Is FOMO, or fear of missing out, messing with your career?
FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a type of social anxiety: feeling that although where you are is OK, there might be something better going on elsewhere.
Fuelled by technology such Facebook and Twitter, It’s also why people flit between courts at Wimbledon, TV channel-hop and aspire to the latest must-have electronic gadgets.
In career or study terms it expresses itself in a feeling that other people are enjoying their jobs or studies more than you do. It can also be a suspicion that you’re not doing as well as your peers in terms of achievement, pay or promotion. Either can lead to career decisions made from fear and envy, rather than a well-researched understanding of what you might get out of a new role.
Here are some scenarios where you might be experiencing career FOMO, with some advice on the remedies available.
Worrying that you should be working in a bigger organisation with better opportunities
This may be an idealised view of what large organisations can offer – training may be good, but you can also be sidelined. Take advice from others about the organisations that will teach you most and will make a positive impact on your CV.
Feeling you made the wrong study choices
Living in regret is far less productive than focusing on what you can do now with your skills and experience.
Wishing your job was more exciting
What fuels this longing? Friends will often tell you about the glamorous parts of their work, not the boring bits.
Feeling you should be moving on in order to freshen up your CV
Seek objective advice about the minimum and maximum period of time people stay in a role in your sector. Move on for the right reasons, not to try to impress.
Wishing you were working in a smaller organisation with more variety
Again, this ignores the potential downside – that you get very little formal training and have few opportunities for advancement.
Suspecting that your friends earn more than you
Is this based on a hunch or reality? And does it matter all that much? Many people would happily take a modest pay cut to be in more rewarding work or to have an easier commute. Besides, if you’re adding value to your role maybe it’s time you learned how to negotiate a pay rise?
Assuming that everyone who qualified in the same year as you has done better in promotion terms
Don’t get over-impressed by job titles, but if this is demonstrably true, check the balancing factors – are your peers enjoying work as much as you? What are the costs in terms of life/work balance of taking on these higher status roles?
The grass is greener syndrome: feeling that if you switched careers you’d be much more satisfied
This is nearly always about ideal pictures, yet many people change jobs for an idea not a well-researched understanding of what new opportunities really have to offer. Talk to people who are doing the jobs you fantasise about – find out what their working life is really like.
Constantly regretting the conversation or event you missed rather than planning the next connection you can make
Hoping to rewrite the past is a waste of energy. Shift the enthusiasm you have for beating yourself up into creative thinking about what you could try next.
Feeling that you’re the only one without a meaningful long-term career plan
The reality is that most people don’t have a viable long-term plan, and the best careers are often built by responding to opportunities and looking ahead at the next 12-18 months.
John Lees is an author and career coach. Visit www.johnleescareers.com for free career tools and tips.