A pivotal time in a young adult’s life is making those starting moves to build and advance your career. This time can be both exhilarating and horrifying, as one transitions from teen/college years to that 20-something trying to make something of yourself.
I’ve had many conversations with young professionals at panel and networking events, and one of the top themes I’ve seen is fear and anxiety— those unavoidable feelings of panic about what the future holds and whether they’re up to par face the world.
“How do I know my purpose or what my next move is?” one young careerist once asked me.
“This is all too much. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed, and I know I have to figure out something now. There’s no time to waste.”
“I’m young, very talented, but they don’t take me serious,” another said. “I truly have to bust my tail to even be noticed.”
“I’m trying to get a job, but I can’t find anything.”
These feelings of urgency in charting the unknown can lead to even worse feelings of depression and stress. In fact, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, young adults experience stress higher than the national norm.
Young people ages 18-33 responded in the survey that they are seeing increased levels of stress, while the rest of the population has seen a trend downward. Thirty-nine percent say their stress has increased in the past year and 52% say stress has kept them awake at night. And more than any other age group, they report being told by a healthcare provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder.
Experts have attributed the stress to young people’s uneasiness about where their life and careers will go as well as achievement anxiety.
I’ve experienced the stress fallout of fearing the future, but there are ways to turn fear into motivation. Here are three tips to help you manage stress and overcome fears of the future:
1. Don’t focus on problems. Focus on a plan of solutions. When you focus too much on problems, you’ll often get caught up in negative thoughts, thus not focusing on solutions. Write down what you fear in terms of where your career will go, reasons for those fears and what you can do in facing them. For example, if you’ve been out of work for a long period of time, and fear you’ll never find a gig, write that fear down, along with what you’ve been doing to find a gig and how you can change up your strategy.
2. Talk to someone and get advisement. Many schools have career counseling offices, and their services are still available to alumni. Take advantage of these resources. Talk with a family member or mentor about your fears and ask for help. If you’ve experienced deep feelings of anxiety or depression, seek a therapist or mental health counselor.
3. Trust the process and roll with the punches. Being a young professional can be tough but don’t let every setback define your future. Learn to roll with the punches and truly trust the process—mistakes and all. You’ll be better for it in the long run. Again, this is the time to truly get to know your strengths and weaknesses and be happy with the fact that you have time to make mistakes, get back up and keep pushing toward your goals.
What are your current stress triggers and how are you dealing with them? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.