Dear Harlan: I’m graduating college in spring, and I’m starting to feel anxious about the next step. I hate the whole idea of a job interview. I avoid putting myself in situations where I have to be judged. I’ve never been good at making a first impression, and the idea of having to win someone over sends me into a panicked state. I struggle with self-confidence and anxiety. I’m starting to feel it more now that I’m going to begin my final semester in college in a couple of months. I know I need to work on these skills, but I get stuck in my head. I keep imagining myself back at home taking a job that I don’t want because it’s all I can get. How can I look at the future with hope instead of fear? I’m freaking out.
— Freaking Out
Dear Freaking Out: Change your story. I mean REALLY change your story. Imagine working. Don’t imagine being at home. If for some reason you don’t get a job fast enough, you’ll know what it feels like to be at home. Focus on working; that’s how you’ll find a job. As for the anxiety, you’re not alone. Over 40 million people deal with anxiety every year. Find some of the people who have been there and done it. Ask them how they got through their job search. Find people who will help, support and guide you. Turn to a career counselor to guide you through the search and application process (ask to get connected with recent grads). Lean on mentors who will remind you of your value. Find a therapist who can help you manage the anxiety. Align yourself with people who can help you. Make this first job an experiment. It’s not a job for life. Call it a job for a year or two. As for the interview, when you know your value and have your people, the interview is less about being judged and more about exploring what you want. Lean on your people and tell your new story. There are lots of jobs waiting for you.