Career Resiliency: Plan for the worst

Things happen. It’s the way of the world. As much as we’d like to be able to go back in time and remake the world according to our likes and preferences that just isn’t possible. (At least not yet. I’m sure Elon Musk must have something cooking along these lines.)

So now what? If we can’t rid the world of accidents, mishaps, back luck and utter catastrophe, what do we do?
Rather than remake the world, it is in fact far easier to remake ourselves. We need to become resilient. This way when the inevitable happens, as Seneca would say, we can “let fate find us prepared and active.” That’s all well and good you may say, but how do we become resilient? Luckily there are concrete steps you can take, especially when it comes to your career.

The first step is to imagine the worst. What are some horrible things that could happen to you in regards to your career? The most obvious is losing your job entirely, but what else? Demotion? Transfer? New boss? New mission? New vision for the company? Make a nice big doom and gloom list. Once you see it in black and white in front of you it will be easier to prepare.

Next, imagine how you’d deal with each one. Remember, we are thinking about what we can actually accomplish, not what we wish we could do. We may wish we could get upper management to see they should never have reorganized our division, but that won’t happen. What we can do is learn the new game and play it as best we can. We may wish we could turn back the clock and not be let go. But we can call on contacts to get an interview in another firm. Sketch out a quick response to each career catastrophe.

Now, prepare for the worst. Some career hiccups are easier to prepare for than others. A new boss for instance requires a shift in attitude and perhaps a little relationship building. Being prepared for that is more about keeping your state of mind open. Losing your job and thus looking for a new one is a large undertaking and there are things you can- and should- have in place well beforehand. [References, well developed connections, a ready-to-go resume etc.]. Create your plans and then get to work. If you need to write your resumes then do it. If you need to save a month’s salary to put aside, then do it. Even if it takes a long time to have your contingency plans in place, the very act of working towards them will strengthen your will if anything should happen. The more prepared you are the better your reactions will be.

This is where resiliency really kicks in. You’ll never be caught flat-footed because you will have thought about this before. You thought about, acknowledged it, prepared to deal with it and put a plan of action in place. If you have a plan in place for all the possible worst-case scenarios then when some of them inevitably happen you’ll be ready and prepared to meet that fate with action.

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