Social Anxiety and Avoidance in the Job Search

Each of us has different orientations that influence how we tackle a new challenge or a stressful situation, like a job interview. How we naturally approach obstacles influences our motivation.  

Our feelings can influence our actions and engagement with our search, impacting how we approach or avoid certain situations. Approach motivation drives us when we are motivated by a positive outcome, like a landing a good job. We are motivated by avoidance when we want to bypass a negative experience, like getting rejected.

Our brains are wired to avoid things that feel bad, trigger negative emotions, or physically hurt. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and nervousness. But if something makes us happy or gives us pleasure, we’re more likely to do it again.

Approach and Avoidance in Your Job Search

Approach-avoidance motivations play a significant role in our job hunt.  When looking for a job, some of us are excited to do what it takes to be successful, actively seeking out new postings and networking opportunities, while others are more hesitant.

It’s important to note that approach-avoidance motivations aren’t fixed. They can be influenced by various factors, such as financial need or the desire to fit in with others.

Approach Motives

There are many reasons why we might look for a new job. For example, we might need to find a job quickly to pay the bills. Research shows that people with financial motivations are more likely to successfully find a job. But, this can also make us willing to take any job, even when it isn’t a ‘good fit’ for us. Another reason we might be looking is to find a job that aligns with our values and interests. This is often referred to as the ‘person-job fit motive.’  People with strong person-job fit motivation are more selective and tend to produce higher-quality applications that resonate with recruiters.

Avoidance Motives

Low expectations for ourselves and our job search can produce avoidance motives. If we expect ourselves to fail or don’t think there are many job opportunities, we might have a “let’s just get this over with” attitude. This can happen if we’ve been rejected frequently or feel underqualified for our ideal job. Low market demands can also play a part in shaping these expectations.

Isolation and Social Anxiety

Our avoidance motives can also affect other parts of our lives. If we lose our job, we might lose our work, friends and community, which can make us feel isolated. This, along with the stigma of now being “unemployed,” can create a vicious cycle. While we crave human connection, the shame and fear of rejection can make us opt out of social opportunities, like networking events or grabbing coffee with friends. This limits the variety of techniques we use in our job search and can make it harder for us to find a job.

In part two of this blog, we’ll talk about how to cope with these feelings and overcome avoidance to be successful in our job search.

Final Thoughts

When looking for a job, it’s important to know what makes us want to use particular techniques and avoid others. This awareness can help us understand that it’s natural to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, but these are barriers we can overcome. 

 It can be tough to talk to people and make connections when we’re feeling nervous or isolated. But talking to people and building connections is important when looking for a job, no matter if we’re unemployed or want to change careers. There are many tips to reduce social anxiety- and we’ll explore these in part two- but the best place to start is by taking small steps towards getting things done and connecting with the people who care about you most. By stacking a few quality interactions over time, you can build a powerful career tool that can lead to many positive outcomes.

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