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How to manage your career when you don’t know what the hell is going on

I have a confession to make. I kind of liked lock-down. 

I liked having extra time with my family (but not home schooling obviously).

I liked not having to set an alarm.

I almost liked the fact that things were quiet in my business for a bit so I could have some down-time. Some space to breathe and think about what I wanted in the future.

And I really think that change has done me a lot of good. I know plenty of women who feel the same.

Some of them are working from home and enjoying the extra, commute free time in their day. Extra time to be with their kids, get some exercise or ease into the day without panic. They may be feeling more freedom without the watchful eye of a micromanaging boss. Some are working reduced hours and experiencing a better balance that more than makes up for the financial loss. And then there are the women who have been stood down and feel like they should be job hunting but just can’t bring themselves to do it.

But the problem is this feeling that the rug might be pulled out from beneath us at any minute.

What if we lose that job?

What happens when job keeper stops?

What if our boss wants us back in the office and we’re commuting again?

What if this sense of freedom has inspired us to change career? Is now a crappy time to do that because of the jobs market?

So what the hell are you supposed to do with your career when you have no idea what is going on in the world? When things could change at any minute?

If you’re going round in circles trying to figure this out, then consider the following:

Focus on what you can control
You’ve probably heard about the circles of control and influence. It’s one of my favourite concepts from Stephen R Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Basically, you draw a big circle and inside it you write down everything that’s concerning you at the moment. For example, you may be worried about coronavirus cases spiking or about the state of the economy.

Within this large circle of concern there are some situations within your direct control or influence. As a mother of two young children, I sometimes make out that there is very little I can control but that is not totally the case. On the days that my kids are at school and daycare I have control over how I spend those precious six hours i.e. I could write this blog post, or I could decide to scroll through Facebook and eat chocolate. You get my drift.

So, once you’ve written them down reflect on those concerns that you have about your career. If you’re concerned about going back to the office, then what can you do to influence that situation? Is it time you had a discussion with your boss? If you want to find a new job but you’re concerned that the jobs market is dire then what can you do to control or influence that situation? Whilst you personally can’t change the jobs market you can change the way you approach it. You can control which jobs you apply to (see below re industries that are booming). You can influence employers by having a standout resume. You can improve your chances, and in turn influence, by developing new skills.

It’s easy to blame external forces but, in reality, we have more control than we think.

Develop your toolkit
If you’ve been stood down, had your hours reduced or simply decided you’ve had enough and it’s time to find a new job, then it’s time to develop your job hunting toolkit. It’s tough out there but there are jobs and some industries are booming. Think healthcare and social assistance, IT services, logistics, online education and training, and as the government invests in major projects, the construction and infrastructure industries.

You need to be prepared to pivot. If you’re an accountant who usually works in the hospitality industry, then it may be time to transfer those skills to the healthcare industry. Think about who you know that works in your target industry and set up a meeting with them. This is about getting information not a job (although sometimes it can lead to that). You want to know what it’s like to do that work, how they got into it, what tips they have for you and who else they know that can help you.

Look for people not jobs. Job sites are being inundated with quality applications for vacancies they are posting. You need to get to employers before the jobs are advertised.

If your pivot involves developing further skills or training then now is an ideal time to do that too, with the government pairing up with universities, TAFEs and training providers to offer free or heavily discounted courses in areas with high employment demand.

Play the long game
Now is a perfect time to be working on your long-term career plan, particularly if you have been thinking about a change in direction. Successful career change rarely happens overnight. Take the time to begin reflecting on yourself, your interests, your work likes and dislikes and what you want from the future.

Then start identifying the steps to take you there. Download my new 12 week Career Change Planner to help you get started on changing your career.

Yes, there is uncertainty and, yes, the rug could be pulled out from beneath you at any time. But you need to focus on what you can realistically do. Focus on what you can control and influence, get prepared and play the long game.

With many thanks to Denny Nesbitt for sponsoring this article.

If you’re still feeling stuck and need some help figuring out your individual situation then I offer a complimentary half hour Working Mum SOS callThere is no obligation to book further coaching but you’ll be amazed at the difference a quick chat can make. Click here to book in a time.

Denny Nesbitt is a life and career coach, living in the Illawarra, who helps mums create lives and careers that feel more like them. After years of unhappiness in the corporate world the birth of my sons bought massive change and overwhelm but also served as a catalyst for me to work out what I truly wanted from life and work and have the bravery to go after it. Now I help other mums do the same. My services include career change coaching, interview coaching, resume review and development, LinkedIn and selection criteria response. Click here to find out more about my services