How Do You Respond to Career Uncertainty?

Blog Post created by susan.hodge Champion on Mar 13, 2017

Last week at HERWorld I moderated the panel on career transition and resilience.  Thanks to Amanda Barlow, Kristy Whitaker and Tina Peters for their stories of resilience during downturns.  Downturns bring uncertainty and that feeling of uncertainty lingers.  We learn from it, but we also remember how it feels.

 We need to support each other during uncertain times.   The feelings of uncertainty and need for support and encouragement prompted me to post this article I wrote in November of 2015.  Over a year later, it's still relevant:

In one of my virtual programs I noticed that the group was quiet when normally they would be very engaged. This was highly unlike previous groups where there was lots of enthusiastic engagement, questions and storytelling.  Finally I probed what was holding them back.

 One very insightful woman asked, "Have other groups been facing as much uncertainty in their careers?  We're all in an environment of layoffs, acquisitions, new management and organizational changes."

She had a point. Almost every one of them was operating in an environment filled with uncertainty.

 I cant count the number of conversations Ive had from women who are concerned about changes in their company.  I sense the anxiousness in their voices when they say:

  • Should I change jobs?
  • Should I stay where I am and keep my head down?
  • What do I do if my supporters are no longer with the company?
  • I recently made a job change and now I don't have advocates in my new job.
  • I feel vulnerable.It's just so political these days.
  • Maybe I should just make a dramatic change.
  • Is this a good time to change functions?

All are natural considerations.  Many are born of fear.

When times are uncertain we have a tendency toward two extremes: (1) burrow in and stay out of the way or (2) make a change to get far away from the source of the discomfort.

The best response usually falls in the middle.  Here are some actions you can take to ease the anxiousness.

Stay visible.  Instead of keeping your head down, be visible with the people who can and will support you.

Stay close to your circle of influence and your supporters.  Realize that if you make a big change in functions or companies, you are leaving your supporters behind and will have to develop a new group of advocates.

Get connected.  If you've lost or neglected to develop your advocates, make it a priority to develop new ones now.  Get guidance or introductions from those advocates who have left or transferred. They may not be in a position of as much influence but they may have connections with those who are.

 Check your skills. Have you kept up to date with the changes needed in your company/ profession? If not, take care of that.

 Stay aware. Keep your perspective broad and keep your eye on the business.  It will not only make you better at what you do, it can help you anticipate business needs and changes.

 Build on your strengths.  If you are considering a job change, either out of need or desire, make sure that the change builds on your strengths, uses your previous experience in some way and that your advocate/s support it.

 Keep your mind open to options.  You have more than you think.  Explore other companies.  Talk to people in your own company about job alternatives. Explore other types of jobs that build on your skills. One woman was considering leaving her long time profession in a niche area, building on her financial expertise and joining a family business in another city.  That's a pretty dramatic change, and she's not certain whether she will pursue it, but considering options gave her a greater sense of comfort.

Spend time doing things that calm you.  Never make a big decision out of fear.   Make decisions when you are in a place of peace. 

 In any case, don't keep your head down and don't overreact.  Be strategic and intentional with your career choices.  You have more choices than you think.

A choice you can make to feel more confident is to sign up for the Communicate to Advance workshop on March 31 at Pink Petro offices.  Sign up by Friday March 17 and receive a $100 discount ($150 discount for Pink Petro members).