Social anxiety and loneliness are plagues of our society. One fuels the other in a spiral of social self-denial. 12 percent of US adults experience social anxiety disorder (SAD) at some point in their lives, but only 5 percent of them address their feelings. Many suffer in silence.
It is important to realize that most people with social anxiety do not live in a comfortable bubble. Many wish to take steps towards a more sociable existence but may only do so when they have little choice. Social anxiety creates invisible mental chains that can often only find some slack when there is no alternative.
Earning a living is one such example of how people can find a way back. Most of us need to work to live, so contact with work colleagues and partners can be the stimulus that brings us back into the world. When you feel lost and yearn to sink into the sofa, any contact with friendly colleagues (however minimal) can remind us that most people aren’t that intimidating. That boring weekly Zoom call could be someone’s saving grace.
If you have experienced a period of social exclusion, a job can be a great way to dip your toes back into life. Sure, some of these jobs for people with social anxiety will likely have minimal contact with others, but dealing with such anxieties requires baby steps.
In this blog, we explore seven of the best jobs for people with social anxiety. We look at:
- Why social anxiety does not always hinder job performance
- The seven best jobs for people with social anxiety
- Factors to consider when looking for a job if you have SAD
Why social anxiety is not a barrier to job performance
Feeling socially anxious can happen to anyone. It can materialize overnight and dissipate just as quickly. But not for all of us. For people out there who suffer from chronic social anxiety, it's important to know that the world of work is more accommodating of your fears and doubts than you might think.
Also, there are plenty of jobs where performance is not hampered by social anxiety.
For a start, critical communication in many roles is often over email or messaging. Even if you work in an office full-time, you won’t always wander over to a colleague’s desk to discuss a resolution. Email trails (sadly) rule. This is, however, good news for someone with social anxiety—written communication allows you to pause and think about what to write. That is useful for a socially anxious person who often says the wrong thing.
While you might think that meetings (virtual or otherwise) are a nightmare for the socially anxious employee, they too often give the individual time to think and time their contribution. Brevity and impact suit them fine.
Granted, some jobs require more expansive and creative communication, but there is certainly enough choice of jobs that require minimal social contact. Here are a few of them.
7 Best jobs for people with social anxiety
While most jobs will vary in terms of the amount of contact with other people that they entail, the following types of roles may well be most suitable for people with social anxiety issues. Whether you find yourself in these roles by default or design, it is likely that any social anxiety that you experience will not stem from your work.
1. Any outdoors-based work
Any kind of client-based individual work in the open air is great for social anxiety. You will have minimal contact with clients, you won’t be working in a confined office environment, and you will be the master of your working day. Whether you are a gardener, building contractor, or dog walker, working outside offers so much freedom.
If you have a client that is particularly intense, nothing stops you from putting on your headphones and blocking out the distractions. That is the way you work, after all. They will get the message and leave you to it. Doing any kind of work in the open air is so good for your overall mental health.
There are plenty of jobs in financial services that do not involve a lot of contact with other people. Many of these roles may change in scope after the coming AI revolution, but there will always be roles in accounting and bookkeeping that will be suitably complex to require human supervision. Trust is key when it comes to finances.
Many non-client-facing financial services roles can be performed remotely. This is an ideal solution for anyone with social anxiety as there will likely be intermittent virtual and in-office meetings, but nothing heavy. Barriers to entry into these professions are high in terms of education, but there will be flexible work opportunities once you are qualified.
Writers can sit wherever they wish when they create their content. Some days they may feel like sitting in a busy café or shared working space. On other days they may feel the need for solitude. Writing and other creative pursuits often find a flow when distractions are minimized. Writing is the perfect occupation for someone with social anxiety.
Having said this, writers rarely work in a vacuum. They may work with clients, colleagues, or publishers. Also, no successful writer can write well if they are totally cut off from the world – sparks of creativity often come from those around them.
When you run your own business, you have the freedom to work how you wish. If you provide a product or service that does not entail regular contact with others, you can manage your social anxiety.
The journey of an entrepreneur is often a tough one, so doing it entirely alone is not to be advised. Find a couple of friends, mentors, or colleagues with whom you can share your worries and plans. When you hit the down times, you will be grateful for those connections.
5. Software engineer
Software engineers and anyone else who works in the sphere of computer science are likely to spend a considerable amount of time in front of a screen. While programmers (and the like) will always need a certain amount of engagement with colleagues and partners, the job is ideally suited to someone who enjoys their own company.
People with social anxiety can lose themselves in detailed tasks that require hours of dedication in solitude. Programmers and data scientists might get lost in the numbers and code most of the time, but there is almost always a human element at certain points along the way.
6. Creative work
Similar to writers, designers—and other creatives—often weave their magic in those moments of silence, but without a lifetime of inspiration from others, their creative well will run dry pretty quickly. Those with social anxiety in the creative industry can pick and choose when and how they communicate with others.
People with social anxiety can find great satisfaction in creative pursuits, earn a decent living, and find their moments of connection when they choose rather than as an integral part of their job. It is true that some creatives work best as part of a team, but that is far from always the case.
Researchers from all sorts of industries need to get their heads down and explore the data. Quantitative research requires long hours of work alone, managing remote surveys and sifting through copious data. This would certainly suit someone with social anxiety.
Whether you work in an academic or corporate setting, researchers are essential to provide the impetus for decision-making. The tenacity required to explore every avenue is only found in a specific type of person—someone who is happy to plow their own furrow.
Job search factors to consider if you have social anxiety
While you have likely dealt with your social anxiety issues to a certain extent in your current role, looking for a new job brings a great deal of uncertainty. Social anxiety can hamper your interview efforts, but you should also think about what sort of role you want. Prioritize your mental health when you weigh up the career move. Open your eyes to the challenges that your social anxiety may bring about. What factors should you consider?
- Is the commute by public transport? This can be claustrophobic.
- What is the employer’s record on supporting mental health?
- Are there flexible working options, if required?
- What is the nature of the role? How much group work is involved?
- Assess the workload—overwork can make any anxiety so much worse.
As previously mentioned, your social anxiety will not be likely to improve if you fully isolate yourself from others, but if you take a role at an employer who has a track record of flexibility when it comes to mental health, you will have a safety blanket if your social anxiety flares up for any reason.
Avoiding contact with people entirely will not help your social anxiety, but if you find a role with the right balance of human contact, you give yourself the foundation to work on your anxiety issues on your own terms. Having a job where you are constantly forced into uncomfortable situations will not help you.
The ideal job for someone with social anxiety will challenge them slightly but also offer the flexibility to dial down the contact at times if that is what you need.
- Look for a job that matches your skills with your mental health needs.
- Ask detailed questions about the nature of the role.
- Look at the company culture—is it a place that will support you?