For many of us, COVID-19 has brought enormous uncertainty into our working lives. Some people have had their hours reduced, others have lost their jobs and around 70% feel anxious and uncertain about their future job prospects.
“It’s absolutely normal to be feeling worried about the future,” says Sabina Read, SEEK’s Resident Psychologist. “But there are lots of ways you can learn to tolerate and deal with the unknown.”
Set aside time to worry
“One of the most practical ways to deal with fear, worry and anxiety is to compartmentalise it,” Read says. “Pick a ‘worry time’ where you’re going to fully attend to your fears. I suggest spending 30 minutes a day where you write down everything you’re concerned about in a journal.”
Giving space and time to your fears is a powerful way to learn to acknowledge them without trying to fix them. Read says there are no rules about how to do ‘worry time’. “It can be whenever you want, but just before bed probably isn’t the right time,” she says. “Set a timer for half an hour and remember that you’re not trying to look for solutions, you’re just downloading your fears.”
Eventually, Read says, some fears may soften, or you may be able to spot patterns, which then helps you work out which fears you can control and which ones you need to learn to tolerate.
Work out what you can’t control
If you’re concerned about losing your job, Read says to ask yourself: “Is this something I can control?”
“It’s debilitating to spend time in the ‘what if’ space,” Read says. “Instead, work out which of your fears are under your control and which aren’t. We are hardwired to try and problem solve but the truth is some things in life, like budget cuts, industry shut downs, sector changes, and unsurprisingly, the ripple effect of a global pandemic, are out of our control.”
Focus on what you can control
Instead of letting fear, anxiety and worry hijack your thoughts about your job, Read says it’s possible to use your time and thoughts in a beneficial way.
“If you think you might lose your job, instead of putting energy into worrying, focus on preparing instead,” she advises. “This doesn’t mean you’re accepting job loss as inevitable, but you’re keeping your attention on your career and being proactive, which all maintains an important sense of agency and hope.”
You can get ready for job loss without personalising it, or interpreting it as rejection. “If you prepare, you’ll be more robust and ready to deal with it if and when it happens,” Read says.
Here are some things you could control:
- Talking to your manager
“Have an honest and open discussion with your boss. They might not know what the future holds for your position, but by beginning the conversation they’ll know you are still engaged and may be able to collaborate moving forward.”
- Updating your resume
“Be proactive and add in new skills, experiences or roles to your resume so if you do need to look for work, it will be ready.”This resume template can help you get started.
- Opportunities to upskill and reskill
“Keep your eyes open for short courses that may help add to your skill set. Lots of courses are free or low cost at the moment.”
- Assessing your transferable skills
“You will have lots of skills that can be used in a multitude of jobs and organisations. Make a list of your transferable skills, such as communication and people skills. If you have to explore new career options, knowing your skill set will help.”
Anticipating job loss can bring up feelings of anxiety, fear, and rejection. But by identifying the things you can control and focusing on these, you’re likely to be better prepared for whatever might come your way.