How to manage your career in times of uncertainty

by Oct 17, 2016

Times of uncertainty impact us all

In 2016, my email box was flooded with enquiries from clients asking how “Brexshit” as I call it, will impact them.  Today, the content is around #COVID-19. The answer is noone knows at this point, but eventually some type of calm and compromise will emerge as it always does. Official statements are made about any impact this will have on the free movement of labour, job losses, economic downturn and employee rights.  With Brexit there were few significant changes in the short term and key players made statements to project calm. The Corona pandemic is different as we go into lockdowns and quarantines where the impact is visible, frightening and immediate. People are dying. There is always collateral damage for the workplace and it’s important in times of uncertainty to be prepared and in the best position to face whatever may hit us and our careers. There can also be opportunity.

Read: 10 ways to make challenges work for you

Collateral damage

times of uncertainty

With companies in free fall have your emergency landing ready

It is clear that uncertainty and panic damages business confidence which impacts stability. Those two elements feed off each other. This situation  can cause hiring and investment freezes, as companies wait for guidance from government departments head offices and even lawyers.

In 2012 I wrote a post called  “Are you ready for a professional emergency landing“. The main criteria are still valid today. It’s all about being prepared and setting up some best practises to cope with any potential emergencies.

Unwelcome change is a hall-mark of our workplaces, whatever the circumstances. We have all seen many excellent people blindsided and ill-equipped to make an emergency landing which causes us to flail around in search of life-vests and oxygen masks.  Under normal circumstances, this can be because of redundancy, a merger, a take- over or any other unforeseen business circumstance. The fallout from Brexshit had been predicted by most main economic and business experts, but sadly not taken seriously. Some would say the same was true of a global pandemic. Happily there does seem to be a greater willingness to follow the advice of experts.

So now will be a good time to make sure you are prepared for that emergency professional landing because these times of uncertainty are going to be around for a while. They can be corrosive and damaging.

Read: Managing the human side of change management

Here are 8 tips that you can apply immediately while the dust settles:



Make a plan and be prepared

Make a plan and be prepared

1. Update your online presence and CV

if you do not do this routinely, and keep a copy ready to send off immediately, now is a good time to do that. Keep it on your phone. You never know how quickly you will need it. Start straight away.

 2. Audit your professional skills

it’s important to be current in this area. Many people take their feet off the pedal in terms of professional development , quite often in mid-career and find themselves lacking particularly in relation to newer (read cheaper) employees. It’s important not to become complacent and to view education as an ongoing exercise. Book a career audit.  Check that you can deliver your elevator soundbites and you have your A game at your finger tips.

Download our free resources from our career shop. 

3. Work on your network

Many job seekers tap into their networks only when they have a need, by which time it’s too late. Strategic networking should be an ongoing effort. Make sure you are doing this now. If you are in a job and don’t think you need to network – re-examine that thought. In times of uncertainty, networking is key.  If you are locked in quarantine start to do this now!   Read: Do you have a Go-To Top 10

4.  Pay it forward

The more you can do for other people when you are in a position to do so makes it easier to ask for reciprocation at a critical time.  In  2020 much of this can’t be done in person. 3Plus is offering a one hour free small group coaching session called Safe Distance to support people in their careers. Watch our social media streams for updates.

5.  Monitor your budget

The last thing Economists want to hear is people being advised not to spend, as this boosts the economy. It’s hard to define in precise terms how long it could take to find another job. You could be lucky – but generally executive searches take about 3-6 months and for senior roles even longer. Today the suggestion is that it can be as much as 9 months for c-level positions. So although it is hard, in today’s economic climate, sound advice would be for all of us to have a reserve “disaster fund“ of a minimum of 6 months to cover critical expenses. One of the most terrifying aspects of job loss is the gnawing anxiety of how to meet fixed overheads. It’s a good idea to make sure that key financial contact details are in your address book. How well do you know your bank manager?

6. Invest in professional support

Many individuals seek career support when they are desperate: it might be when they have already lost their jobs or are facing any other sort of career blip. It is important to treat a career with the same strategic analysis as one might any other housekeeping exercise. In the words of John F. Kennedy “ The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”.

7. Look after you

It’s normal to worry about your family and your ability to support your nearest and dearest. But just as a cabin attendant will exhort passengers to put on their own life jackets and oxygen masks first and then look after their dependents, the same is true for you. Putting your own needs first, will ultimately be in the best interests of the people who rely on you. In today’s pandemic this will be a bigger challenge but resonates even more strongly.

8. Leave your luggage behind

This is always one I imagine I might struggle with if tested, but the logic resonates nevertheless. Sometimes our baggage gets in the way and we have to let it go and take that step into the unknown to protect ourselves. This is another area where professional help can be a good idea. Make sure you understand fully what is holding you back.

If you need help to protect your career in uncertain time – Contact Us Now

Originally posted in July 2016  updated March 2020

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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