As the academic year draws to a close, millions of students are all simultaneously thinking the same thing: "What next?"
For most of our lives, we've been hearing, "Work hard now, and the rest of your life will be set." Countless anecdotes spell out the same thing: "You can enjoy later." When you're in school, it's, "Wait for college," when you get to college it's, "Wait till you start earning money," when you get your first job it's, "Oh, everyone struggles at the beginning," and every other line out of the book, for all eternity, without any real answers or advice that isn't: it gets better, later. You come out of college utterly confused at the sudden amount of choices available to you and uncomfortable at the amount of pressure on you to make the right decision.
What is career anxiety?
It's normal and understandable to be anxious about big decisions. Career anxiety can be defined as feelings of anxiousness, worry, fear, etc., associated with work. Career anxiety affects people from all walks of life; students who just finished high school, young freshers who are at the very beginning of their careers, and even professionals who have been a part of the workforce for years. What's important is that we don't let this anxiety get into our heads and block our true potential.
Now that we have identified what exactly career anxiety is, here is a guide on how to effectively deal with it.
7 Steps to Deal with Career Anxiety:
1. Take a deep breath
When anxiety rears itself inside our heads, it's easy to get caught up in a downward spiral of how, when, where things will go wrong. It's essential to take a step back from the overwhelming feelings of despair in these moments. Taking a moment to slow down and understand the root cause of these emotions is beneficial in navigating a way out of the anxiety spiral. It's good to remind yourself that it's okay to press pause. Life will still be there when you get back to it, at your own pace.
2. Understand your wants
Everyone has an ideal career or ideal job that they think they want. Unfortunately, ideals are very rarely achievable. Placing importance on understanding what we want is crucial for dealing with career anxiety. In this fast-paced world ruled by competition, it is easy to get lost in the glitz and glam of high paying jobs. Questioning our reasons for choosing that career path gives us clarity. Yes, having money will solve many problems, but having to do a 9-5 where you feel stuck is not worth having all the money in the world.
3. Understand your skills
There will always be work that needs to be done. The question should be, 'is this work that I can do?' You can't ask an engineer to do open-heart surgery. Or ask a surgeon to make music. All careers are equally as important and have a certain level of skill required to excel at them. Understanding your skills and taking the time to practice and improve them helps you create a professional portfolio. It also helps us know whether all our skills apply to what career we have in mind. For example, someone who plays the guitar will not be able to transfer those skills over to their day job at an office. All skills don't have to necessarily serve a monetary purpose, but it's essential to distinguish the ones that do from those that don't.
It's critical to do ample research before committing to any specific role or field. Understand the ins and outs, the actual day-to-day work, the intensity, and precisely what is required from you. Being well-read about the role helps you be prepared for interviews. It also keeps your expectations to a realistic level.
5. Application in the real world
Research is an important step, but it's wasted if not correctly applied to reality. Using the knowledge acquired during the research process to your unique situation helps you better visualize your role if it is something YOU can do; if your situation allows you to put in your 100%. A lot of factors are out to the side when researching. Finances, travel, accessibility, etc., are all things that need to be taken into consideration when pursuing a specific job or degree. Research is the book smarts, and application is the street smarts. An equal balance of both is essential for a successful career.
6. Speak to people
Building connections is essential for every career. Speaking to people from the industry provides you with a clear impression of life in that specific industry. The lived experience of people who have similar careers or stories is valuable advice for a fresher who is just beginning to take those steps into their future. An open conversation about career and relevant advice is something you can always find here in our community at Now&Me where people come together to share their thoughts and feelings about where they are in their professional life. 'Knowledge is power' and having power in your arsenal assists you in building a solid base to start from.
7. Have faith in yourself
The most important step in dealing with career anxiety is having absolute, unwavering faith in yourself. Your anxiety can be your worst enemy, and it will try to break you down at every point. Having trust in yourself, your skills, and your ideas are the most significant aspect of having an excellent career. Anxiety will come and go; it's important to remember these steps to efficiently manage and get past the spiral.
Join our community to share your thoughts, feelings, as well as personal tips and tricks for what you do when faced with career anxiety.
How Can Now&Me help?
Now&Me provides a safe and supportive platform to connect with experienced mental health and self care professionals who can offer you guidance and support.
Our peer community is welcoming, non-judgmental, and inclusive, creating a warm and supportive environment to share your thoughts and feelings.