JobFilter: Introvert Edition
March 17, 2017 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 30-year old socially anxious introvert who lacks a degree and has very little work experience. What work should I be looking for?

In my early teens I started developing anxiety. Eventually, at around age 18, it got so bad I withdrew completely from society. By that point my social anxiety had become so bad it made going out and finding jobs not worth it. Having to endure 8+ hours / day of anxiety didn't seem worth it for the money. Despite my wish to gain the normality that having a job could bring, I just couldn't do it. And all because of anxiety.

Fast forward some years. I'm now 30 and last year, thanks to the encouragement of one of my penpals, I made a big step of moving into an apartment in a new city. Finally, at this point in my life, even though my anxiety still creeps up on me when in social situations, I feel that it's become low enough that I could, finally, tackle certain jobs. But I keep getting discouraged. Seemingly every job listing I come across requires some degree. And few of them seem suitable for quiet, introverted, socially anxious oddballs like myself. Though I very much enjoy learning, I dread just the thought of going to college; having to be graded on my work is, alone, enough for me to avoid it. So, I'd say, getting a degree is out of the question.

Probably there aren't many high-paying jobs out there that are suitable for those with social anxiety, but ideally I'd like something that doesn't require a degree yet can be potentially very financially rewarding. I'm not looking for any 'get rich quick' stuff, but something that, with hard work and persistence, could yield much wealth, or at least enough wealth to put me into middle class territory. Despite wanting a job mostly for the normality that would come with it, I admit I sometimes dream of earning lots of money so that finally I could show people, with my money, that I'm no fuckup, something which my family, and my old friends (I haven't had any 'real life' friends since my anxiety reached its peak forcing me to withdraw from society), have all written me off as. I've long been convinced I could earn lots of money as I have a more than decent brain, am creative and have a good imagination. The only problem is, when I'm in social situations, none of my good qualities shine through: I seem dumb, my mind is too stunned by anxiety for me to be creative and I just can't think of anything other than the typical, irrational thoughts that fill the minds of those with social anxiety.

I don't want to die on assistance. I want to prove to my family before I die that I was no worthless waste of space. What type of work should I be looking for? If it helps, I'm in Canada. Also, I'd be interested to know what options, in 2017, I have when it comes to working at home from a computer. I had someone some years ago suggest to me that I give data entry a try as they ended up making a surprisingly high amount of money doing that from their home. Something like that could be suitable for me. I also should note that I'm very much a 'Jack of all trades, master of none' kind of guy. I'm knowledgeable about a wide variety of things, yet I'm a pro at very few things. But it's certainly an asset to know a fair amount about a wide variety of things.

Anyway, I'm feeling discouraged here. Hoping your replies will give me encouragement.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Greetings, fellow anxious introvert. I got some great answers when I asked how to make legit money from home a year and a half ago. Took me til last month to start acting on those answers - anxiety's fun, isn't it? But I'm already getting results. (And I use "jack of all trades, master of a few" in my bio on a couple of the sites!)

Best of luck to you!
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 2:46 PM on March 17, 2017

Are you receiving treatment for this? Because 30 is way too young to surrender to this. Best of luck to you.
posted by cyndigo at 2:52 PM on March 17, 2017 [18 favorites]

I work online doing translation, digital marketing, copywriting, and freelance writing. I support a family, including a son who will go to university in a few years (I can pay the tuition of the equivalent of a state school) on my sole income.

None of my clients has ever asked me about my diploma. If you see jobs you know you can do, but you're deterred by requirement for a diploma, it's a good indication that there are other unadvertised jobs out there doing the same thing. Typically job ads are posted the HR gatekeepers who must tick off little boxes in order to qualify prospective hires to present to the internal stakeholder, the hiring manager.

If you can bypass the HR gatekeeper and contact hiring managers directly (this approach can only done when there is *no* job posted, by the way) then you'll have a better chance of getting that job.

Cold calling hiring managers, however, may be incompatible with your social anxiety. Freelancing and contracting does mean, however, that you can interact with people by email. It's tough to build up a stable of clients, so you should have a survival job of some kind while you get more and more freelancing work.

It takes three years to successfully change careers (I have changed careers and industries two or three times now).

Getting educated, by the way, is the best thing you can do. Education is one of the reasons for increased longevity over the past century, and lack of education is the main reason behind declining life expectancy in this century.

This doesn't mean you need to go to university and get a degree. But you should consider taking some useful online certifications that are relevant to whatever you want to do. Even taking English or philosophy courses will help because everything helps build up that cognitive muscle.

Good luck!
posted by My Dad at 2:58 PM on March 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Email support and chat support don't require you to talk to people; would those positions be of interest? (Note that front line support chat can have you chatting with 8 customers at once; I don't know if that would be a problem for you.) People frequently say that support is a dead end, but it actually isn't. There are several well-paid remote support specialists on MeFi. And while you don't need a degree to get your foot in the door, there are free and low cost certifications to pad out your resume.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:09 PM on March 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

It seems like a fear of having work graded is likely to also impact your ability to deal with performance assessments and criticism in the workplace. I would strongly suggest you try some online courses and begin building up practice with handling deadlines and getting feedback on your work before trying to do freelance work for others. (I am assuming here that you have been working on treatment for your social anxiety, if that's not the case then you should focus entirely on that).
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:14 PM on March 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Fellow introvert here! I do a lot of cataloging and maintain a groupware solution. I enjoy working mostly by myself. Data entry truly is a marketable skill and personally I enjoy repetition. You might want to seek out records management type jobs as well such as transcribing, document scanning and filing. Good luck!
posted by Calzephyr at 3:41 PM on March 17, 2017

Many industries are just getting around to digitizing decades of paper records, which means scanning, indexing, archiving, and data entry. My company just went through a temp agency to find someone to do this. We needed someone able to manage their own workflow, and who was fine sitting in a corner away from the rest of the group all day so they could concentrate on their thing and not inflict the constant scanner noise on everyone else. We absolutely did not require any degree. We wanted (and hired) someone who knew it was a temp position but expressed an interest in learning the subject matter and moving up if possible once the scanning project winds down. A good temp is very valuable to companies, because if a permanent position opens up and you want to offer it to the temp, often you don't have to go through the hassle of searching, interviewing, and hiring.

Going through a temp agency might work for you because you can tell them exactly what you are--and aren't--willing to do. This also might expose you to various industries and from there you can find out what you love and if you need a degree to do it.
posted by kapers at 8:55 PM on March 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

It might be worth exploring Canada's public service; when I applied for a job with the state in Pennsylvania, there was no interview, just an exam taken on computer and an information session once you were in the pool of candidates. There are jobs related to mine (the clerks who help scan and file welfare applications for caseworkers like me) that don't require a college degree and pay well enough. Significantly, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the office I work in is like the island of misfit toys: people are generally quirky, nice, and it's okay to be yourself, whether that's a quiet introvert with piercings and colorful hair, or a sports nut who organizes an office football pool and acts in community theater.

Long story short, the public service might tick a few of your boxes. At the least, I encourage you to look in unexpected places - I found my job by reluctantly going to a job fair for people with disabilities, and it helped me uncover options I hadn't considered. Good luck - I hope you find something that works for you.
posted by deliriouscool at 6:20 AM on March 18, 2017

I'm just a few years older than you and self-identify in much the same way. I was housebound for about a decade of my life and re-entered the workforce as a janitor, despite once being in college pursuing a CS degree. It was mostly solitary work and eventually I moved up to being the leader of the crew. I stuck with it for a year then found another job in a package handling facility. The work was not as solitary but it did get me out of the house and into small interactions with other humans everyday. I wound up meeting a number of people who gently nudged me into being more social, even on my most panic-struck days. I became another leader in that position and I've lasted almost 2 years.

Small manual labor jobs will not get you wealthy but they will get you out there and building a CV. I also second temp office work, as the most agencies around me (big metro area) require are decent wpm and a beginner's knowledge of Office software. Sometimes, if you're lucky, even Craigslist has a part-time offering for at home personal assistants for other people running businesses from home. I wish you much good luck in venturing into the workforce. :)
posted by missh at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Transcription. Many companies that hire independent contractors don't care about education or experience as long as you can do the work. I live in the US and don't know of any companies that hire non-US residents so I can't help you there. But I have worked for many myself with no resume.

Someone already suggested freelance writing - that is my other suggestion as well. Look online for companies that require a sample and will hire you based on that. Many companies in this field also don't care about your background but the quality of your writing.

You can work (alone) in the comfort of your home, often set your own hours, work as much or as little as you want, and there is little to no micromanagement in these types of positions.

I don't know how you feel about telephone work in regards to your social anxiety. But if talking on the phone is not a problem there are loads of companies that hire remote customer service agents. If it is a problem, there are also positions that hire online chat agents. Many of these companies don't require a degree for these positions - maybe some sort of relevant experience depending on the company. I don't know about Canada but in the US there are a few huge names in the remote customer service industry who are easy to be hired by or at least receive a followup on your application from. You can work your way up in these companies. Expect to start at a low pay but with benefits and a big learning curve.
posted by cokelessrome at 10:11 PM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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