If even the thought of job searching and all the networking it will require makes you feel anxious, you aren’t alone. Social anxiety when job searching is a problem for many people.
If you’ve ever gone to an event requiring you to interact and network with others and have found yourself standing awkwardly in the corner of the room while everyone else chats and makes connections seemingly with ease, you know something about social anxiety. Or maybe you know of a person you need to connect with to achieve your job search goals, but you procrastinate and put it off because calling someone cold makes you unbearably anxious. This, too, is a sign of social anxiety.
Many people experience anxiety about social interactions and situations. Whether you worry about meeting new people, attending a group interview, eating in front of others, or interacting with prospective employers, social anxiety can cause significant problems in your job search if you do not learn how to manage and control it.
The Social Anxiety Institute defines social anxiety as “the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.” According to the institute, approximately 7% of the population suffers from some form of social anxiety at any given time.
The more anxiety you feel in the many social situations required for a successful job search, the more likely you are to avoid them, which increases your worry. However, avoidance is not a coping strategy. Instead, there are healthier, more productive ways to lower your social anxiety when job searching, and we have compiled 12 helpful tips.
Overcome Job Searching Social Anxiety
Practice deep breathing.
This technique is effective at helping reduce anxiety from many different sources. When you practice it regularly and know when to engage it, it can immediately lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate, which are physiological signs of anxiety. Regular practice helps make the technique second nature, which means you will feel comfortable using it whenever you need it.
Plan ahead, so you know what to talk about.
Worrying that you’ll have nothing intelligent to say is one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of any social situation. This is especially important when trying to make a positive first impression during a job search. Planning can make all the difference. Actually write a script, preparing ahead with phrases or questions you can start with. Then take the time to practice saying them in front of a mirror so that you don’t get tongue-tied when you’re in front of someone new. Preparation is half the battle here, and if you know what you want to say ahead of time, you significantly reduce the chances that you’ll get flustered.
Focus on realistic thinking.
If you are generally anxious in social situations, you tend to have negative thoughts about what might happen in these circumstances. Most of your worries are not based on real facts, though. So first, write down your thoughts about social interactions when job searching, including what you worry about most. Next, evaluate which are based on known facts or reality and if they are not, rewrite them to be more accurate and helpful. Look these over frequently.
Stop trying to be perfect.
A great deal of anxiety when job searching comes from our expectations of ourselves. If you find yourself caught up in that nervous spiral of things not being exactly as you planned, don’t despair. When you try to fight a panic attack, or worse, pretend it’s not there, it will only escalate. Things seem more out of control the more you focus on them. Instead, acknowledge that you have anxiety, and then remind yourself that it always ends and it’s nothing you can’t handle. Go to a quiet place where you can be alone to “embrace” the anxiety until it passes.
Remember that it is okay if someone does not like you.
Anxiety can create unrealistic expectations for yourself and others. Do you like every person you meet? Of course not! So, why should you expect everyone to like you? And just like you feel uncomfortable in social situations, other people have their own baggage and issues, too. No one is perfect, including you, so do not be afraid to be yourself and let others accept you for who you are.
Face your fears.
When you have social anxiety about job searching, it is reasonable to want to avoid that trigger. But this is only a short-term solution that can have long-term impacts on your career. Instead of avoiding the many social interactions associated with job searching, you should face them and embrace them. The more often you engage in the activities that make you anxious, the easier it will become. Start small, but each tiny step will help you work past your fear and learn to embrace the social interactions essential to your long-term career success.
Practice your assertiveness.
When you feel comfortable expressing your needs and opinions, you will be more confident in all social situations. Practice using “I” statements when you communicate your feelings to help you feel more confident. Calmly state your position in such a way as to assure good listening. Use a confident voice, and always make eye contact. Also, watch your tone when speaking. Do you speak so softly that nobody can hear you? Does your voice quiver and make it obvious you are anxious? Practice by recording your voice on your smartphone, then playing it back to yourself.
Work on your body language.
Your nonverbal communication skills can help you reduce your anxiety and communicate a more positive attitude to others. For example, stand with a relaxed posture that is somewhat open, rather than slouching, looking down, or standing tensely. Make eye contact to show others you are interested in them. When you show your openness and willingness toward others, they will respond in kind
If the thought of walking into an already-crowded room scares you, arrive early. It is intimidating to walk into a roomful of people. By arriving early, you will get to greet people one at a time. This can help set the tone for the event and allow you to begin in a more relaxed state.
Make the most of your strengths.
Use the things you are good at to your advantage. For example, maybe you’re not good at small talk, but you’re excellent at telling jokes. Start looking for an opportunity to inject a little humor into conversations. Maybe you’re fantastic at putting outfits together, so you came in looking your best. Remind yourself that your outfit is fabulous. By focusing on your strengths, you ramp up your confidence level, which then spills over into all your other job search interactions.
Call to mind a favorite motivational quote, or pull up some on your phone to read. Reminding yourself of something positive will help ease your job searching anxiety.
See a therapist or work with a career coach.
If your anxiety prevents you from doing the things you need to do to achieve your career goals, it is time to get some help. Working with a job search coach may provide the support you need. Or, if your social anxiety is more severe, find a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders.