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Engineering Possible Jobs for Someone with an Engineering Degree and Immense Anxiety

  1. Jun 22, 2012 #1
    Here's some background info:
    I just graduated with a B.S. in M.E. with a decent GPA (3.7/4.0), I have about a year of internship experience, and I passed the F.E. exam. I imagine there are tons of recent graduates with similar or better credentials than me, and I'm just looking for internships or maybe an entry-level job if it matches my skill set well.

    The problem is whenever I meet or talk with new people I become a bumbling idiot. I stammer, I stutter, I trip over my words, and I freeze up. I certainly wouldn't want to hire myself based off of the first impressions I give. Getting interviews isn't a problem, but the inevitability of looking like a moron with a complete lack of confidence is. So, I feel like I'm just wasting my time applying for jobs when I have this problem. Also, this issue isn't isolated to interviews but pretty much any type of interaction with new people.

    When I was in school I saw psychologists in an effort to solve this problem, but ultimately I haven't had much success. Counseling was covered in the student health fees, but now that I'm out of school I simply can't afford it. I will continue to do mock interviews at the career center and take other actions to try to overcome this problem, but my question is being asked under the assumption that I will never be able to overcome my anxiety issues.

    So my question:
    Under the assumption that I will never be able to overcome my anxiety issue, are there any jobs out there that may be adequately suited for me where at least some of what I learned in school would be relevant?

    Maybe the Physics Forums isn't the place to ask this, but I think you guys have better knowledge of the technical jobs out there than some sort of general job or anxiety forum.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2012 #2


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    Hey GreatUserName and welcome to the forums.

    Since you have a very good GPA with technical understanding, I would encourage you not to shy away from pursuing engineering and the interviews that need to be undertaken because you will have to be comfortable communicating and doing your job no matter what that may be.

    A couple of suggestions: mock interviews with people you don't know possibly at your university are a great way to get some experience. You could also try doing some public speaking at a club like Toastmasters to get more confidence and the ability to relax when you have to speak off the cuff or in front of people you don't know.

    I think that you don't realize that confidence in speaking and dealing with unfamiliar people is a skill just like the kind you developing in your engineering degree, and I think you will be surprised just how much you will be able to do regarding your anxiety.

    Remember, anxiety is helped by facing the situation and realizing that it can be overcome by you actually overcoming it yourself. A mock interview with someone experienced at your university can help in interviews (you should do it with anyone you know and you should do it with someone who provides fair advice and not 'feel good' advice). Toastmasters is good because its a training ground for people like yourself (I am a member myself for more than 2 years so I'm not saying it on behalf on anyone else) and it's common for people in your situation to join.

    I'd say keep at it because you will definitely suprise yourself and in the end be happy about sticking with things, even though at the time, all hope was almost lost.
  4. Jun 22, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the encouragement chiro. I agree that the only way I can overcome this is by putting myself in those situations. The problem is that after any of those types of interactions I can't stop thinking about them and how much of and idiot I appeared, which really discourages me and makes me not want to go through it all over again.
  5. Jun 22, 2012 #4


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    That will go with time, I gaurantee it.

    I see it all the time at Toastmasters. You get people who come in and you know they are thinking 'god i'm such an idiot': it's written all over their face and all over their body.

    But then what happens is that they realize after talking to people and after being in the club for a little while, that having a little screw-up wasn't as big of a deal as they thought, and then that thought about screwing up slowly evaporates to the point where it doesn't control the person anymore.

    Once this happens, you begin to focus on speaking and communicating rather than trying not to look like an idiot.

    I would compare it with driving a car. At first you are worrying about whether the clutch and the steering wheel are in the right positions and that takes away the focus from navigating and getting to the destination. Your case sounds like you had a bit of an accident and don't want to get back in the car.

    But like driving, eventually what happens is that you almost forget that you are even changing gears or steering and instead you focus on navigation and driving.

    I think you would be surprised just how quickly you will go from worrying about the steering and the pedals to just naturally going from A to B with respect to your communication difficulties.
  6. Jun 22, 2012 #5
    I agree, it's a skill. I used to be shy, and say dumb things like "good morning" when it was night outside. I wasn't used to talking to people regularly. Now I go out to loud bars and clubs once a week. A favorite quote of mine is from the cover of Feynman's book: "What do you care what other people think". The key is to let go of your expectations. It's OK to mess up. Some things are beyond your control. Don't let a few bad experiences deter you. It's better to treat those initial experiences as an opportunity to learn from, and to desensitize yourself to unsupportive judgements. After a "bad" episode, remind yourself "So what?" or "Who cares" or "I couldn't have known it would turn out that way." Eventually, you'll get better.

    Had to throw in my 2 cents since I had similar issues. Now, if you want to avoid people because you don't like them (rather than being anxious), that's a different story. So I wouldn't give up on such an important part of your life. You'll want to meet the spouse of your dreams someday, after all.
  7. Jun 23, 2012 #6
    Perhaps consider either the Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais (these are breath and movement-based practices that performers use to get better vocal production and reduce stagefright.) Working with breath to control anxiety is great because you can circumvent all the self-analysis and just stop the attack before it starts. Good luck.
  8. Jun 23, 2012 #7


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    ASME (www.asme.org) provides great support and opportunities for networking, as well as news/information about the field and career opportunities.

    Do check out Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org) as chiro recommended.
  9. Jun 23, 2012 #8
    If you have friends that are outgoing hang out with them and they will break you in. Back in highschool I was in a similar position. I realized that I didn't want to be anti-social and a virgin until I was 40 so I started hanging out with a group of kids who went out a hell of a lot more than I did. It worked out nicely, I'd suggest you do the same.
  10. Jul 1, 2012 #9


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    To the OP:

    You had stated that you had already seen a psychologist to address your immense anxiety without much success. While I don't know your precise situation (and hence you can take whatever I say for what it's worth), it sounds to me like your problems extend beyond mere shyness or nervousness, bordering on a possible medical condition.

    A friend of a friend had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by his doctor and is currently on medication (I don't know exactly what kind). Perhaps this may be something you may also need, in conjunction with further psychological treatment.
  11. Jul 2, 2012 #10
    Depending on the position, being shy & nervous might not be a problem. As long as you're not trying for a position in sales, maybe you just start the interview by saying, "look, I'm pretty shy and very nervous" -- maybe the interviewer is nervous too and will sympathize.
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