How to deal with professional FOMO
Professional jealousy is real – and right now, it’s rife. As we live our working (and indeed, non-working) lives primarily online, we are surrounded by other people’s successes – or at least what we perceive to be their successes, as well as a wealth of ways to improve our business – from Instagram lives to online seminars and workshops.
I would argue that never has the professional FOMO (fear of missing out) been stronger – and for me there's another level to this: FOMON, the fear of missing out on networking. Every seminar I don’t go to, or event I don’t subscribe to, I wonder if I’m missing out on key information and networking. I’ve even been planning my own workshops and put that off for fear of them not being ‘quite good enough’.
And it’s not just networking – there’s fear of missing out on new contacts and clients, of missing out on being in a work ‘gang’ we want to join in with. As we tweet to get someone’s attention, for example, we wonder if we seem needy or whether they’ll reply. If we had joined in with that workshop might we have got a new client? It’s easy to torture ourselves when we’ve got professional FOMO!
Sending pitches can be tricky anyway, but in the world of lockdown and coronavirus, it’s even harder as we wonder if we’re missing out on that vital commission when someone else has grabbed it.
Suddenly it might seem like everyone around you has mastered a new skill that you’d love to try but the day has seemed to run away with you. So-and-so is upping their blog game, or it feels like your peers can all now code thanks to lockdown time while you’re juggling your day-to-day work. Should you have started a podcast?! More torture…
Make the most of online networking
Sabrina Bramble runs My Staff Room, a platform for freelancers which began this year with panel events and has now moved to online seminars. She says: “Business FOMO is real and has been linked to anxiety and depression. With online saturation and the hussle culture booming, especially since Covid-19 it’s hard to say ‘No’, but by prioritising your business needs, you can better determine what’s important and what’s not.”
Bramble adds: “Webinars can be invaluable for freelancers but they can also act like a blind date, you never know what you’re going to get. Save time by doing your homework on the panelists, check the description box, be willing to explore, then maybe you’ll get lucky and take a content-filled PDF home with you. Insecurities like imposter syndrome are normal for us all at some point in our lives, but embrace the fact that you have as much right to be there as anyone, focus on your own vision and listen for golden nuggets of information to empower and take you a step further.”
For me, FOMON is what I'm calling that feeling when you are overwhelmed with all the offers of webinars and online courses that you don't accept – but then wonder if you should have done. It's when you hear that your colleague or friend is now doing an online course and you've not signed up to one. And it's when you see other people on social media posting everything from their fab desk set up to their work goals list – while you are still in your PJs.
Just like when they post from a cool work-focused get together on Instagram. While this is of course the way the world is working right now, when you are at home trying your best to get through the day-to-day of your actual normal job, wondering if you are missing out on the meet-up networking event of the week is stressful. Joining a workshop can help you find some focus among all that, if you find the right one and make it work for you.
Suzanne Bearne runs webinars for PRs and businesses to secure press coverage. She says her top tip is to think beforehand what you really want answered in the seminar.
“I also leave a designated time of about 20 minutes at the end to go through any questions. Also, if the session is split into parts, remember to ask questions relevant to that section during that webinar rather than asking questions that might be covered later on. Find out if there will be a break in between and if the replay of the session will be sent to you.”
Sarupa Shah is planning a three-day virtual retreat in June. For Shah, some online meetings can feel fleeting. “I think the flurry of events virtually is fantastic but for some it’s a get together like we’ve met in a cafe in passing and professionalism is a bit short. some are extremely nervous about virtual not being the same as face to face. Of course, it isn’t, but it’s no less an experience for learning or networking.”
For Lottie Unwin, Freelance Brand strategist and Founder of The Copy Club, it’s about the pressure right now to be super-productive. “We all need time to read a magazine on the sofa or our brains will explode - it can't all be webinars and business books! I would look carefully at who is hosting seminars and think about why they might be organising them. Are they trying to sell you something? If so, is the information really useful?”
And if you do decide to join in with a webinar, make it worth your while by giving it your full attention, she adds. “Always turn your camera on and challenge yourself to be the first person to ask a question! Making sure you are engaged will mean you get so much more out of it, as opposed to multitasking”
And yes, if you’re feeling like it’s all too much, it’s totally fine not to attend, to leave something early or in the break (make sure you tell the person running the seminar) or to avoid some for a while. This is your journey, and sometimes the best way to deal with the FOMO is to embrace the JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out!