Managing fear and worry about your job and the job market in times of uncertainty

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Managing fear and worry about your job and the job market in times of uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, fear is to be expected and worrying seems a constant. A pandemic of this proportion is something no one has experienced before and it is hard to live with the unknown while trying to work or job search (from home), care for a family and be hyper-vigilant about hygiene and exposure.

For those already in transition or concerned about a layoff, uncertainty can magnify those fears. But this is not a time to make decisions based on fear because those are rarely good decisions. This is a time to seek out information from reliable sources, turn to your network and plan. Here are a few quick tips to help you do just that – plan in a time of crisis filled with lots of unknowns:

  1. Avoid “what if” thinking. Worrying about “what ifs” is an exercise in exhaustion. What ifs are truly never-ending. Pay attention to how many of your statements and thoughts start with “what if.” When the future feels unknown, it’s best to focus on the present and the things you can control rather than worry about what might happen down the road.

  2. Instead, focus on “what is.” Another way to quiet “what if” thinking is to instead focus on “what is.” This means the things in life that you can control each and every day. It also means stepping back and being grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.  More times than not, the majority of us can step back and say “today, I have enough” – enough shelter, clothing, safety and support. That is what matters today. If a time comes when the answer to those questions isn’t yes, then you can react and plan because there is a need to do so.

  3. Control what you can. While much feels out of control right now, controlling what you can is where to direct your energies. First, focus on what I call “core strengthening” – what are the things you need to stay healthy on all levels and come out stronger on the other side. Be mindful and employ strategies that bolster your strength – get the sleep you need, exercise, any movement counts, fresh air, sunlight, healthy food (not just comfort food) and connection with others in new kinds of ways.

    We can control where we allow our thoughts to go. Do they go to worst case scenarios or are we thinking of all possibilities, even favorable outcomes? We also can control our language through the words we choose to use. Be mindful. Are you using catastrophic, sensationalized language vs. neutral or positive language?

  4. Plan! Ask yourself, are you sitting back fearfully waiting to see what happens or are you doing what you can to weather the storm? Planning is the best way to tap down fear and give yourself options moving forward. Job seekers – plan your day focusing on high return activities.

To those in jobs: take a look at other ways you can contribute whether that is in your current organization or other potential organizations. Implement structure to your days. Outline goals, big or small – this is a great way to stay focused and not succumb to fear.

Remember, when operating in a state of fear, the executive brain function is diminished. This further indicates that fear-based decisions are rarely good ones. In times like these, it’s about gathering information and making the most informed decisions possible… decisions based on fact and logic.

If you were already in transition when this started, it’s easy to fear the absolute worst. But as noted above, “what if” thinking is not productive nor beneficial. And it is extremely rare that your worst fears are realized.

For those in a job, but uncertain about its future – this is a time to take action and be proactive. This means watching for signs and signals within the organization, assessing your readiness to step into the job market and getting your messaging, resume and online presence updated.

No matter where you find yourself during this unprecedented time of uncertainty, it is imperative that you be kind to yourself. Remember that we are all in this together. Whether searching for your next great opportunity or concerned about what your professional future holds, self-compassion and focus will go along way in preparing for whatever the future has in store.


About the Author:

Cultivating Careers was founded by Karen Kodzik, a Career Consultant who has worked with individuals in transition for over 13 years. Karen meets professionals at various points on their career path and works with them to gain a clearer sense of where they want to take their careers. Karen Kodzik holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Career Development. Karen couples seasoned counseling skills with a solid business acumen. She has coached and consulted various levels of professionals across industries to successfully reaching that next point in their career.

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