Managing Career Uncertainty During COVID-19

IN Career
ON March 18, 2020

As I write, COVID-19 is an ongoing global pandemic affecting 170 countries, which continues to develop and have a significant impact on health, transport, travel, work and our daily lives. At a time when we are being advised by governments and organisations to make significant changes to the way we live and work, there is a growing uncertainty around how this will impact us as nations, communities, teams, families and individuals.

What has been clear is the need to think ahead, the need to pull together resources, and the need to keep calm and carry on. So while you are balancing the emotional, financial, health and social needs of yourself and those who depend on you, how do you maintain resilience in your work life? Whilst we don’t yet know what the full impact of COVID-19 will be on the economy, businesses and jobs, we can take steps to control how we react and adapt to the evolving situation. Here are 5 steps to help you take stock and manage career uncertainty during the current corona virus outbreak:

Stay in the Positive

Thinking positively is easily dismissed in challenging times, when perhaps it doesn’t feel like a practical step toward overcoming the challenges themselves. Yet it is our mindset that forms the foundations of how we receive information, react to it and use it. Staying in the positive could involve focusing on what is currently going well in your career, maintaining a gratitude diary or achievement log, or switching to thinking about something you are either looking forward to or are happy about right now. When your mind is in a positive place, you are better equipped to maintain perspective, manage stress and quiet any fear. 

Humanise Your Resources

Success through periods of change in any form depends on effective collaboration and communication. This applies both in and out of the workplace. Now is an important time to work with others. If you are worried that you might lose your job, discuss this with your employer: are there ways you can limit this possibility, or better prepare for the eventuality? If you are experiencing financial difficulty, seek advice from employers, relevant organisations, friends and families. If you are adapting to new ways of working, make sure you have the resources you need and understand the impact on your role, performance and work life balance. Speak to your employer about making it work for you. It’s important to remember that, whilst every situation is unique, we are all in this together and the best way to get through it is – you guessed it – together. 

Control the Controllable

To do this, first take steps to accept what you can and cannot control. Whilst you may not be able to control the economy, politics and what other people do, for example, you can control how you react and what you do next. If your career is facing uncertainty, consider the rational ways that you could respond. Depending on the job you have and your personal situation, this might include any of the following: re-evaluating strategic direction, utilising online training opportunities, providing voluntary or pro bono work, seeking financial support, or re-assessing work-life balance, priorities or purpose. 

Keep Your Goals in Sight

Whether you were chasing a promotion, a career change or a huge deal, don’t lose sight of where you want to be and what you want to achieve. Take time to revaluate the influencing factors and how this may impact the steps and timescales that will lead you there. This may be the time for contingency planning, allowing yourself to look forward again rather than focus on your immediate reaction to the current situation. It might be time to get creative, be patient or entrepreneurial, but remember why you are doing what you do and where you want to take it. 

Keep Going

An unhealthy way to react to uncertainty is to stop, or to give up. Strength is shown not through a “go big or go home” mentality, but through exploring your resilience during times of uncertainty. Making mistakes is OK, feeling that you have failed is normal. What separates you from being where are you and where you want to be is how you pick yourself up every time life doesn’t go as planned, how you learn, how you grow and how you become everything you were supposed to be. By being realistic, rational and positive, you will face any uncertainty you feel now and ahead with greater resilience and strength. By not worrying about failures and instead working with others to move forward, you can adapt to the changes happening around you and better react to ambiguity. This is a key skill that will serve you well far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely you are already demonstrating your resilience. Take what you have achieved so far, your reasons for doing what you do, and allow it to take you to wherever you need to go next.


Stevie Barnes is a Coach and Talent Consultant, working with people and organisations through periods of change to empower them to reach their potential. Stevie’s background is in HR, where she supported the growth of organisations and individuals through global people strategies, business partnering and quite simply, being human.

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