How to take control of your career in times of uncertainty
- Prevent: Thinking about what you can do to prevent the worst-case from happening.
- Repair: Being creative and specific about how you’d repair things if your worst fears did come to fruition.
Naming your fears is the first step to conquering them. If you do this work, you can rest a bit easier knowing that you’re doing what you can do to prevent anything untoward happening, but also that if things do go wrong, that you have a plan.
Having a worst-case scenario plan is a really easy way of putting your mind at ease. Most of the time you don’t need to use that plan, but you’ll know that if you do, you’re prepared.
Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s hard to think about much else if you feel financially insecure. There are 3 key things to think about here:
Look your finances in the face
Think about how much you need to feel more secure, is it 3 months salary? Is it 6 months worth of expenses in the bank? Identify what you need to feel stable if the worst comes to fruition.
I found out about the idea of a F*ck off fund a few years ago after reading this article and I think everyone should start to build one so that you have a financial buffer if your career or business is suffering and you need to make a change. Knowing where you are is key to being able to do anything about it.
2. You have 2 levers you can use when trying to build a financial safety net – you can either spend less or save more
Set yourself a goal, and think about what you can easily cut, or what you can do to earn some extra cash to get you closer to your goal. Tools like Monzo & Chip are great for helping you budget & save without thinking about it.
It’s worth really thinking about what matters to you the most. If you are going to say yes to building up some financial security, you’re going to have to say no to something else. Small things make a big difference, think about how you can make your assets (time, property, skills, networks) work a little bit harder for you during this time.
3. Build your support systems
The worst thing you can do in this situation is to keep quiet about any of your concerns. Reach out to friends, colleagues, family, who can support you if you’re feeling worried. Make time to talk to people who lift you up, make you feel positive and can provide proactive advice.
If you struggle to think of who those people might be, it is time to build some new networks via communities such as our own ‘Escape Rebels: Doing work that matters‘ Facebook group or reaching out to people conversing on social networks like Twitter.
Future-proofing your career is all about being proactive, not waiting for the future to come to you. Three things to think about as you plant the seeds:
Assess your income portfolio:
Relying on one source of income is what most of us do, but it’s risky in that we’re putting our eggs all in one basket. Start thinking about your income portfolio as you would an investment portfolio:
Thinking in this way is a really good way to de-risk yourself and grow in the future. As you would balance a portfolio of investments, you have to spend time to balance the different levels for yourself.
Maybe you reach out to small businesses that are struggling right now. Your valuable support now might turn into something later when they are more financially secure.
The key to this is thinking differently about how you set yourself up, thinking a bit more like an entrepreneur about your career. This helps in two ways:
1) If you do lose your job: you already have irons in the fire that you can lean on or put more energy into to sustain yourself
2) you can use any extra income to build up your financial buffer: so that you’re more agile and aren’t blocked by your finances when you need to do something new. Need some ideas? Check out this article.
Most of us are taught to think like customers, waiting for someone to provide us with work, education, opportunities, etc. Flip this thinking on its head, assess the skills you have, and proactively reach out to organisations you think you can help. This is a great way of planting seeds.
Spend a few hours thinking about how you can future-proof your career. Use your fear-setting results from Step 1 to work out what needs to be included. Remember that any good plan is about being proactive, don’t make a plan and sit on it. Start taking steps forward to make sure you’re in the best position you can be.
1) Figure out your financial plan:
Figure out how much you need to save/earn to feel comfortable and secure in your position. It doesn’t need to be complicated and don’t be unrealistic. Take small steps and make manageable changes so that you are in the best position you can be.
2) Figure out your T-graph
One of the best things I’ve seen with regards to skill development and growth is the T-graph in growth marketing, where you identify the breadth of skills you need, and the ones you want to become really excellent at.
Draw up your own version of the T-graph so you can see where your gaps are and the things you’d like to go deep on learning. Remember that you should be trying to build skills that you inherently value, not the ones you think you ‘need’ to learn. People who like and enjoy what they do, tend to be more successful as they’re willing to put the time in to become excellent as whatever it is they do.
Spend time building skills that you enjoy and that you think are worthwhile.
3) Design your own learning plan:
Look at your T-Graph and set goals, deadlines and plans! Take ownership of your own learning and development, and use the abundance of free and inexpensive resources out there to build the skills you value.
You can learn anything, you just have to start where you are and be proactive. And, it should be fun! If you’re not having fun, you need to reassess the skills you’re trying to learn. If you don’t enjoy learning them, you’re probably not going to enjoy putting them to use!
At the end of the day, when you’re thinking about what is going on right now… My biggest piece of advice is, don’t panic.
Don’t focus too much on the things you have no control over, there will always be plenty of those, instead, focus on what you can control.
Use this time to develop your skills and plant the seeds so that you are able to adapt as the world changes. It’s a lot more fun, and a lot less stressful than watching the news!
Navigating your life and career is hard… but you don’t have to do it alone. If you need help with your career or entrepreneurial pursuits, consider:
- Signing up to receive our fortnightly newsletter for the latest career change tools, stories and advice.
- Joining our online Facebook group for peer-support with likeminded people and experts.