Personal uncertainty in turbulent times

Is personal uncertainty getting to you?

Is personal uncertainty getting to you?


I recently gave a speech at a training event that we ran in Prague. Here I set out an abbreviated version of the speech, shortening in particular the discussion around my own project experiences in the current market place and my clients.

Current economic turmoil is causing large shifts in power, and corporate uncertainty. This is well documented by the media. What is perhaps less obvious is that this can also cause personal uncertainty in our employees. We discuss what we need to do to be more effective, more efficient, more active in the market place, but we don’t seem to discuss the fears and worries of our employees, which are so often not voiced (but sometimes acted on), and how we can ease those fears and worries.

I set out below five thought/suggestions on how to deal with these concerns. They are my personal opinions, and what works for you might might be different. You may disagree with my views, but they may help you think of your own potential solutions. Most of all, I don’t intend to preach, but simply start a discussion.

1) Reflect on your career, opportunities, skills and experiences

Opportunities can appear (and disappear) based on demand for skills that you have. Such opportunities may be in a nearby department, or in another country (or even continent). They may be announced by your neighbor, a colleague elsewhere in the firm, or someone you recently met on a project. As such, it is critical to constantly maintain a broad outlook – don’t discount anything, continually reassess (tomorrow’s opportunities may not be available today), and keep your eyes open. If opportunities arise, consider them carefully and act according to your best intuition.

Remember also, only you will ever have 100% focus on your career.

2) Continually grow yourself

This might be through training, reflecting on recent experiences, implementing newly learned concepts and benefiting from new experiences real-time (on-the-job  training), and reading newspapers, books, blogs and internet news articles.

3) Be connected

It’s up to you how you do this (whether old tech, or new tech), but keep yourself connected to the networks that you are part of. Maintain and manage relationships. It’s incredible how many contacts we have nowadays – the number of people that we meet through our circles of friends, family, business contacts, etc. continues to grow – if you are lazy many of those relationships, perhaps containing the greatest future opportunities for you, will fade away.

Share business cards (even if it seems like a ‘card game’ sometimes) – write on the back of each card where you met the person and when (and if it works for you, write down some other details that will help you remember the person).  

Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Xing, if they work for you.

Don’t assume that other people don’t want to build relationships with you – nowadays no-one can afford to be arrogant and everyone is looking to connect.

4) Be open minded

Don’t believe everything you see – it may not reflect reality. Those who you may feel are in competing roles to your own (other firms, employees in other firms, maybe even your own colleagues) often project an image of confidence and success, but they may in fact be feeling the same fears and worries that you have. On the other hand, the media often looks to exaggerate circumstances, and so maybe the world isn’t quite as bad as CNN makes out.

At the end of the day, form your own point of view and maintain an open mind. The one thing you can control is your own actions – focus on doing the best you can there. Everything else will play out in whichever way it does.

5) Last of all, don’t panic

Have confidence, relax, keep yourself informed, reflect and assess and deal with challenges that face you (they might in fact be the best things that ever happen to you). You are surrounded by people facing similar uncertainty to you and together we can be stronger. Taking the actions set out above will help you find opportunities among the current economic turmoil.

Finally, save time for yourself and your family – this will keep you sane, and your family will be there for you when you need them.

Do you agree? Do you have alternative suggestions to dealing with the personal uncertainty created by recent economic turbulence?

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2 Responses

  1. I’d add another suggestion:

    6) Check the beliefs
    What are the beliefs that are underpinning you thoughts and your actions. Examples of such beliefs influencing your career decisions could be:

    – At the age of 55 no other company would recruit me
    – I have what it takes to be CEO
    – I can’t move up without an MBA
    – To make a career I need to sharpen by elbows
    – My manager has it in for me
    – I need to get better at the numbers if I am to hold on to my job.

    Once you have identified these beliefs ask yourself not whether they are true or false but rather whether they are helping or hindering you in your career.

    Then embrace the beliefs that support you and challenge or cast aside those that hold you back.

  2. Ageism is a very real factor, reflecting cultural prejudice and assumptions – on the part of prospective employers – of overqualified workers who won’t fit in, and who will require higher amounts of pay.

    In my experience (and observation), “younger” managers (in their thirties) are uncomfortable (threatened) managing “older” workers (45+) – without realizing that the work-life balance becomes far more important as you mature, particularly when raising a family is involved. So the fear – most often – is unfounded. “Older workers” just want to pay their bills, and have time for their “lives.”

    Being prepared to REINVENT oneself – potentially several times. It requires tremendous energy, but reinvention is a required survival skill.

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