Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 19: career planning while navigating change and uncertainty 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 14, 2017

This is my 19th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-18.)

I have taken what might be seen as a dual-focus approach in developing and writing this series, which I explicitly began addressing as such, early on in it:

• The inextricably connected issues of career planning and development in this rapidly emerging 21st century,
• And the ongoing emergence of a veritable flood of disruptive change and of all sorts that we are going through, that has come to fundamentally redefine what it means to be employable and employed.

I began this series with a briefly stated and more general set of opening notes on basic tools and approaches for planning out a career path. But after setting a stage with that for what would follow, I have been focusing in this series on change and on clarifying and analyzing the challenges and opportunities that we are all coming to face from it, and in our work and careers and in our lives. And then at end of Part 18, I switched directions back to that of career development tools and approaches again, by posing a basic, and even fundamental set of questions, which I repeat here as a starting point for what is to follow:

• How can we better navigate our way through all of this uncertainty and in ways that will maximize our chances of achieving a meaningful, fulfilling career path and work life?
• And how can we find our way through this jumble to assemble for ourselves and for our families, a more stable and meaningful path forward in it, and one that can help us to better prepare for our post-work life and retirement too?

If I were going to offer a single, quickly stated response to both of those questions, at least as a starting point in addressing them, it would be:

• Embrace change, and seek out ways to make it work for you.

That means acknowledging that change is happening and with all of the uncertainly and all of the at least potential for creating apprehension that it can bring with it. And it means approaching all of these changes: the more disruptive of them included, that are taking place around you, in ways that would limit their risk creating limitations as you move forward, while enhancing their new value creating opportunities.

Let me clarify what I mean there by noting that many if not most of the potential negatives of change, and certainly where those changes are not entirely win-lose in nature, fall on workplace and career options that may have held positive value for us in the past, but that cannot be adapted to new and emerging circumstances. So I reframe my initial response as offered in the above bullet point and the brief paragraph that follows it with:

• Embrace change that takes place around you, by adapting new ways and new understandings of what you do, that become possible and that can offer positive value because of those changes.

The key to this is in approaching your job and workplace and the job market and the contexts that they take place in, with open eyes and an open and acknowledging mind. Let me take that out of the abstract with a specific change example that too many of us are familiar with from direct personal experience, and one that is disruptive to those who face it even if it is not generally considered to be a disruptively novel change per se: layoffs.

When people are swept up in them, and find themselves facing and going through a termination of employment meeting stemming from that, their perhaps commonest first emotional response is often something like sickened surprise. But as the first shock passes as to what is happening and what has just happened, it is essentially just as common to find oneself thinking back to the fact that as much as this might have been a shock when it happened, it was not completely 100% unexpected either; there were at least some signs that this might happen – that seemed to be more comfortable to ignore at the time.

Keeping your eyes and your mind open to the possibilities is not always easy and particularly when the first possibilities that you might see coming are more disturbing from the unknowns and uncertainties involved, than they are comforting for the potential positives that they might bring too. But ultimately, turning a blind eye to what might be coming can only tip the balance away from you’re in any way gaining maximum benefit that you can derive from change. Blindness to what is happening when change is approaching just leaves you blindsided by it and unprepared for whatever potential negatives or positives that this change might bring.

So I start this second phase to my more prescriptive accounting of how to plan for and carry out a desired career path and work life by explicitly stressing what should be a most obvious point, that is all too often never actually acknowledged when it would be of greatest importance to us in our work and career planning:

• The imperative that we unflinchingly face change and in both its positive and negative potentials, and that we seek out ways of embracing it and in ways that can help us navigate the uncertainties it brings.

No one can effectively plan forward from where they are now, if they do not genuinely know where they are now that they would have to plan and execute from. I begin this next phase of this series with that, and with knowing what your starting point is so you can better plan your next steps and move towards them. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series discussion from that point and with a goal of discussing tools and approaches for identifying and understanding next steps and particularly the very first ones that you might take as you see change and disruptive change coming.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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