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How can I progress in my career when I have social anxiety? Help!

Q: I have social anxiety and I find it difficult to communicate to high authority figures in my workplace. I know this is holding me back from career progression. Is there anything I can do?

Lady Gaga – renowned artist, Marcus Morris – successful basketball player, Oprah Winfrey- Actress and Producer, all individuals with social anxiety that have succeeded in their career. I get it, you see high authority figures and think of loud, confident people who can hold the attention of an entire room. It’s intimidating when that’s not who you are, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed and be the boss bitch that you are.

So, here is my advice for you.

1. Adapt your thoughts

I have anxiety myself so the dread of having to talk to authoritative figures at work without going red and stuttering and having to practise your speech before you strike up a conversation with them is completely relatable. Don’t allow your anxiety to put them on a pedestal. By doing this you’re essentially saying that can achieve better than you and disregarding your own worth. Remember they are people just like you and me with the same thoughts; Do I have leftover pasta in my fridge? What shall I watch on Netflix tonight?

2. Just because we’re quiet, doesn’t make us any less capable…

Everyone’s anxiety presents differently but for me, I am anxious in group settings but can carry a conversation on for days in a one-to-one setting and because of this, I really questioned my own ability to progress in my job. Especially when colleagues in a higher position would be required to attend regular group meetings and presentations. It wasn’t until I attended a meeting with the CEO where they discussed how to recognise the hard-working individuals that are quiet for progression that I realised people like me were understood.

3. Be the person you are around your close friends and family.

Whenever I’m around strangers and feel reserved, I try to remember who I am with close friends and family and try to bring this to the table with work. Easier said than done, but if you can master this then the more comfortable you will feel at work to be yourself.

4. Is this the career you want to progress in?

If work progression at your workplace involves all the situations that someone with social anxiety might dread, such as regular groups meetings and presentations, consider whether you want this type of progression. There are lots of jobs out there that you can still have significant career progression in that are social anxiety friendly. Take these as an example:

5. If it is, what can you do about it?

If this is a dream job of yours that you want to progress in but feel unable to then there are many things that can help. Talk to HR – there are things that can be put in place to help relieve you of this anxiety. Take time away, if you are expected to have more meetings in one day that you can handle, you can organise your schedule so that it suits you. Get to know individuals on a one to one basis, this will help you feel more comfortable in group settings or consider choosing a location that you feel more at ease in.

Bird Talk xo

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