Do you ever feel lost, stressed or anxious when thinking about your career? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with doubts, worries and uncertainty when it comes to their career path. However, there are research-backed ways to move towards a job you find meaningful and fulfilling.
In this article, we’ll explore 7 science-based tips from experts in psychology and career success on how to reduce career anxiety and optimize your chances of finding a career you truly enjoy.
Define Your Preferred Daily Tasks, Not Just Titles
A common mistake is becoming overly attached to job titles and status rather than considering the actual day-to-day tasks involved. As psychologist Grace Lordan explains, studies show job satisfaction depends more on your happiness with the specific daily activities, not just the title.
Rather than focusing on being a doctor, lawyer, banker etc., visualize in detail what your daily and weekly calendar would look like in that job. What meetings and tasks would you do? This “pixel theory” focuses on the micro rather than just the macro.
Visualize Your “Me Plus” Future Career Self
Lordan suggests writing out what your ideal future career situation would look like. Define your dream job title, industry, company and responsibilities. Then list the specific tasks and activities you would enjoy doing day-to-day in that role.
This “me plus” exercise helps you identify the unique combination of responsibilities that would lead to career fulfillment for you personally. It gets beyond vague aspirations and paints a detailed picture.
Audit Your Calendar to Identify Energy Drainers vs. Energizers
Review your current calendar and categorize how each activity makes you feel using a simple system:
Double plus = takes you towards your dream career Plus = somewhat aligned with dream career
Plus/minus = neutral Double minus = actively drains energy and takes you away from what you want
Identify any “double minus” activities you can eliminate to reduce anxiety. Protect your time and energy.
Invest Just 13 Minutes Per Day Towards Your Goals
Lordan recommends committing just 90 minutes per week (13 minutes per day) towards skills that will help you build your dream career. This compounds over time.
For example, if you want to learn coding, invest 13 focused minutes daily. Small steps create career capital and rare, valuable skills, laying the groundwork for a fulfilling career.
A Degree Isn’t Always Necessary
Don’t assume you need to return to university and rack up debt, says Lordan. With today’s abundance of affordable online courses, books, Youtube tutorials and more, you can gain career-boosting skills without formal education.
U-Turns Are Expected and Okay
Your career values and priorities will likely change over time. It’s natural to make pivots and “u-turns” as you gain experience and self-knowledge. Don’t worry about sticking rigidly to a predefined path. Regularly re-evaluate and make changes as needed.
Use a Grid Search Approach
Even without a single well-defined career goal, you can make progress. Track which activities energize you over time to identify patterns and promising directions. Experiment and gather data on what engages you.
Small steps in an intentional direction, while staying open and responsive, will eventually lead you to a fulfilling career that reduces anxiety. It requires patience, self-exploration and a growth mindset, but the payoff is worth it.
If current career uncertainty is causing you stress, know that you’re not alone. Implementing even a few of the science-backed tips above can set you on the path towards meaningful work.
Testing different activities, developing rare skills, eliminating energy drains and visualize your ideal future self are proven techniques to gain clarity and reduce career anxiety. With strategic effort over time, you can find and succeed in work you truly enjoy.