King’s Business School Consultant Leslie Parsons describes what we will need to navigate changes and emerging opportunities in the post-COVID job market. In this blog, Leslie reflects that uncertainty is the backdrop to all careers.
“The trouble with our times is the future is not what it used to be.” Paul Valery (1938)
Uncertainty – the real career constant
Real careers are never predictable or straightforward; they are always uncertain. As a career consultant, I am lucky to hear to lots of real career stories. How resilient, inventive and adaptable we can be in the face of all types of uncertainty, from major international crises to more personal challenges and obstacles. When you speak to King’s alumni, about how they met their career challenges, difficulties or turning points they often describe how they
- followed interests and causes they cared deeply
- risked a new experience or through trial and error opened a new horizon
- received the help of a friend or mentor at a critical point
- created their own job and own measure of success
- employed their love of learning to expand or refresh their skills
- seized a new opportunity that materialized through sheer luck or synchronicity
Navigating the uncharted career
Uncertainty and adversity in many forms have been the pattern, not the exception for careers, especially in the past 20 years. Navigating these circumstances and conditions is not simple but is now an integral part of our career journey. In my experience, navigation (not career paths) is a better metaphor for what we actually do – not just every day but especially during times of great uncertainty.
The skills of the career navigator
Like a navigator in uncharted waters, we use a combination of four key career skills (1) to help us adapt to the conditions and guide us when things are uncertain and unclear.
Concern: Knowing that there is uncertainty and obstacles, we get soundings from reliable sources. Frequently checking the best available information from charts, instruments and from other ships, to understand the likely impact of current and future conditions.
Curiosity: Remaining open to exploring less travelled routes, changing course or heading for a different harbour reveals other possibilities – we may sail into the wind, hug the shore or opt for the less direct route.
Control: Be active; don’t drift. Ultimately, we must make a personal judgment and act based on our best judgment, knowledge, skills and experience at the time. We can build our knowledge and skills, we can make course corrections if necessary; it might take a little longer, but we can still arrive at our destination.
Confidence: We are not alone; we are part of a crew. We can benefit from the combined support, experience and perspectives of ourselves, our ship-mates and fellow travellers. We cultivate optimism and don’t give up hope.
The real secret is moving forward. With each incremental choice and action, we build confidence in our position and course. Each choice, each adjustment makes the course and the destination more distinct. This is how we navigate an uncertain career path.
“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
(1.Mark Savickas, Career Adaptability, 2013)
Written by Leslie Parsons