great but it doesn't give you a chance to improve like an office full of people would. That's why it's important to find a way to interact with people every day, even if it just means going to Starbucks while working on your laptop.
Consider this, as an online worker, you won't have to live up to anyone's standard except the one you place on yourself. You're in total control!
If you're ready to start an online career doing something you love, I can show you how!
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
How has having social anxiety affected YOUR working life? What are some of the best jobs for people with social anxiety disorder I've missed? Leave your comments below!