If told we needed to give a 20-minute speech in front of a crowd of strangers in order to keep our job, many of us would quit without a second thought.
And all of us have experienced times when we feel nervous or tongue-tied at a party or in strange social situations.
But for people who struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), it’s not just about occasionally feeling shy and awkward, or lacking in self-confidence. For these people, being in situations in which interaction with others is expected or even possible can induce extreme feelings of self-consciousness, unfounded anxiety, and even paranoia.
The fear of facing situations in which the person may be scrutinized, judged and found failing by others can manifest itself in the form of dizziness, excessive sweating, shakiness, mental confusion and even nausea.
Needless to say, this intense fear of having to face social situations can interfere greatly with a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis, particularly at their place of work. Even those who are learning to overcome the symptoms and triggers of social anxiety will find they are more comfortable in jobs that provide some degree of flexibility and control over the level of social interaction that is expected of them.
Here is a list of 10 jobs that are less socially demanding than most, or that provide a level of autonomy over the amount of socializing required:
Though writing is a dream job for many, it can be a challenging field to get into, and earning a living wage might take a little time and effort. But once you’ve established yourself, there are many interesting and creative options for writers, such as blogging, ghost writing, copywriting, technical or manual writing, editing, writing articles and reviews, and even becoming a published author if that’s your long-term goal.
Because you can work from home, being a freelance writer, editor or published author can involve minimal social interaction.
Many people earn a living (and some a very good one!) as bloggers. You’ll need to find a desirable and sought-after niche to write about, create an inviting and interesting website, and learn how to market your site online, but all of these things can be accomplished without much by way of social demands.
If you are enjoy working with numbers, and excel at math, you might find satisfaction working as an accountant or bookkeeper. You may choose to provide your services independently, or to work for a company or organization; in both situations, the requirements for social interaction will be fairly low, and mostly one-on-one or within small groups.
If you have a talent or passion for art, this may be a field that appeals to you as someone struggling with SAD. Though it can be difficult to earn a living as an artist, there are many creative pursuits that have a commercial aspect to them.
For example, you may make unique and interesting upcycled jewelry, or have a talent for garden mosaics, or create stunning personalized embroidery for wedding gowns. Whatever your specific talent, you will need to find a venue (either physical or online) to market your creations, but you may enjoy the majority of your time spent alone working on your art.
Graphic Designer/Web Developer
This type of work may be well suited to someone who is pursuing a career as an artist, but needs to work full or part-time at a ‘regular job’ in order to pay the bills while they get established.
This is also another job that is suited to working from home if you choose to freelance. But even taking employment with a company will probably involve more limited social interactions than for many other types of work. You will need to communicate regularly with clients and/or your company creative team lead, but these interactions will likely comprise a smaller percentage of your work day.
A great option for those who prefer not to work in an office environment, landscaping or gardening can afford the individual struggling with SAD the opportunity to spend most of their time working alone outdoors.
Keep in mind that you will need to communicate well with customers if you choose to run your own landscaping or gardening business, but these interactions can be largely tailored around your schedule and needs, and will mostly be one-on-one.
Dog Trainer or Animal Handler
Many people who suffer from social anxiety find working with and being around animals immensely calming, since the animals do not judge or scrutinize. If you enjoy the company of animals, and have a knack for handling them, you might find fulfillment working as a dog trainer, groomer, zoo worker or pet sitter.
Most of these positions will provide ample opportunity for you to work quietly and independently, and most interactions with customers and pet owners could be scheduled and managed at your discretion. Some are also suitable as self-employment options, such as pet sitting and grooming.
This one might be a bit surprising, especially considering that Police Officer makes the top 10 list for the worst jobs for people with Social Anxiety.
Although the job of a firefighter includes necessary interactions with colleagues and the general public, it also offers significant downtime, and very structured work expectations, which can help alleviate anxiety at the workplace.
Computer Programmer/Software Developer
If you like working with computers, and have a good, focused mind for problem-solving and details, jobs in this field might be just right for you. There is of course an opportunity to work solo as a self-employed freelance programmer or developer, but even in an office setting, your primary value to your employer will be your analytical skills rather than your social skills. Personal interactions will likely be limited, and of the one-on-one and small group variety.
SAD Counselor or Coach
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest a career that involves a majority of time spent interacting with others, but if you are in a position of having managed or overcome your Social Anxiety, then you might be the very best person to help others do the same.
If you enjoy helping others, and are a good listener, you will be in an ideal position to mentor others suffering from SAD. Your unique perspective, and your success in overcoming the disorder will serve as inspiration and encouragement for others.
As a self-employed counselor or coach, and even as a part of a care team, you would have a flexible schedule, and could keep extraneous social interactions to a minimum.
Entrepreneurship, or self-employment, offers those struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder a broad range of options for meaningful and satisfying work.
As an entrepreneur, you are your own boss, and have complete autonomy over and responsibility for both your work and your resulting success. There is no boss, managers or co-workers to report to and interact with, and you can even farm out undesirable tasks (such as those involving dealing with sales or the general public).
Your schedule is your own, which gives you the flexibility to work around ‘bad days’ or time to recover from any high stress situations or tasks.
Many of the jobs in the list above are well suited for self-employment, and there are unlimited ideas for others – think online retailer, green cleaning services, baking or candy-making, home decor, translator or transcriptionist, virtual assistant, organic market gardener – the possibilities are endless.
Other Jobs to Consider Outside the Top 10
There are many other lines of work that might suit someone with SAD.
Factory jobs, including milrights and other skilled labourers, security guards, overnight retail stockers, data entry clerks, and long-distance truck drivers will all have limited social interactions with co-workers and the public, and less direct supervision from bosses and managers.
While it makes sense to seek out employment that allows space for you to manage your SAD triggers and symptoms, keep in mind that providing yourself with small doses of manageable social situations will be of benefit to you in the long run.
The best jobs will be those that allow you flexibility, time alone or in small groups, and a greater degree of control over your surroundings, but that also gives you the occasional opportunity to practice your social skills. Don’t be afraid to pursue work that is meaningful and fulfilling, even if it does involve some social communication and interaction.