The bottom line is that social anxiety may seem to discount the vast majority of careers but in reality should be no barrier to success.
Quite apart from the fact that some of the world’s most successful performers (including Scarlett Johansson, Adele and Johnny Depp) have overcome crippling stage fright and panic attacks and some of the world’s top businessmen and entrepreneurs (including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) have made millions despite anxiety, there are also plenty of jobs out there to suit every type of person.
It’s also vital to remember not to be defined by your social anxiety – you will also have plenty of attributes at which you excel, which are in demand and from which you can craft a career. But for starters, I thought I’d at last start with three types of jobs for someone with social anxiety disorder:
1. Working from Home:
Possibly the biggest breakthrough for people seeking a career which can work alongside their social anxiety has been the advent of the internet and the ability to work from home. Where once a regular pay packet necessitated turning out each day from nine-to-five in a workshop or office and performing duties alongside other people with similar skills, global connectivity means you can work from wherever you live, for whomever you want. Working from home jobs used to come with the stigma of scams and cons, but if you have a skill such as writing, marketing, programming or graphic design there are now a host of websites where you can pitch for work from home. Check out Elance, Freelancer, oDesk, Peopleperhour, or Fiverr to see what’s on offer and to put yourself out there. The added beauty of freelancing from home via the internet is that you can work for companies all around the world – for example, if you’re based in Australia or New Zealand then when a company in Europe needs work done “overnight” it will actually fall into your timezone’s work hours.
2. Self Employed:
Many people who live with social anxiety tend to think it will limit their career aspirations. This is often because they have a blinkered view of what work is – considering the daily grind of office, factory or labouring jobs to be the be-all-and-end-all of earning. In fact, choosing a career on your own terms can be a great way to fulfil your earning potential while also accommodating your anxiety. Being self-employed allows you to choose your career to suit your expertise – whether that’s landscape gardening, running your own shop, importing goods, or cleaning houses. The trick is to come up with a business model in which you do exactly what you’re best at and which allows you to hire other people for the aspects of the job which you don’t like. For example, if you set up a haulage company you might want to concentrate on the logistics and accounts if you’re good with numbers and practical while you can always hire other people for the driving, marketing and sales. And if you’re a one-person business then being self-employed gives you the ability to control how, when and where you deal with your clients and customers.
3. Internet Technology (IT):
It has become something of a cliché to say that IT professionals aren’t always the most socially vibrant of people, but the simple fact of the matter is that they are hired for their technical ability and programming skills rather than being adept at talking to large meetings. Understanding how the back end of software works or how to disassemble an iBook is also the type of skill which comes from being interested in computers in the first place – something which often runs hand-in-hand with social anxiety because of their usefulness in connecting shy people with the outside world.
How to Fit Into a Team?
Most companies will have jobs suitable to people who are shy or who have social anxiety – the trick is to find out how you can fit into their setup. For example, in retail you might find it tough to work as a cashier with a long line of people to serve all the time but you could always work in accounts or restocking shelves. One of the toughest career challenges to overcome when you suffer with social anxiety is being judged and appraised in your work – try to find jobs with set standards so you’re not surprised each time your manager talks to you about your performance. Equally, many companies need self-starters who can work on their own – for example meter-readers, field researchers, delivery drivers, couriers and gardeners. Once you’re part of a larger organisation, you will have more of a chance to push your boundaries and work on overcoming your social anxiety.
What do you think are the best jobs for someone suffering from social anxiety? I’d love to hear your feedback.
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All the best, Kyle