Living with social anxiety is no small feat. This condition can impact a person’s ability to make and keep relationships and even has a large effect on one’s ability to choose a career path.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines social anxiety as a chronic mental health disorder in which everyday interactions (like buying a cup of coffee, answering a phone call or placing an order at a restaurant) cause irrational levels of anxiety, self-consciousness, embarrassment and paranoia.
As a condition that affects approximately 15 million Americans, it’s no wonder that those who suffer from social anxiety are always looking to find a career that minimizes symptoms. Below we will share 9 great job options for people with social anxiety.
What’s it Like Working With Social Anxiety?
In the vast majority of industries, human interaction is unavoidable. Some jobs are even centered entirely on talking to people, such as being a receptionist, a cashier, waitress or a news reporter.
Picture yourself as someone who doesn’t suffer from social anxiety, and you need to call someone. You simply pick up the phone and dial the number if the person on the other end answers, great! If not, you just leave a message and wait for the call to be returned.
Now, as someone living with social anxiety, picture having to make that same exact phone call. The thought of initiating a conversation may make your stomach churn, increase your heart rate and breathing and lead to sweating in the palms.
It may take you an hour or more to be able to pick up that phone. You may need to pace, make a cup of tea, and dial the number several times before going through with it. And even after you’ve made that step, you still hope that the call goes to voicemail because you’re terrified of the conversation.
If you’re someone who is terrified of interviews and phone calls, would prefer an email conversation anyway, and just generally dreads interaction with other people-- we have good news.
Advice from the Experts
We reached out to a handful of mental health and job experts and they have some insight into the best jobs and healthy ways to navigate the workforce if you are dealing with social anxiety.
Haley Neidich, an online therapist, and licensed mental health counselor suggests “the best jobs for people with social anxiety are ones in which they can work one-on-one with others or in small groups. Typically avoiding roles where they have to give presentations or be on display is best.”
Neidich continues, “working in an isolating job without any social interaction is not ideal as it does not force the individual to grow and work on improving the underlying anxiety.”
While Risa Williams, licensed therapist (LMFT) in Los Angeles and online life coach specializing in anxiety, shares, “when you have social anxiety, it’s good to become mindful of what your anxiety triggers are in terms of work. This requires becoming observant of your thoughts and reactions on a consistent basis.”
Williams elaborates, “while your instinct may be to isolate yourself and work from home, some people can also find the daily isolation causes anxiety, too. However, the more you can build in lots of positive self-talk into your daily ritual, the more you can manage your anxiety in a healthy way no matter where you work.”
Samuel Johns, HR Specialist and Hiring Manager at Resume Genius, shares “rewarding jobs for someone with social anxiety include any that allow them to gradually take on new challenges, such as giving presentations to increasingly larger audiences or speaking on the phone, preferably guided by their counselor, who can tie the new challenges in with their therapy.”
Brad Lensa, Chief Content Officer at Lensa, a job board that uses AI and machine learning to match people to jobs they love, offers some advice from personal experience pairing individuals with social anxiety in a role where they thrive.
Lensa says, “while sales might not seem like an obvious choice, call center jobs that follow a very strict script can be an excellent way for a socially anxious person to have ‘normal conversations.’ The strict sale or research script provides an opportunity for person-to-person interaction without experiencing the stress of managing the discussion." He also encourages you to “remember that you have a bounty of skills and traits to offer that go above and beyond your social anxiety. Don’t let it box you in but see it as just one of the things that make you a brilliant individual.”
There are careers out there that you will flourish in if you have social anxiety and we are here to share some options with you!
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Jobs in the Tech Field for People with Social Anxiety
The great thing about computers is that they aren’t nearly as intimidating as people are. If you’re looking for a suitable career change, consider the world of computers and IT.
While becoming a computer programmer usually requires a bachelor's degree and some sort of certification, the education is well worth the investment for someone looking to work with computers.
This career choice involves writing the code and programs that make a computer run. Computers speak in their own language, so programmers need to become fluent in a coding language like C++ or Java.
The great news for people with social anxiety is that this is a largely independent job, with little to no interaction with other people.
Working in information technology (IT) is a very similar field to computer programming. These careers require the same level of education and training to be successful, and IT specialists have the same luxury of working largely away from the public.
The possibilities are endless for specializing in your IT job. You could work in mobile application development, information security, database management and more.
An IT expert is always working towards seamless communication between devices and network connections. While it sounds pretty simple, these processes require constant troubleshooting and can still have an element of human interaction.
This is a great option for people who get uncomfortable having face-to-face conversations but don’t mind when the person they’re talking to can’t physically see them. Communicating through a telephone takes pressure off of navigating eye contact and body language.
Although often faceless, tech support workers do spend most of their time interacting with the public. They are on the other end of the phone to answer questions when a computer, phone or another piece of technology stops working.
Unlike previous career choices, tech support does not always require a degree. And, as an added bonus, a lot of larger companies even offer tech support positions remotely.
Working With Animals is Good for Social Anxiety
Where humans might make someone with social anxiety quite nervous, animals tend to have the opposite effect. If you struggle with social anxiety and cringe at the thought of interacting with people all day, consider working with animals instead.
Who doesn’t love heartwarming stories of animals getting a second chance at life?
Animal rescue is full of them. A day in the life of someone who works in animal rescue might include being out in the field, facilitating the rescues or tending to the animals after they’ve been retrieved. Similarly, you could work in a pet adoption agency and help prepare rescued animals for adoption.
Working in animal rescue is very rewarding but is not for the faint-hearted. You will witness animals in all conditions. Some will experience miraculous victories, while others will not. And while most of your time will be spent loving on animals, you should also be prepared to interact with angry pet owners from time to time.
If being on the front lines of animal rescue sounds too heavy for you, grooming is another great animal-oriented career. Groomers enjoy fewer uncomfortable encounters with pet owners and the ability to spend their days hanging out with cats and dogs. And sure, you might not be Fluffy’s favorite person at first, but you can win affection with gentleness, consistency and lots of treats.
There’s not much out there for formal education in animal grooming, and most employers are willing to hire candidates with a high school diploma. Although, in some areas, you may be asked to complete a 10-week long apprenticeship before you can get your hands in some poodle fur.
Imagine spending your day with graceful, silent swimmers. Fish, sharks and jellyfish are beautiful to watch. Couple that with the calming effects of water itself, and you have a perfect field for those of us made uncomfortable by human-oriented jobs.
Different careers in the aquatic world require different levels of education and training. For example, to become an intern or assistant, a high school diploma may be enough. But a college degree is required for more advanced career opportunities like marine biology or aquatic field technician.
Other Jobs for Social Anxiety
If technology or animals still aren’t quite your thing, don’t worry! The job options for people who have social anxiety haven’t run out yet. Here are some other career prospects that might appeal to you.
Are you a master of the written word?
Consider making a career out of your love of writing. In this modern age, freelance writers can easily make money outside of a traditional office space.
This job can be mostly solitary, with independent work schedules and minimal need for human conversation. Writers can choose to spend their day in a coffee shop, park or from the comfort of your home.
It’s important to keep in mind that writers have to be receptive to feedback from their clients, readers and editors. While we always hope that this feedback will be as kind as it is constructive, all writers should be comfortable receiving that feedback, no matter how critical it is.
Do you find yourself admiring flower arrangements in the flowerbeds on your city sidewalks? Have you always been curious about how to grow more of your own fresh produce and herbs at home to minimize supermarket shopping?
If the answer is yes, then working in horticulture may be the perfect path for you. The best part of this field is that plants are less nerve-wracking than people.
Like working with animals, the possibilities of working with plants are endless, depending on how much training and education you’re willing to commit. You could make flower arrangements at your local floral shop or even go as far as working with horticulturists on maximizing crop yields, making new plant hybrids and hunting for rare plant samples out in the field.
Working with Children
For some people, the discomfort of having to talk to and interact with people is adult-specific.
Children communicate with us in very different ways. They tend to be less concerned with the way you talk or look and more interested in just spending time with you.
For that reason, people with social anxiety can be more comfortable playing with children than they are talking to adults. Kids, after all, just want someone to exercise their imagination with—no sales pitches, no interviews, no pressure—just fun.
Another facet of working with children is caring for infants. Some people who struggle with conversation find comfort in the nurturing and caretaking of very young babies. And although a medical degree is required, there is an ever-growing need for people to work in NICU and Labor & Delivery.
Finding Your Ideal Job Environment as a Social Anxiety Sufferer
One of the biggest struggles of social anxiety is finding the balance between not letting it define you and accommodating our daily lives so that we aren’t miserable.
The first step in finding a career that doesn’t make you uncomfortable is taking stock on what interactions are most agitating for you. Is it phone calls, meetings, or interviews? Or is it physical contact (like handshakes) that makes you uncomfortable?
Once you’ve identified the characteristics of a job that you don’t want, you can start the hunt for a career that would be perfect for you.
Save yourself time and money by doing plenty of research and finding testimonies of other people who have worked in a field before deciding on a college.
Remember, not all careers require a degree. And be sure to talk to your mental health professional if you need more direction.
Happy job hunting!
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