I had a wonderful discussion with about 75 people in Europe yesterday, talking about career planning. An excellent question was raised about being paralyzed by fear – fear of job loss being a primary one these days.
We’re all human. We have fears, and the general responses are Fight, Flight, or indecision and paralysis. Basically, paralysis means we’re hoping for a difficult problem to “fix itself” and go away because we don’t know how to deal with it. Losing your job can require a redesign of your life and all your relationships, and that’s an extremely scary prospect for most of us.
But there are ways to deal with these deepest fears. The first step is to put a name to the fear, and recognize that you have a deeply emotional response to it. Let’s say that I’m afraid of losing my job. Fine. It is what it is, and the feelings of anxiety that I have around this are real, they exist, and they’re mine. They’re even rational – I should feel anxious about such a big change in my life.
By stating this, I can now move beyond the fear.
One of the most useful tools I’ve found is the “Career Plan B.” Here’s the key question: What direction would you take your career if you could no longer do your current job?
There are many interesting answers you might have for a question like this:
- My first priority would be to relax for six months, because I’m so incredibly stressed right now and need to get some perspective.
- I would explore that other career I always dreamed about.
- I’d go back to school and work on my next degree.
- I would look for a job that’s quite similar to what I’m doing right now, because I enjoy it and am quite good at what I do.
- I would talk with my spouse about becoming a stay-at-home parent.
- I would leverage some of my existing skills but take a significantly different job.
- I’d climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Now here’s the interesting part: Just having that answer in your mind helps you to make useful decisions right now, even if you’re not particularly interested in changing your career. And even more fascinating: It helps to reduce that fear of change which keeps us paralyzed.