I'm sure that, at some point, everyone has either heard or said the phrase, "No one wants to work anymore." I remember one of my first jobs, (I will refrain from saying which one), and how miserable it made me. I'm not talking about the usual type of exhausted-from-a-hard-day's-work sort of miserable. I remember kind of wishing I would get driven off the road on the way to work. I would daydream about how I would respectfully resign. I would cry on my days off because I knew I had to go back into work. It wasn't a problem with the work environment. My coworkers and supervisors were amazing people. The problem was simply that this job wasn't a good fit for me, a young adult with undiagnosed, and untreated, anxiety.
When I told people about how miserable I was at my job, I was met with some interesting responses:
"Yes, well, everyone hates their jobs. That's normal."
"Young kids are so afraid of hard work these days."
"If it was easy, they wouldn't call it work. They would call it play."
One of my favorite jobs, in my early twenties, was a manual labor job. I would get into work before the sun was up, would work 10 hour shifts, and spend all day sweating in a warehouse. I couldn't understand it. If everyone was right, and I was just being 'too soft' for complaining about work, how was it possible that I loved a job so much? It was hard, tiring work, but I felt accomplished. My supervisors would praise my team and me for how pleasant and efficient we were, as we finished well ahead of schedule. If my generation was so unwilling to work, and work was supposed to make you miserable, how could such grueling tasks be so enjoyable?
While there are certainly plenty of people who choose not to work, despite many available jobs, my case was one that I'm sure more people can relate to than we might realize. Not everyone can work any job. Sure, you could probably hire just about anyone to fill a position, and have a good chance of getting it done, but your company and employee will both benefit most when your employee is a good fit for the job.
I spent so much time thinking that I was just not trying hard enough to be successful. My employers all had nice things to say about me, and I have never left a job on bad terms, but I just couldn't make myself happy in positions that caused my anxiety to flare up. Part of why I never made the connection between my job satisfaction and my mental health is because we, as a society, still don't like to talk about anxiety in the work environment. Even I hesitate to admit to struggling because I fear that people will think less of me, or believe I am less capable. The fact of the matter is, in a work setting, anxiety is seen as an obstacle and a weakness.
I had to learn how to turn my anxiety into a marketable strength.
As I said, up to this point, I haven't made a habit of broadcasting my anxiety for potential coworkers and employers to see. Writing this article makes me quite nervous, but I have come to realize that my life experience is part of what makes me uniquely suited to talk about this topic. If I am able to share how I have learned to turn weakness into strength, there is a good chance I can help others on their journey as well.
First, I had to accept the fact that my anxiety made me different. My 'weakness' comes with different limitations than other people's weaknesses.
I would never suggest succumbing to the fate of having your anxiety rule your life. If you let fear dictate what you can and cannot do, you will find that your comfort-zone shrinks and shrinks over time. However, spending every waking moment in the 'growth-zone' will wear you down. I have been taught that the more you face your fear, the less power that fear has over you. That said, having chronic and social anxiety disorders means your body is almost constantly living in fight or flight mode. Facing things that scare you, and working around a body that truly believes it is in danger are two different things. I can overcome the anxiety of making an important phone call, but I cannot force myself to fit into a retail job. When it comes to finding your own success you need to be consistently evaluating, and reevaluating, your boundaries.
Second, recognize that the job market is vast.
No, you won't be able to just waltz into any hiring office and get your dream job. Yes, you will have to work hard to gain the skills and experience necessary to land a good position. Still, you don't have to spend years and years working jobs that you hate. I have worked so many unique jobs over the years, many of which most people don't realize exist. Look for these odd jobs and think outside of the proverbial box.
Third, know your skills (and make sure your network knows them too).
Some of my favorite jobs have come as suggestions from people that I know. When you take time to refine your skills, and share them with the world, you will find that people think of you when a position opens up.
Fourth, if fear is your enemy, then knowledge is your ally.
What scares me most, and what triggers my anxiety most, is not knowing what to do, or how to do it well. As a result, I have become adept at teaching myself new skills. Using the power of the internet, I have taught myself email marketing, community management, Excel, Shopify, curriculum planning, and so many other relevant skills. If I don't know how to accomplish a task, you can bet that I will be doing my research. The key is to stay curious and to use your resources.
Fifth and finally, own what makes you passionate.
You will be surprised how much strength you gain from simply wanting something bad enough. Obviously wanting something doesn't override anxiety, but you will be able to find ways to work around your anxiety. You will be one of the most innovative problem solvers on your team. You have your own passions, talents, and strengths. When you use these tools to your advantage, you will always find a way to succeed. Stop trying to fit the mold, and start setting yourself apart.
There are certainly more tips I would love to be able to share, but I wanted to keep this article brief. More than anything, I wanted to start a dialogue. To so many people, anxiety might seem like something that makes them a less desirable hire, but, truthfully, it can be such a special hiring point. Never shy away from what makes you unique because what makes you unique will help you succeed.
What sets you apart from other potential hires?
J. E. Forrest