We all like predictability because it makes life easier. From knowing the sun is going to rise in the morning to the regularly scheduled time of our favorite show, the predictable elements of life give us a sense of calm. It’s one less thing we have to worry about. On the flip side, uncertainty in our lives can be stressful. Not knowing what’s around the corner often leads to fear. This fear can be psychologically paralyzing, particularly when it comes to the job search.
The loss of a job or the experience of career transition is a big shock to the brain. The loss of your daily routine, commute, work space, and social contacts is nerve wracking. Your first order of business should be to restore these elements in your life as best you can and then start thinking about how to get yourself out there in a deliberate and focused way. Creating certainty in these uncertain economic times requires establishing structure, knowing yourself, and creating a plan.
Establish a Simple Structure
Your job is now getting a job, so you need to treat it that way. Take the time to create some basic guiderails to help keep you on track. Revisit the core elements of your former routine and consider which ones you can recreate. You may want to replace your commute to the office and morning planning with a drive to your local coffee shop where you read the paper and make your list of job search activities for the day. The idea is to get yourself into a structured routine to keep you active and productive. It’s very easy to fall prey to having too much time on your hands and spiraling into the psychological trap of self-doubt and procrastination.
Get to Know Yourself
It may sound a bit cliché, but only you have the capacity to really know yourself. The challenge is actually making the time and committing the energy to do so. Famous psychologist Carl Jung once said, “who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” Creating certainty starts with developing a keen sense of who you are, what you need, and where you want to go. We all have our internal drivers that manifest themselves through our daily actions. Understanding those internal drives will help you harness the essence of who you are and direct that energy in a positive way. Take the time to ask yourself the following questions and be sure to articulate the answers in a way a stranger would understand:
What are my personal values or guiding principles?
What are my intrinsic assets and natural strengths?
What are my true passions?
From recent graduates to corporate executives, everyone I have ever worked with struggled with answering these questions because they never took the time to really think about them. Consider this an opportunity to take a step back and engage in the kind of introspection that your hectic work schedule never allowed before.
Create a YOU Plan
Just as every NFL coach has a game plan for Sundays, you should have a “you” plan for your career. Nobody can predict the future, but you can certainly plan for it. Planning is the single greatest way to build certainty into an uncertain life, yet most of us don’t spend enough time doing it. Ask yourself the following questions:
What is my long-term career and life vision?
What are the necessary interim accomplishments required to get there?
What short and long-term goals do I need to set?
What kind of time frame do I need to commit to?
Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to put it in writing and commit to taking action. Draw a map, make a list, create a graph, or do whatever you are comfortable with. The idea is to have a destination and a basic roadmap for getting there. Make sure to put it in a prominent place where you can check it every day. Having a plan to fall back on as a reference point is a great way to restore a sense of certainty when the anxiety of uncertainty starts creeping up.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is an Organizational Psychologist and author of the Amazon.com top selling job hunting book The YOU Plan and newly released online course YOU Plan for Career Change. Dr. Woody writes a weekly column for FoxBusiness.com called The Career Hot Seat and appears regularly on the Fox Business show Career Accelerator. He has also appeared on LIVE w/ Regis & Kelly, Fox & Friends, CNN International, Dr. Steve, and Daytime. Dr. Woody serves a coach and faculty member with the Florida International University Center for Leadership.