How to deal with job uncertainty
Uncertainty is everywhere. As human beings, we crave security and a sense of control, and the pandemic has pulled the rug from under us.
COVID-19 has erased job certainty and spread economic upheaval in Canada, and that leaves us stressed, anxious and fearful about what the future holds.
Those temporarily laid off worry about getting called back. Those working worry about getting laid off. According to a report by Statistics Canada, more than a third of Canadian workers fear losing their job because of COVID-19.
Our brain hates uncertainty—particularly job uncertainty, says Bryan Robinson, psychotherapist and author of #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life. “Scientists have found that job uncertainty creates more anxiety and takes a greater toll on your health than actually losing the job.”
Your brain wants to know what’s around the next career corner so it can keep you out of harm’s way, Robinson says. “It always assumes the worst… You’re hardwired to overestimate threats and underestimate your ability to handle them—all in the name of survival.”
Here’s how to survive and thrive in the midst of crushing job uncertainty:
Perspective is everything
Your perspective is the most powerful thing you can control in a situation beyond your control, says Robinson. While an unprecedented pandemic disrupts lives and decimates jobs, all that fear, panic, and worry do not help preparation.
“They add insult to injury—another layer of stress that can compromise the immune system and paradoxically make us even more vulnerable to the virus,” he says.
It would help if you offset catastrophic thinking to get through this, and that requires finding the upside to a downside situation. It’s about sharpening your uncertainty tolerance, Robinson says. “Changing your perspective and reminding yourself that many gifts await you in the unknown, that it contains many positive outcomes as well as negative ones, is a game-changer.”
Do some problem-solving and planning
Active problem solving and planning helps manage uncertainty. If your mind often spirals into all the what-ifs, sit down and answer them, advises Dr. Vivien Lee, psychologist and founder of traumarecoverygrowth.com.
“What if I lose my job?” “What if I have no business for the rest of the year?” This can feel very unpleasant, says Lee, but it can ultimately help you to prepare and have plans in place if the what-if scenario occurs.
Take action over the things you can control. Set time aside regularly to plan ahead, she says. For example, spend one hour a day or a couple of hours on the weekend on job searching, updating your resume, taking an online course to upgrade your skills, or creating a financial plan in case of job loss. Look for ways to boost your career and confidence in uncertain times.
Learn new skills
Facing this new and uncertain normal means mustering the courage to learn new skills and make big changes, says Robin Fisher Roffer, chief brand strategist at bigfishmarketing.com and author of Your No Fear Career. Now is the time, especially if you’re waiting to get called back to work to get ahead of the game by amping up your skillset, including your digital skills, agile thinking, and interpersonal skills.
“The fast-growing digital economy is increasing the demand for highly-skilled technical workers. Look for online classes at universities that will help you sharpen in this area,” Roffer says.
Add some agile thinking to your repertoire. “In a period of sustained uncertainty, where economic, political, and market conditions can change suddenly, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital,” says Roffer. Coaches and mentors who can work with you to let go and pivot are vital to building this skill.
Hone your interpersonal and communication skills. “Human resources executives believe that co-creativity and brainstorming skills will be greatly in demand, as will relationship building and teaming skills,” says Roffer, adding that there are countless books and online programs on this subject.
Taking courses to learn one or more of these skills is an adjustment that will be well worth your investment of time and money. “If you possess any of these skills now, make sure to shine a light on them wherever your personal brand is seen.”
Be proactive at work
Do more, and you’ll possibly ruminate less about possible career catastrophe. Think of what actions you can take to be seen as someone moving the business forward, Roffer says.
Anticipate and be proactive in the work that you do—say yes to all requests. Work at odd hours and over the weekend, if needed, she says. “These are crazy times, and you need to be available. Don’t wait for this to all be over. Treat this moment as the new normal and show up accordingly.”
Roffer adds: “To be seen as ‘essential,’ workers need to stay centred and live in the present moment—not long for the past or fearful of the future.”
Reduce stress with self-care
Self-care is your first line of defence against chronic uncertainty—you’re doing yourself no favours by putting yourself last! “Self-care makes your use of time more sustainable. Healthy eating, rest and regular exercise give you the stamina to withstand any threat to your survival,” and continue to give to others, says Robinson.
Indulge in therapeutic activities that rejuvenate your mind and body and restore your energy and peace of mind, Robinson recommends. “Make a 10- or 15-minute appointment with yourself daily, and schedule personal time—a hobby, hot bath, manicure, yoga, facial, reading, contemplate nature or meditate.”
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