If you've received an email since March of this year, there's a good chance it began with the following salutation:
"Hello Jane! Hope you're doing well in these uncertain times…"
"Uncertain times," isn't that the understatement of the century? This year has been, well, crazy! You only need to scroll through TikTok or scan a meme or two to see that most of us have no earthly idea what to do with ourselves right now. We're "bored in the house and we're in the house bored," not-so-patiently waiting until noon to start drinking, and slowly trying to create a new normal in our "regular lives" that now include masks and social distancing (which I still think makes about as much sense as "jumbo shrimp").
The COVID pandemic has rocked our world in ways we never imagined, not the least of which has been in our careers. We've seen industries unravel that were previously recession-proof. We've seen extraordinarily sudden droves of furloughs and layoffs. We've experienced record numbers of jobless claims and people who are unemployed for the first time in their lives.
With a deep knowledge of your ideal career path and absolute clarity as to your highest value, you can take control of your career, regardless of the circumstances.
All of this has led to increasing levels of anxiety and fear in our professional lives. Regardless of whether you love your work, tolerate your job, or straight-up hate what you're doing professionally, the pandemic has created a collective "white space" in our lives that was previously used for commuting to offices, going to work happy hours, or traveling. What do you get when you mix anxiety, global uncertainty, and more free time to contemplate both? It's enough to make anyone reach for the covers and keep the lights turned out.
But we don't need to be afraid.
In times of great uncertainty, those of us with the most clarity will win. To rise above the noise and eliminate career uncertainty during the pandemic, you need to be crystal clear about the professional value you add and why you are the best option for providing that value. With a deep knowledge of your ideal career path and absolute clarity as to your highest value, you can take control of your career, regardless of the circumstances.
You may be thinking, "Awesome, Tracy. Great advice. You basically just told me that the best way to battle uncertainty is with confidence and clarity. But how in the you-know-where am I supposed to get either of those without certainty, first?!"
Here is my fool-proof, 5-step plan for creating more confidence and clarity in your career so you can eliminate uncertainty, no matter what or when.
Step 1: Create your core values.
When life is uncertain, there is no better place to start than with what you are absolutely sure of—enter, core values. No matter what's happening in life, the values that are core to your existence and drive the majority of your decisions are unlikely to change. Just because the world feels like it's all up in flames doesn't mean you're suddenly going to transform from a person of integrity to someone who deals under the table just to get ahead. Re-engaging with your core values will give you a semblance of control and a sense of what is true for you even when everything else is in flux.
No matter what's happening in life, the values that are core to your existence and drive the majority of your decisions are unlikely to change.
This is a chance to be honest with yourself about what really moves the value needle in your life. Go to this resource, and you'll find a list of over 500 values. Print out the list, set a timer for 15 minutes, and write down every single word that resonates with you. Don't get caught up in what you "should" value or what's "expected" to resonate.
Next, start grouping similar value words into categories (ex. strength, vitality, endurance, and fitness may all fall under "feeling amazing" or "health & fitness"). Whatever you name each category is up to you! Narrow down the groups until you reach about ten in total, then give each group a name. Finally, put your values in order, with the most important at the top. Voila! Now, you have your current core values list.
Step 2: Assess your awesomeness.
Next, you want to get a good sense of your "nature" including your innate behaviors, personality, and aptitudes. This is generally where I tend to get a collective sigh from the audience of readers.
Another personality test?! I've taken them all!
Before you bail on Step 2, remember this: even the most gifted cardiothoracic surgeon cannot perform her own open-heart surgery. The most common mistake I see in career clarity seekers (having worked with hundreds of them to date!) is trying to do introspection alone. By leveraging different career, personality, and behavioral assessments, you get an objective, third-party, descriptive view of your gifts.
Step 3: Examine your experiences.
Now that we have your core values and your natural "gifts, " we have one massive piece of your "value puzzle" left: what you've learned from your collective life experiences.
Have you ever worried that you'll have to "start your career from scratch, " questioned your experience level, or considered going back to school? It's one of the top five fears I hear from every one of our clients. I've learned that for most people, there's a great chance you're already ready to make the leap, but you just don't realize it yet.
The key? Doing a deep dive into your previous experiences and mining them for "professional gold." Your experiences will fall into three general categories: work, education, and life (or what I like to call "ninja skills"). Go through each topic and create a list of what you learned, what you loved, and what you'll never, ever, ever do again.
Step 4: Know your niche.
Now is the time to put all the collective puzzle pieces together.
Draw a large three-way Venn Diagram on a piece of paper (one circle on the top and two on the bottom, all intersecting in the middle). Write your core values in the top circle, your assessment results in the lower left circle, and your experiences in the lower right circle.
The nexus of these qualities and experiences will illuminate your ideal professional niche and point you down the path of a sustainable and meaningful career, aka success!
Ask yourself, "Where do all of these overlap?" For instance, if you have the value of "Caring for Others" and a natural inclination toward "Service/Help" then look for life, work, or educational experiences that align and allow you to add even more value.
The nexus of these qualities and experiences will illuminate your ideal professional niche and point you down the path of a sustainable and meaningful career, aka success! Knowing your professional niche is the key to eliminating the uncertainty you're feeling and replacing it with confidence and clarity.
Step 5: Articulate your value-add.
The last hurdle standing between you and a career you love? Other people knowing about your ideal career!
In order to navigate to your dream job, you'll need to share that vision with as many people as possible. Remember the cardiothoracic surgeon from Step 2? Resist the temptation to go it alone. Your network, even people who don't know you yet, want to help you. They just need to know how to help you.
Here's an easy 4-Step Professional Pitch that works (even for my introverted friends!):
Perhaps you like what you are doing but aren't totally fulfilled. Maybe you feel you should be doing something different, but aren't sure what. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for you to rethink your core values and career path, but you aren't quite sure how to approach this complex and even daunting challenge.
Instead of waiting for the dust to settle, now is the ideal time for you to take charge of your career path and gain more clarity. In order to eliminate career uncertainty, do the hard work it takes to gain absolute clarity. I promise you won't regret it.
WRITTEN BYTracy Timm