What To Do When Faced With Career Uncertainty

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. That’s because humans crave certainty. As Greg Ip noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article,” It isn’t just the magnitude of this shock that is unprecedented but the uncertainty surrounding almost every facet of it—uncertainty that is corrosive in its own right.” There are many things out of our control right now, including the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, the duration of social-distancing measures, the economic and financial impact, and government policy. What we can control is our own response to the current crisis. Whether you’ve been laid off or are working for a company that is on shaky ground, here are some steps you can take to deal with career uncertainty.

Acknowledge the distress

The best thing you can do to deal with career uncertainty is to acknowledge your feelings. That might mean verbalizing your concerns to friends, family, or a counselor. You may also want to make sense of what’s happening by writing it down. This could take the form of a journal or simply a list of all the things that worry you. Do you have trouble sleeping? You may want to write in your “worry journal” before bedtime. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep disorders and treatments who regularly appears on The Dr. Oz Show, says he’s a big fan of the practice because “it’s a great way to get thoughts out of your head before bed.”

Learn the art of surrender

Once you write down all the things you may be concerned about, identify the items that are out of your control. Then try to let go of those fears so you can focus on what is within your sphere of influence. This exercise will help you to move forward while feeling more in control and less of a victim.

Focus on what you’re grateful for

Mindfulness helps us pay deeper attention to the ordinary things in our lives that we so often take for granted. Write down everything that you’re grateful for. This will help calm your stress and anxiety so you can deal with career uncertainty from a place of abundance rather than despair. A few ways to do this include starting a gratitude journal or even a virtual gratitude group. By getting a few friends together on a Facebook group, for example, you’ll be able to hold each other accountable while lifting each other’s spirits.

Serve others

Helping others through volunteering or other ways doesn’t just make the world better—it makes you better too. In fact, there are scientific benefits in serving others. Research from Columbia University suggests that assisting others helps us manage our own emotions, decreases symptoms of depression, and ultimately, improves our emotional well-being.

Some ways to do this are:

  • Donate blood to the Red Cross
  • Contribute to your local food bank
  • Call or text your neighbors (especially the elderly) to check in on them
  • Show your appreciation to people putting themselves at risk every day, including grocery store clerks, health care workers, police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, postal workers, delivery people, and so many others. One great example is how New Yorkers come together at 7 pm each day to give thanks to the city’s frontline workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Open your mind

When we are faced with career uncertainty, it can give us a chance to pause and reflect on the direction we are taking.  Even CNN’s Chris Cuomo said his battle with COVID-19 has made him rethink his values and question his position as a public figure. “I don’t like what I do professionally,” he said. “I don’t think it’s worth my time.” Give yourself a chance to dream and visualize your ideal job scenario. Ask yourself some key questions:

  • What careers have you brainstormed or fantasized about?
  • What work have you thought you might love to try at some point?
  • What new field(s) have you thought about getting more education or training in?

Now may be just the time to consider a more fulfilling career option. As Albert Einstein said, “Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.”

The current environment can feel daunting. But there are steps you can take to take charge of your future. Don’t let the current situation paralyze you. Instead, focus on what is within your sphere of control. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself back in the driver’s seat with a career and life you love.

Thinking about a career change but not sure what steps to take? Check out my free guide: 7 Steps to Career Clarity.