Jobs for an anxious introvert
October 1, 2012 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Career suggestions for a recent grad with social problems?

I recently graduated from a top 5 college with a B average in economics. I spent a couple of years in a Teach for America-type program and did well, but don't want to be a teacher forever. I'm relatively smart, but I have crippling social anxiety/introversion and would fail in any industry that requires networking, socializing, or self-promotion. I'm fine in any social setting where behavior is prescribed (eg teaching, retail, customer service) and am actually a powerful speaker/debater when I'm comfortable, but it is often almost physically painful to meet new people, engage in small talk, or speak up.

I'm good with numbers, organization, writing and planning, and I really enjoy serving/helping people. I am not interested whatsoever in finance, but would otherwise be happy to draw upon my background in econ/statistics. In school I was really good at working with data creatively and finding logic holes in other people's studies.

I'm particularly interested in travel, healthcare, HR, or government work. I don't want to go to law or business school but am otherwise able to pursue higher education. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Survey research.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2012

Data mining outside of finance? Do you code (or are you interested)?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:24 AM on October 1, 2012

Management consulting? When you start out, you'll just be hidden in the back room making spreadsheets and putting together powerpoint presentations. After a couple years there, you can transition to something else. Also, " crippling social anxiety" is not something you work around-- it's something you should address, because you can avoid facing the issue for a few years, but eventually it will come back to bite you and seriously interfere with your life.
posted by deanc at 7:26 AM on October 1, 2012

Management consulting? When you start out, you'll just be hidden in the back room making spreadsheets and putting together powerpoint presentations.

That depends on the management consulting company you work for. The one I was at often put the newer consultants front-and-center in order to dazzle clients with the number of folks working on their problems.

However, there are a lot of researchers and data crunchers behind the scenes at strategy consulting firms that could use your skills.
posted by xingcat at 7:35 AM on October 1, 2012

Academic planning, seconding the suggestion of survey research (particularly with a university or think tank kind of place), and maybe -- MAYBE -- academic advising.

My ex was/is an adviser and complained that it was hitting his introversion too hard. However, from what you've described, I think you could fit the job quite well. The main thing is that you may have an endless stream of students coming in saying, word-for-word, "I just want to know if I'm on track to graduate." However, that sounds like the kind of thing you could deal with: super-prescribed interactions where they give you a problem/thing to check up on and you help them deal with it.

And yes, please look into some assistance with your anxiety/introversion. Just talking about it is a good start :)

Fee free to MeMail me if you'd like to know more about academic careers of various sorts.
posted by Madamina at 7:36 AM on October 1, 2012

Answering this from the perspective that I once held a similar job and said this is not for me (teaching younger students, not the biology part), wanted to know what else was out there as a possible career, and my personality is similar to you in terms of the 2 major descriptors that you use to describe yourself at that time.

I fell into medical writing; one of the reasons was that I wanted to keep up with medical and biology info and it was one way to do so (and it fits in with your "healthcare" parameter on your list, too).

A few things that I discovered along the way for this career track: 1) many of my colleagues were also on the extreme end of introversion and 2) you can (well provided people like your work and you have a few years experience) work independently as a about utopia if you are introverted and don't want to deal with people that much.

There are people with undergrad degrees who get into the field, too; believe it or not, one of the main criteria for getting a job like this is by taking a writing test, and many medical communication companies have you take a writing and/or editing test. They do want you to understand the science article(s), too, but if you have an aptitude for it and like it, you may do well. There are companies that prefer to hire pple with an undergrad background, and other places that prefer to hire PhDs in the sciences (you will target the former if you want to do this as a job). Feel free to memail if you have more questions about this field (or go through my posting history ( i.e. "How do I break into med writing?" ).
posted by Wolfster at 7:43 AM on October 1, 2012

Have you looked at

There are all kinds of interesting sounding jobs for folks with your background. Use a bunch of different search terms, and see what you get.

Government employment is awesome, and would be a good match for your skill set.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:44 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You'd probably do well and might even enjoy yourself as a researcher at a major labor union. Easiest if you live in NY, LA, or DC, but there are jobs everywhere. A teaching union maybe? Look at individual websites or
posted by crabintheocean at 7:55 AM on October 1, 2012

I used to have crippling social anxiety as well and the best thing is really to try to overcome it. Nothing wrong with finding a job that fits an introverted nature, but sooner or later social anxiety will hamper your goals and life. You didn't say that you hate networking and socializing, but that you would "fail" at it.

It helped me to look at social skills as something I had to practice and become good at / comfortable with just like any other skill. Start out small, going to meetups or any social events and work your way up. If you feel awkward, go easy on yourself - you're learning. This is part of what helped me.

The other was getting therapy and meds for anxiety. I wouldn't suggest this unless you are having *serious* problems with anxiety, because I think just working through it works as well as letting you learn how to manage the anxiety on your own. But it is slower progress and takes patience, determination, and optimism.

Sorry this didn't really address your question, but hope it helps.
posted by seraph9 at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Biostatistician, if you're qualified.
posted by fshgrl at 9:13 AM on October 1, 2012

Policy wonk.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:46 AM on October 1, 2012

Management consulting? When you start out, you'll just be hidden in the back room making spreadsheets and putting together powerpoint presentations.

That really depends. I spent a lot of my first few months talking to junior people at the client offices gathering requirements or calling people to collect data. Within six months I gave my first presentation at a client site: it was an informal interim presentation to relatively junior people that my boss had known for years and there was nothing controversial in it, which is perfect for a newbie but it still might have been a bit much for someone with social anxiety issues.
posted by atrazine at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2012

Research Analyst FTW! I used to work at a think tank and the atmosphere was half college campus, half monastery. Brilliant misanthropes and eccentric oddballs side-by-side...I'm sure a garden-variety neurotic wouldn't feel too out of place. Good times!
posted by doreur at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

By and large, the US economy doesn't support those kinds of jobs anymore.

Even teaching is seeing an assault from sharp declines in local revenue. You can still find a job environment that doesn't push your anxiety buttons much. But coworkers will leave. New coworkers will take their place. Bosses move on. There will always be new corporate initiatives. There will always be layoffs.

Eventually you will need to promote yourself. To take credit for work done. To convince a boss you're worth a raise. To convince a boss you shouldn't be laid off. To convince a hiring manager to hire you. The window you get often isn't very large.

Social skills are a basic requirement in this economy. You don't need to be amazing. I'm certainly not. And I've met dozens of accountants who find social skills difficult. But this isn't something that you work around. You address it.
posted by politikitty at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could go to med school and become a pathologist.

What you really need is a job where your compensation, position, and employment is tied directly to your output, not how charismatic you are.
posted by deanc at 2:05 PM on October 1, 2012

Data scientist, something in informatics, actuary, biostatistician, research analyst, other jobs ending with the word 'analyst'.

There are a lot of options in pharma, clinical research, health insurance, medical tech.

I'd suggest reading job descriptions on after searching for some of the things you enjoy.
posted by grudgebgon at 3:02 PM on October 1, 2012

Oh, and I'd suggest Toastmaster's as a relatively safe place to not just practice speaking to strangers, but also to network with other members. Every major city has a TON of chapters, so you can hop between groups too, to expand your network.
posted by grudgebgon at 3:04 PM on October 1, 2012

« Older Help me help my brain learn how to scale up and...   |   Am I going to be cheek to jowl with other family... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.