Career anxiety

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March 4, 2021
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min read

In a world where job opportunities are more plentiful than ever, it's not uncommon to wonder if your chosen career is right for you. Nor is it wrong to feel unhappy or overwhelmed in your current job.

From millennials to baby boomers, feelings of anxiety can arise for any number of reasons in your professional life. But how can you tell if it's actually career anxiety and not just temporary stress over deadlines, challenging projects, or pressure from your boss?

Let's look at what career anxiety is and what job seekers can do to overcome it over the course of their careers.

Career anxiety or stress?

If you're experiencing constant feelings of anxiety and doubt about your career, then it may be something more than just temporary stress. Career anxiety refers to continuous feelings of worry, apprehension, and self-doubt about your current job.

It can start with you questioning your own ability to do the job and can lead you to overthinking every one of your career choices. If anxious thoughts about work are constantly running through your head and having an impact your day-to-day life and productivity, then it's probably more than just the manageable stress of everyday life.

It is often said that a little bit of stress is good; it can help motivate you, promote problem solving, and encourage you to prioritize. But when you notice it pervading every aspect of your job then the many negative effects are inevitably going to outweigh the positive, and that's what distinguishes career anxiety from other, less pervasive types of stress.

If you're dealing with new and confusing worries about work, a good way to determine whether or not it's career anxiety is to ask yourself, 'Can I see myself in this job five years from now?' If the thought of staying on your current career path with the current leaders and people working there scares you, then it's worth taking the time to make sense of your anxieties and where they're coming from.

What can cause it?

The first step towards dealing with career anxiety is to identify the root of the problem. The fast-paced nature of many jobs can make this a little harder to pin down for some people, but it's helpful to think about when these doubts and anxieties arose in the first place.

Was it like this since day one? Or did something happen which has been bothering you or creating fear or stress ever since?

A change in your work life

Sometimes a change in your usual work routine can bring up anxieties that weren't there before. Even something which should be exciting, a promotion for example, can cause some people to doubt themselves and their abilities.

t's totally normal to be wary of change and to feel uncomfortable for a while. But if it causes nagging doubt that doesn't seem to go away, you might start to feel anxious about your career and question whether your role is the right fit for you.

Financial worries

If bills start piling up or unexpected payments arise, fear over your financial situation can start to spill over into your professional life. It's natural for money problems to make you question your career or think you've made the wrong choice of job or role. Even if you are financially secure, being anxious about layoffs or lack of job security can contribute to any and all doubts you're already feeling.

Comparing yourself to others

With social media making it easier than ever to get a glimpse into other people's lives, it can be hard not to compare yourself with everyone else's seemingly perfect careers. Seeing friends or even strangers posting on Facebook about their dream jobs can make you start to feel anxious about your own. But comparing yourself to others is one of the most common sources of unhappiness, and this can affect your confidence in your own career prospects.

Ways you can overcome it

Once you've figured out the possible reasons for your anxiety or nerves, dealing with it will be a whole lot easier. It's important to note that any mental health issues such as anxiety disorder are best dealt with by seeking help from a professional, but there are also some helpful tips for coping with work-related anxiety by yourself.

One of the best ways to cope with anxiety about your work life is to think about what it's actually telling you. Is the workload too much and you're struggling to keep up? Then it could worth discussing this with your boss who might be able to delegate the work.

Or maybe you're simply burned out and you need to take some time off. Practicing self-care is essential to your well being and your relationships at work and at home. Taking time for yourself and remembering to exercise and eat well can all help to lessen anxiety and make workplace stress more manageable.

You could also think about reaching out to a trusted colleague to share your doubts with. It's likely that they will have dealt with the same thing in some form before, so talking it out with someone and getting some information or advice can help you make sense of how you're feeling.

Career coaches are also a great resource for dealing specifically with problems at work or confusion about your career goals. A career coach could be the best person to help you deal with any doubts you're having at work, and will address your concerns and give you appropriate advice for overcoming your anxiety.

When you start to feel doubt and anxiety about your job, think about why you might by feeling the way you are. By addressing the root of your problems you can start to find ways to overcome your anxiety and get your confidence back.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I differentiate between normal job stress and career anxiety?

Normal job stress often relates to specific tasks or projects and tends to be temporary, lifting once the stressor is removed. Career anxiety, on the other hand, is more persistent and can be tied to the thought of your overall career path, causing you to question your long-term goals and satisfaction. If you find that your worries are broad, affecting your life outside of work, and not tied to a specific event, it may be indicative of career anxiety.

What are some strategies to manage career anxiety?

Managing career anxiety can involve several strategies, such as setting clear and achievable career goals, seeking support from mentors or career coaches, and practicing mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques. It's also beneficial to engage in regular self-reflection to understand your values and interests, which can guide you towards a more fulfilling career path. Remember, it's okay to seek professional help if anxiety is significantly impacting your life.

Can making a career change alleviate career anxiety?

Making a career change can alleviate career anxiety if the anxiety stems from being in a role or field that doesn't align with your passions or values. However, it's important to carefully consider the reasons behind your career anxiety and explore whether a change would address the root causes. Sometimes, adjustments within your current role or developing new skills can also help in reducing career anxiety without the need for a drastic change.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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