Is your career being affected by the Fear of Missing Out – FOMO? This growing social anxiety is not just breaking into our personal lives, but increasingly our career and work choices too. As a careers expert and author of How to Get a Job You’ll Love I believe that while there can be solid reasons for career FOMO, often this anxiety is misplaced and we just need to learn to distinguish the real career roadblocks from unrealistic expectations.
Here are my 10 signs of FOMO in your work and career choices – and what you can do about it:
1 Believing that you’re the only one without a coherent long-term career plan.
Reality: Most people don’t actually have a viable long-term plan and some of the best careers are often built by responding to opportunities and looking ahead at the next 12-18 months, not snap decisions.
2 Believing the grass is greener – idealising other organisations/sectors and feeling that if you changed careers you’d be much more satisfied.
Reality: Many people change jobs because they like the idea of it, not because they’ve really researched or understand what new opportunities really have to offer. It’s generally unrealistic to expect to love our jobs 100% of the time, 70% is a more realistic target. If you’re serious about changing career you’ll need to fully research before you job search to find out what the job is really like, not just your idealised version. Switching career paths can be very rewarding, but you need to be prepared to put in the hard graft too.
3 Feeling that you made the wrong choices in your choice of study/qualification and wishing you’d started your journey somewhere different.
Reality: What sparks this thought? Friends with what look like more glamorous jobs? They might not tell you about the boring bits! Living in regret is far less productive than focusing on what you can do, or changing with the skills and experience available to you.
4 Regretting that you’ve spent the first decade of your career dotting about and travelling rather than getting solid work experience.
Reality: If you can make this early part of your career sound like an interesting challenge which taught you useful skills you can make it work for you, rather than against you – remember many people actually regret they didn’t travel more when they were younger and had fewer responsibilities.
5 Worrying that you should be working in a bigger organisation with better training and more opportunities.
Reality: This may be an idealised view of what large organisations can offer, but it’s also easy to be ignored and to remain stuck in a rut for a long time. Good career planning often means thinking hard about what kind of role and organisation will teach you the most and will make a positive impact on your CV.
6 Worrying that you should be working in a smaller organisation so you will gain a broader range of skills.
Reality: Again, this ignores the potential downside – that you may get very little formal training and have few opportunities for promotion.
7 Having a sneaky feeling that all your friends are paid more than you.
Reality: Is this based on a hunch or reality? People may be “living the lifestyle” but can they actually afford it? Remember all too often those social media updates present only the “best” side of our lives, not how they are really going to pay for that latest gadget. But if they really are, does it matter all that much? Many people would happily take a modest pay cut to be in more rewarding work, or to have an easier commute.
8 Assuming that everyone who qualified in the same year as you has done better.
Reality: If this is true, it’s worth checking any balancing factors – are they enjoying work as much as you? What are the costs in terms of life/work balance of taking on those higher status roles? They may envy your greater freedom.
9 Always regretting the conversation or event you missed, rather than planning the next connection you can make.
Reality: Regret of this kind means you put all your energy into beating yourself up for what you didn’t do, rather than creatively thinking about what you could try next in a different approach.
10 Believing that self-employment will always make your working day more balanced, and feel more worthwhile.
Reality: Working for yourself can provide more freedom and flexibility, but it can also mean unpaid holidays, late payments and isolation. Think through how you would really cope with isolation, drumming up new business and self-discipline first. If you still really think you’re up for it then start working out the practicalities.