Work FOMO Entices Change


By Lisa Autz

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

In a trolling haze of constant online updates from friends, family, and people we don’t even know on social media, we are placed in the vortex of an inevitable comparative analysis on a daily basis. The pervasive phenomenon of FOMO, or fear of missing out, has caused each casual decision of our lives to be weighted with existential anxiety.

“What if I did decide to go to that party and the love of my life was there?”

“If only I could be out traveling the Swiss Alps with my friend Jenn, then maybe my life wouldn’t be so dull.”

The emotional impulse of FOMO has begun to transfer into even the more serious aspects of our lives, like our degrees, jobs, and other such life-long pursuits. The phenomenon especially rings true for the seasoned Facebook users that are now beginning to hone a career in the working world.

Compound that fact with the rate of less than half of US workers being satisfied with their jobs and we sure have a formula for anxious Americans desperately browsing on LinkedIn in the hope that there is a better job out there for them.

Photo courtesy of ITU Pictures.

Millennials Are Quitting Their Jobs

Millennials are more likely to quit and switch jobs than any other age group in the labor force, according to a new study on youth unemployment. The unemployment rate of American “25 – 34 year olds is about 50 percent greater than that of 45 – 54 year olds,” according to the researchers.

Martin Gervais, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Iowa and a leading researcher from the study, spoke with BTR about the findings and implications. He discussed the greater likelihood for Millennials to voluntarily quit their positions in search of a better career opportunity.

“The point is that the fact there is a relatively high unemployment rate for young individuals does not necessarily indicate a problematic situation,” explains Gervais. “The process of finding a good job, career, [or] occupation naturally leads young individuals to go through unemployment spells.”

Gervais’ study aimed to investigate why the unemployment rate was so much higher for young individuals. Part of the research was looking into Millennials’ goals by understanding their “true calling,” or their concept of a dream job where they could be most productive.

“In reality it is much more subtle concept, but the idea is nevertheless similar, that is, some occupation that an individual is particularly suited for,” explains Gervais.

As a result, since most youth begin jobs in entry position, it is unlikely they will feel fulfilled at that lower level position, making these initial career experiences seem disparate from their “true calling.” As the evolutionary process of trial and error will bring success in animals’ adaptation, so will the navigation of many different jobs bring the possibility of eliminating Millennials’ career FOMO.

Photo courtesy of Zach Dischner.

What Millennials Say About Work FOMO

When young workers are teased by the working lives of their peers, it triggers a sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction in their own work. Some Millennials are spurred by this FOMO reaction to make changes, whether it be starting their own business or changing jobs.

Others, however, feel burdened by the idea that what they do might never be good enough in comparison.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to support myself and pay the bills, but I feel incredibly unfulfilled and restless while at work,” admits Erin Stoner, a 25-year-old technology recruiter at a tech company in New York City.

“This is my first ‘real’ job and right off the bat I was given a leadership position,” she explains. “While I am thankful to have been given that opportunity it doesn’t change the fact that I am bored and disengaged with my basic daily tasks.”

When asked about the role social media or FOMO has played in her overall job satisfaction, Stoner claims the fear is just another push telling her to make a change.

“I get this feeling that I don’t want to waste any more of my time doing something that makes me unhappy, however I realize I’m not alone,” professes Stoner. “So many of my friends feel the same way.”

On the other hand, there are numerous Millennials who garnered the confidence to make radical adjustments to their work life in order to disengage the hindering fear. Twenty-three-year-old Trevor Rodgers decided to quit his IT tech job entirely to pursue an entrepreneurial lifestyle and begin his own company in Boulder, Colorado.

“I got up one day and decided that was it,” describes Rodgers. “I booked a flight to Brazil a month later and began teaching yoga and English there. Now I’m starting my own health and wellness company here in Colorado.”

The change was drastic and Rodgers confesses he had to deal with negative reactions from family and friends at first. Despite criticism, he ultimately decided to go for what he thought would make him happier.

“I wasn’t going to let myself become one of those people sitting at their computer desk always feeling like they are missing out on life,” says Rodgers.

It seems the FOMO experience truly is pervasive in its existence in most places in our lives. However, it’s up to each of us as individuals to channel FOMO into something that generates positive change for the future. Otherwise, the feeling can cage us into a phobia of only imagining something greater.