l s o C ng i
A •R •G •U •M •E •N • T
When Career Concerns Mount, Here’s How to
Take these eight steps to avoid being overwhelmed by the rising tide of job-related anxiety.
GREAT PHILOSOPHER ONCE NICELY SUMMED UP
the human condition: “Things are going to get unbelievably worse
and never get better.”
I think he was joking. Alas, for the vast legion of us feeling lily-livered about our livelihoods, the line between absurd hyperbole and
irrefutable logic isn’t always clear.
It’s not as if we have to search for dire news about the job market: lawyers laid
off, start dates deferred, summer programs reduced or eliminated. Like a swarm
of killer bees, such grim news has no trouble finding us.
Given all this, there is actually some good news: At least we’re not crazy to be
suffering some heebie-jeebies about it all.
“Just gently shoo such worries away like
gnats,” says Ross. “When they come
back, shoo them away again. Don’t make
the gnat important.”
TAKE ACTION WHEN POSSIBLE.
Volunteer for extra projects at school,
cast a wider net for job possibilities,
or research ways to gain additional
credentials. Anxiety flourishes when
people feel out of control. Being proactive puts you in charge of your destiny.
“It’s actually normal to be concerned
about money and career prospects,” says
Jerilyn Ross, M.A., LICSW, head of
the Anxiety Disorders Association of
America. “Manageable levels of anxiety
can motivate us to take action and work
harder to increase our marketability.”
The problem occurs when anxiety becomes unmanageable, when it
becomes so persistent and intense that
motivation tips into paralysis. In individuals suffering from generalized anxiety
disorder (GAD), for instance, career and
financial concerns can swell to the point
that they crowd out all other thoughts.
Red flags for worry-run-amok range
from the physical (muscle tension,
stomach upset, back pain, headaches,
loss of sleep) to the cognitive and emo-
tional (“what if “ scenarios, panic and/
or depression over the future, impaired
functioning at school or work).
Regardless of where you presently
fall on the “energized-to-paralyzed”
worry spectrum, here are some strategies that can help reduce needless
DIVIDE AND CONQUER.
When job and financial fears assault
you, write them down and divide the
list into problems you can and can’t do
SHOO THE GNATS.
For worries outside your control—e.g.,
broad trends in new-associate hiring—
don’t try to force all concern out of mind.
TAKE AN ACTING CLASS.
Seriously. Like romantic prospects,
employers are repelled by applicants
who look desperate. If this is you, you’ll
need to give a command performance
of fake confidence. “An acting class
can give you back your exuberance and
let you act confident when you go in
for an interview,” says Stephen Pollan,
best-selling author of Die Broke: The
Complete Book of Money. A little thespian training now can pay dividends
throughout your career.
Regardless of how much or little you
earn, strive to live on a little less.
As Charles Dickens put it: “Annual