top of page

Career Queue Anxiety - Do you have it?

You know that feeling in the supermarket when you need to pick a queue and you get the anxiety?

Which queue is best?

Which is quicker? What if I pick the wrong queue?

What if the queue which now looks longer moves quicker and the queue I chose moves slowly?

The anxiety of making the decision to pick a queue.

Then once you’ve opted for the “best” queue, have you made the right decision? Is your queue the best? The other queue moves faster, your queue has a delay or the worst…. they open another till, so that the person who was 5 people down the queue is now suddenly first!!!!!! Oh, if only you had made a different decision, then you too could be packing your shopping and heading home!

Ok, so maybe doing your shopping isn’t such a big deal, still it struck me that queue anxiety can affect us in other areas of life. Like in your career. Do you feel like you’ve made the wrong choice somewhere along the way and that your goods are on the conveyor belt now, so you just have to stick with it? That you must live with this decision? Until retirement?! You made your bed, so you’ve got to lie in it?

Meanwhile you are looking with jealousy and coveting the position of all the people in the faster queue, with the chatty and pleasant shop assistant while you trudge along in yours. The people who made “better” career decisions, changed jobs, worked their way up, up-skilled, re-trained, changed career. The people who seem happy and fulfilled in their careers and lives. The ones who have it all figured out. Oh, if only you had joined the same queue as them!

Or there’s the other queuing phenomenon that we all laugh at – the attraction to join a queue (any queue) or even to join the longest queue. Oooh there must be something good at the end of this queue, I must join in case I miss out (FOMO again!)

We can be guilty of this in our careers too. A friend of mine (years ago) didn’t get the best A level results, but most of our group were heading off to college and leaving home, so afraid of not being in that queue and missing out, she took a place on any third level course that would take her with her results. In her case catering and hospitality. Had she any interest in catering and hospitality? No. Did she stay in this industry? No. Did she even graduate? You know, I don’t think so, but I certainly know she missed a lot of classes. Why? Because she joined the queue for the sake of it. For her, it was the wrong queue. Maybe she should have taken the slower queue and repeated her exams, or joined a different queue altogether.

I picked this queue, so I’m stuck with it

Especially in mid-career, people think this is what they chose, so they better stick with it and make the most of it.

They believe that they can’t change.

Can’t change job.

Can’t change career.

Can’t re-train.

Can’t open a business.

Too old.

Too many responsibilities.

Too much like hard work.

I can’t go back to studying.

I can’t learn new skills.

I can’t do that.

No one will hire me now; I’ve been here too long.

I’m institutionalised.

I wouldn’t fit in anywhere else.

I like the comfort of knowing what I’m doing and who I’m working with and I dislike the discomfort of moving out of this comfort zone. It ain’t called a “Comfort Zone” for nothing!

If you are thinking these types of thoughts, consider this:

  1. These are beliefs. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true. Challenge yourself to look for the evidence here. Are these beliefs true? Think of a time when you did something that you thought you couldn’t do, or learned a new skill, or got to grips with a new technology. Turn that belief around into a positive, evidence-based, empowering belief. You can make changes. You did it before. You joined a queue to do something or learn something and you came out the other end, the better for it.

  2. This is fear talking. What is the anti-dote to fear? Action. If you continue being fearful, you will never take action. And if you never take action, nothing will ever change. Take the example (close to my heart) that I believe I cannot swim, because I cannot put my face in the water. If I never put my face in the water, I will never swim! I look at all the other people who joined the queue to put their face in the water, merrily swimming around having fun. I can join them and put my face in the water. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and now, I know I can do it, even if I am afraid!

Image by Burhan Khawaja from Pixabay

bottom of page