My name is Lauren and I suffer from career FOMO – or at least I did. FOMO is a useful little acronym that stands for “Fear Of Missing Out,” and is a form of social anxiety. Psychiatrist Gail Saltz further explains that “This type of fear tends to cause compulsive behaviors, like checking out other social situations even as you are in the middle of one currently.”
To give you a real life example, it’s like checking Instagram to see what your friends are doing while you’re at a party with others. Sound familiar? Of course the irony here is that because you’re always looking outward to see if there is something better, you miss out on enjoying what you do have: The fear of missing out often causes you to—you guessed it—actually miss out.
Furthermore, FOMO isn’t limited to social situations. It spills into other areas, and is especially associated with career choices. I was particularly plagued by career FOMO. Day in and day out, I was constantly checking LinkedIn and other social media to see what jobs my friends had. I’d like to say it was because I was genuinely curious, but it was more because I wanted to know if they had better jobs than I did.
I would think about what career I should pursue 24/7, even while I was doing completely non-work-related activities, like having a girl’s night out or going on a weekend trip. When I did find a career that sounded like a good fit, I became obsessed with learning as much as possible (ultimately a benefit for my current gig). I never even recognized how compulsive my behavior was, or just how much career FOMO was affecting my daily life.
At the time, I was in my first post-college job and really feeling lost on what to do next, and simultaneously felt anxious about being stuck in a dead-end job. I would even get anxious when I was simply asked, “So what do you do?” because I wasn’t going to impress anyone with my title or company. Not to mention I was really wearing out my friends and family with my constant venting about my job.
Eventually I caught on to this pattern, and realized that my obsessing wasn’t making me any happier, and it certainly wasn’t getting me any further ahead, so I decide to cure my career FOMO once and for all. At its core, career FOMO is a mind game, and only becomes a reality if you allow it to .
Here are my 3 tried-and-true tips for getting over career FOMO once and for all:
- Put things into perspective: It’s easy to dropkick your situation into a negative bucket, especially when you just learned that your friend’s company is sending her on an all-expense-paid trip to Cancun. The FOMO-prone you starts to wonder about finding a company that has better perks, but the new you realizes that your friend works in sales and is a top performer. She deserves the reward and probably has been stressed about meeting her quota all year. Great for her to have this trip to enjoy time off! Bring some understanding to why you’re missing out, and you’ll probably see that you’re perfectly fine with it.
- Realize that life isn’t that glamorous: The truth is that your friend’s life isn’t all that fancy, even if Facebook and Instagram tell you otherwise. Remember that the beauty of social media is that you get to pick and choose which life events to broadcast, and 99% often choose to keep the life stressors out of the feed.
- Appreciate the little things: There is so much to be grateful for, and I notice that finding satisfaction in the little things will lead to being more fulfilled, both personally and professionally. My first-post college job was right in the middle of the recession, so I quickly became grateful to be employed with benefits. In addition, I was grateful for my co-worker that made me laugh everyday, grateful for the great relationship I had with my manager, and grateful that my job never interrupted my weekends. Maybe I wasn’t in love with the day-to-day stuff, but overall I had it good.
And lastly, while career FOMO often has a well-deserved negative connotation, one positive side effect is that it can often serve as a wake up call that gets you thinking about what else you can do with your life, and what other career paths you might want to pursue.
Just remember to use that career FOMO as a motivator and not a de-motivator, and you’ll be well on your way to career satisfaction!