Choosing a Career for a Social Phobic: Getting Around the Fear of Going to Work

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Seeking Employment as a Social Phobic

If you are a social phobic, you know the severe and ongoing fear you feel in social and performance situations, as well as the embarrassment and humiliation you dread if you make a mistake. Aside from the difficulties you experience in forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships, you know the challenges you face in pursuing an education and choosing a career. Although your abilities to expand your personal network by establishing new relationships may be impaired, you do not need to let this limit valuable networking opportunities in obtaining employment. Networking enables job seekers to develop new relationships and build trust. Without the ability to network, you lose assistance from others who know you are looking for a job. You need to approach networking in a different way, though, to lessen your anxiety in interacting with others.

Networking with Social Phobia

To lessen your anxiety when networking, focus on what you have to offer others – valuable skills. If you are new to a field or are changing careers, consider your potential, your knowledge in other areas, and the skills you have developed from your training or studies. Approach networking from the perspective of what you can bring to others. By using this approach, you will let others feel like you are helping them, and they will not be too busy or feel as though you are using them. You will also be making others see you as a potential job candidate - if not today, then in the future.

Networking at large group events will undoubtedly pose significant challenges for individuals with social phobia. But they are important. Events, such as formal job seeker gatherings, reunions, workshops and seminars, and professional association meetings and conferences give job seekers opportunities to form new relationships. Worship services, hobby or sports clubs, and volunteering events offer chances to meet new contacts as well. Most of all, these events can lead to opportunities for more in-depth, one-on-one conversations. To reduce social fear at these events and lead others to join in your job search, use the following tips:

  • Before the event, find out who will attend if you can. If you want to talk to a specific person at the event, consider contacting them beforehand and arrange to connect while there.
  • Ask the event organizer to introduce you to people if fear holds you back from approaching them directly.
  • Repeatedly practice introducing yourself. Rehearse conversation starters and questions you have prepared in advance to avoid having to think on your feet.
  • Arrive ahead of the crowds and find people to talk to so you don’t have to approach groups.
  • Set a goal of the number of people you want to talk to and try to meet that goal.
  • Bring a friend to accompany you and to join in conversations if needed.
  • Pass out business cards or resumes.
  • Follow up with an e-mail or call to remind people you met about your conversations. Suggest another meeting to explain how you can help them meet their goals.

Once you have established a one-on-one meeting with a contact, you should not directly ask if any suitable positions exist for you. Rather, you should keep this conversation casual. You may want to update your contact on your job search or on your activities to keep your skills current. Initiating a discussion on current trends in the industry may also show your contact your interest and potential. While your hope for a specific outcome may not be fulfilled right away, you are getting your foot in the door and showing the value you can add to the workplace.

Possible Careers for Social Phobics

Of course, before you begin networking and searching for employment, you may have an idea of a particular field that interests you. If you do not, several career choices make good matches for individuals with social phobia. Although each choice varies with regards to the type of education or training required, all involve independent work with little or no need for social interaction. Examples of such careers include:

  • Writers - sit by themselves in front of the computer to produce their creative or informative work. With the convenience of the Internet, writers can sell their work online without having to interact personally with others.
  • Researchers - seek information from the endless sites on the Internet or from books and other hard-copy sources.
  • Archivists - organize and preserve documents for historical purposes.
  • Computer professionals - they can follow various career paths, from programmers to online instructors.
  • Security guards - they do encounter danger and occasionally the concentration levels are high as they watch for criminal acts. The job, however, offers quiet and solitude much of the time.
  • Mail carriers - spend time with coworkers and supervisors as they collect and sort mail at the post office. Most of their day, though, is spent independently making delivers.

Choosing and beginning a career for a social phobic can seem daunting. If you approach job searching activities, though, as an individual with valuable skills and talents, your fear may become secondary to what you have to offer others.


Beyond Psychology.

Camenson, Blythe. Careers for Introverts & Other Solitary Types. McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Gelberg, Wendy. “Job Search Networking for Introverts.”