These are truly unprecedented times. I remember having a conversation with someone in the middle of February about all that I had planned upto May. Within 2 weeks, everything changed. While COVID-19 has impacted a few people health wise, it’s impacted a much larger percentage economically and an even greater number at a psychological, mental and emotional level.
There are many layers to this uncertainty - one of which is career and job related anxiety. Unexpected events disrupt our habitual routines, jolt us out of our comfort zones, and lead us to ask big questions about what matters and what is worth doing. It’s no wonder, then, that during the current pandemic, many people are rethinking their careers.
So how do we balance the need to ensure basic survival — of our families and firms — with what may well be a growing urge to do something new after this crisis has subsided?
Personally, I’ve had my share of challenges, uncertainty and on some days even paranoia. I’ve come to realize that managing our careers in these times is about
1. Accepting the uncertainty & moving out of our comfort zone
2. Managing and regulating our emotions
1. Accept the uncertainty & move out of our comfort zone
Our perspective is one thing we can control in a situation that is beyond our control. When we struggle to ACCEPT what is (e.g.: I don’t know what’s next in my career) - our survival brain is in action. Due to its disdain for anxiety, it makes up all sort of imaginary, and rather negative future possibilities.
Accept that things are changing. Accept the uncertainty.
- Paint a compelling picture for the future - Painting a picture of our future possibilities is more empowering than worrying about why things haven’t gone the way they could have or should have. Neuroscience supports this - when we do so, we are operating from the Cerebral Cortex…the Cerebral Cortex is more flexible than the survival/reptilian part of our brain…it helps us not only to find new landscapes, but to view our past and present from a different, more positive and empowering perspective.
- Get creative - Once we’ve accepted our uncertainty and painted the possibilities of the future, it becomes possible for us to get creative. As Albert Einstein said, necessity is the mother of all invention. For instance, with non-essential stores closed/distribution limited, fashion brands are reassessing their digital marketing strategies and communicating with their consumers in new ways – from live concerts, to healthy cooking and online tutorials. Another key to creativity is thinking, what’s going to change post the lockdown and/or COVID area? How can we evolve to meet the long-term change.
- “Networking” in this “lockdown era” - is more important than ever. Checking-in with people we know/have worked with earlier, re-kindling dormant relationships, and of course this is a great time to enhance your own social media presence. The golden rule of networking for career change has always been to mobilize your weak ties — that is, the relationships you have with people you don’t know so well or don’t see very often, in order to maximize your chances of learning things you don’t know already or getting new opportunities
- Don’t ask: What can I get? INSTEAD, ask, who can I help or How can I contribute? - The person who builds great relationships doesn't think about what he/she wants; she starts by thinking about what she can give. He/she sees giving as the best way to establish a real relationship and a lasting connection. Therefore, they approach building relationships as if it's all about the other person and not about them, and in the process receive.
Now comes the tricky bit. A lot of us know some of this. The challenge is executing what we know we could and perhaps should do! This pandemic, the Corona Virus seems to have amplified another disguised global pandemic - Anxiety. And, as psychologists have shown, threatening situations prompt us to behave conservatively — the opposite of what is required when we’re considering a career change. It’s hard to dive wholeheartedly into reinventing your career if you’re feeling risk-averse or are worried about your prospects.
2. Managing and regulating our emotions
Managing and regulating our emotions can help us translate ‘knowing’ what to do to actually doing it…and as we all know, doing/execution makes all the difference!
Here are 3 science-backed ways -
• Self compassion – Do you talk to yourself like you would to your best friend or family? If not, start today. We all have our dark side and bad days, and being compassionate to ourselves can help us through these times. Self-compassion isn’t being complacent – sometimes it is about choosing to take it slow, at other times, it could be about being more disciplines. More than anything, it’s the dialogue we have with ourselves.
• Gratitude – As Jack Ma said, “For people in business, 2020 is really just a year for staying alive. If you can stay alive, you’ve made a profit already.” Let’s be grateful for the smaller things, for moments with our family, and for life itself. Where there is gratitude, there are no complaints. Neuroscience research has established that 40 days of practicing gratitude consciously can even change the structure of our brain
• Mindfulness is no longer a luxury – We can keep talking about doing the ‘right’ thing or feeling ‘happy’ and ‘upbeat.’ As I’ve said in my earlier video, it is sometimes difficult to manage the mind at the level of the mind or TELL ourselves what to do. The experience of meditating a few minutes everyday and practicing breathing techniques can make it possible for us to effortlessly translate knowing into doing. Whether your mind is in the past, on another person, or several months ahead in the future, your breath has the power to pull it back to the present. Earlier in this post, I referred to the cerebral cortex enabling us to paint a compelling, positive vision of the future. Meditation can help activate this area of our brain as well as parts of the nervous system associated with relaxation and focus, which therefore makes it easier for us to act.
Finally, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt and keep reminding myself, it is - We can be at ease with uncertainty when we recognize that the only thing that is certain is our consciousness. That is, recognizing and being one with the higher power within us. And there’s no better time that this lockdown to dive deep within ourselves to be in touch with our consciousness!