Is it F.O.M.O. or Just Fear?

By Sami Gardner, Education and Employment Resource Specialist
for the ANCHOR Project

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – is the plague of the social media era.

We are bombarded with Snapchats, status updates, tweets, and Instagrams of our friends’ accomplishments both major and minor. There is no way not to keep up to date with the Joneses when their successes are all over your Facebook feed. Everyone is following their passions, searching for authenticity, and farting rainbows while you are still in your pajamas at 2pm and somehow making hot pockets explode in the microwave.

FOMO-Fear 1
Being an adult sounds like a much better idea when you are a kid.

Does this sound like you? Don’t worry because everyone, even if they aren’t wiping melted cheese off their pajamas in the afternoon, is confused about this whole adulting thing. Yes, even the friend in grad school who somehow seems to be in a new country every month. Everyone is winging it even if they have a five year plan!

The word Authenticity has had a big year. Everyone wants to be authentic whether they are quitting their job to go to culinary school, ditching their place in the ‘burbs for a tiny house on wheels, or volun-tripping around South America. It is true that one should strive to live a life that is satisfying and aligns with your values and interests, but do not let your search for authenticity become misguided. Authenticity can be found anywhere whether you are planting trees in Borneo or manning the deep fryer at the local diner.

FOMO-Fear 2
We have all been this dog before.

Searching for authenticity can reveal great things about us but it can also be deluding. The reigning career advice since the 1970s has been: follow your passion! However, most of our passions are things like art, music, etc. in highly competitive and generally low-paying fields that have only a few highly expensive hot-spot cities. Some people are really encouraged into certain fields because they were so promising in high school. The problem is that one stops being precocious quickly. Discipline and promise rarely go hand in hand. Ask yourself if you will still enjoy your passion when, in best case scenario, it becomes a 9-5 grind? Or in worst case scenario, you have a degree in theater, but are working a few dead-end jobs to pay for your closet apartment in New York City and barely have time to go to auditions? Just because you enjoy drawing doesn’t mean that you will be happier as a full-time artist. You can find jobs that incorporate your passions and can be fulfilling even if you aren’t telecommuting and traveling the country in a VW van with a Chihuahua.

FOMO-Fear 5
At the ANCHOR Project, Ian Ellasante and Courtney Waters are my adultier adults.

Research by 80,000 Hours has shown that people need four things to be happy with their career:

  • Engaging, meaningful work
  • Friendly and cohesive colleagues
  • Being good at their job
  • Positive logistics like a good commute, job security, hours and pay that fit their lifestyle

No one finds that all on their first outing with the job market or even their fifth or fiftieth, but there is no shame in trying new things in your career. It might take you awhile to find a job that fits you, but the best way to see what you require as an employee is to get out there and be on the job. Don’t fret over job leads that don’t match you perfectly and don’t wait for the perfect on to come along! Sometimes you find that some of the imperfect or less authentic jobs teach you a lot about yourself. I ended up in career services by accident, but I find it meaningful even if I didn’t imagine myself in this field when I was in college.

FOMO-Fear 4
The journey is as important as the destination.

Do a skill and needs assessment of yourself. Ask yourself what are you good for? Are you good with people, concepts, or designs? What do you have to offer a company and what do you need in return? Some folks need to have human interaction, some would rather be in the background, some want to be outside, etc. Be realistic. Then you can look for jobs that fit your needs/skills and have elements of your passions. Don’t be afraid to work somewhere for two-three years and then do something completely different! And don’t wait for the perfect alignment of passion and authenticity because you will be waiting forever.

Don’t let FOMO cripple you! Ask yourself is it FOMO or just fear?



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