Coping with Uncertainty: COVID and your Career

Written by Emma Barber

30th October 2020

a woman calming down a worried man

What if it’s not the right job for me?

What if I fail?

What if the company goes bust?

What if I can’t earn enough?

What if…what if…what if…?

Uncertainty is certainly familiar to all of us – especially now with COVID cases, rules, and attitudes changing pretty much every minute of every day. No one would deny that nothing is certain anymore – but it never was anyway. Back when everything was “normal” there was no actual certainty that the job you had Monday would be there Tuesday. Anything could’ve happened. Then it DID happen and the pandemic reminded us all of the fragility of all social structures – including our jobs and careers.

Despite most people’s opinion of uncertainty, it’s not really a bad thing. It’s just we don’t like being aware of it – in the same way we often don’t like to be aware of sadness, for example, preferring to ignore, bury, or disguise it. Now that we can’t avoid being more aware of it, we may as well look at this uncertainty in a positive way – otherwise it will overwhelm you surprisingly quickly.

Consider this:

“In the midst of chaos there is also an opportunity” – Sun Tzu

It’s all about your frame of reference. Think of it like a pair of glasses; some of us really need a new prescription! We need to take off the glasses that make us fall into a “what if” spiral of worry and negativity and pop on a fresh new pair. This new pair of frames makes us see everything a little differently (and are, by no means, simply “rose tinted”). With these new frames on you can start asking the RIGHT questions:

What is this experience teaching me?

How can I develop my existing skills and knowledge in my current circumstance?

What new opportunities are coming my way? Which ones do I want to take advantage of?

You might still ask the odd “what if” question, but they’ll be more along the lines of:

What if this works out well?

Where will I go next?

What if I come out of this stressful period stronger and more resilient?

How will I continue my progress?

With a more positive mental attitude, the same uncertainties you faced before become less threatening. This doesn’t mean they suddenly disappear and everything becomes straightforward, but it does mean that you’re diving into those challenges with a great energy. It means you are more likely to be PROactive rather than REactive.

What does being PROactive mean? Well, say you see a new technology barrelling towards you and your job, take action! Show the boss you do more than the bare minimum, showcase your value as an employee – maybe help a colleague, or stay late to finish something, go that extra mile. If it’s clear that the technology coming for your job really means business, then it’s time to start dreaming again – what was that career goal you wanted? Were you on your way? What other path can you take? Do you want to change your destination? Keep honing the skills you need to continue your career, or pick a skill you don’t have but know would be useful for your new goals. There are also no rules against picking something simply because you’d enjoy learning it. Consider where else you can apply your current skills and how new ones will further enhance your position.

Being proactive also means staying on top of your CV and LinkedIn profile – just because businesses are going through financial challenges caused by the pandemic, doesn’t mean they’ve ALL stopped hiring. Recruiters, for one, are certainly still working, and they will be window-shopping online, looking for the perfect candidates for open roles. Keeping on top of your CV, and tailoring it to your goals is sound advice in any case – check out this article for some Career Jump tips on CV crafting.

Proactivity is a great way to deal with uncertainty. You take control where possible and, at the very least, draw the challenging situation to a less objectionable conclusion. However, proactivity is also tiring. You’re creating, progressing, and working on many different things all at the same time, all while coping with the emotional stress caused by the initial uncertainty (for most us, this currently means COVID). So, there has GOT to be time for some quiet reflection. Some find a worry diary helps – you write out all of your concerns every morning or evening, acknowledging each one and accepting its presence. It sort of like letting the wave of overwhelm wash over you, but you’re ready for it. Once you’ve got all of those worrisome things written down (and I mean all of them – everything that is weighing on your mind), you can cross out those you can’t actually control, focussing instead on the concerns that land within your sphere of influence. You can then start brainstorming solutions to those concerns.


Worry #1: I’m worried about the up-coming political decision regarding XYZ. I’ve already voted and encouraged others to do so.

Worrying about this won’t do anyone any good. Let it go and let whatever is going to happen, happen.

Worry #2: I can’t predict what’s going to happen to my job – they might fire me because I know they need to cut back because the company is struggling financially and I am already 1 week overdue on one of my projects! It’s going to be awful.

Ok, this is in your sphere of influence – so break it down:

The core issue: I’m struggling with this project at work. There is a gap in my knowledge.

A possible solution: I shall identify the key area which is blocking my progress and ask my colleague for a chat so they can advise me and help me learn.

And…relax. Now that’s gotten a little less worrisome, hasn’t it?

In a nutshell: changing your frame of reference is the first step towards coping with uncertainty follow by proactivity, which comes hand in hand with a positive attitude towards challenges and the opportunities they entail. It’s important to take the time to work through your feelings of uncertainty and to do so rationally, focussing only on the challenges in your life which you can tangibly influence.


“Uncertainty is corrosive” (Greg Ip – Wall Street Journalist) – don’t let it eat away at you.

Career success is all about being able to cope with whatever comes your way! Do you want to join the #1 Career Success Club in the UK and Europe? Click here!

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