This is not a post about burnout or stress management. This is a conversation about a different kind of self-care. Time to time, we hear about banks undergoing stress tests to determine how they would fare in the face of difficult economic scenarios. What if you put your career through a similar stress test? Are you personally and professionally prepared for what changes may come your way?
Let’s think beyond “losing your job.” We need to be more specific and creative.
Pre-2008 stress tests did not prepare banks for the financial crisis because of a “failure of imagination,” according to the Office of Financial Research. Few tested banks’ resilience in a scenario where national housing prices tanked. Brainstorming ways your life can be changed a little or a lot may not be the most appealing exercise. However, that anxiety won’t compare to what you’ll encounter if you are caught off guard later.
How to go through the Career Stress Test without having a panic attack
This exercise can be anxiety-provoking because you have to consider scenarios you don’t want to think about or scenarios you never realized could happen.
Take it slow: work through a maximum of two scenarios each week.
Tackle the low hanging fruit first: if you’re ready for any of the scenarios, document your contingency plan for those first.
Add some positive scenarios: change can be challenging and good!
Ready? Grab a pen and paper. Deep breath.
The Career Stress Test
Change comes in many forms. It comes from many sources. While it is not always catastrophic, it always makes an impact.
For each scenario below (feel free to add your own):
- How likely is this to happen?
- What kind of impact would this have on you? Positive, negative, shrug-inducing? Minimal or major?
- If this is something you want to prevent, could you? If so, what is one thing you could do this week to lower the risk of it happening?
- If you have little to no control over its occurrence, what is one action you can take this week to mitigate the effects?
Your personal life changes
- You decide to leave your current field
- You decide to leave your current employer (not necessarily the field)
- You decide to go back to school
- Your significant other decides to go back to school
- You or your significant other (or even not a significant other) gets pregnant
- You adopt a child
- A family member, like a parent, moves in
- You and so break up, separate or divorce
- You or loved one gets sick
- A loved one passes away
- A loved one loses his/her job or his/her business fails
- You buy a house
- You lose your house
- Your rent goes up
Your employer or business changes
- Restructuring throughout the organization
- Restructuring within your department
- Coworker on your team leaves
- That other coworker on your team leaves
- Your manager leaves and you get a new one
- Your manager leaves and you take his/her place
- Your employer or business loses largest source of funding
- Your employer or business goes bankrupt
- You are fired
- You are laid off
- Your CEO leaves and upper management is changed
- Increased costs lead to a pay cut
- A hiring freeze
Your industry changes
- Demand for your employer or business offerings is cut in half
- Regulation within your industry increases
The economy changes
- Ever heard of a sequester?
Some ways you can pass the Career Stress Test
I can’t tell you what to do because this is a very personal exercise. I can offer some ideas for prevention or contingency plans.
- Cultivate at least one additional source of income
- Build up an emergency fund
- Stay up to date on your industry using LinkedIn, Google alerts and other tools
- Talk to loved ones who may be impacted by these scenarios
- Keep your resume easily accessible and spend 30 minutes each month polishing the document
- Maintain your LinkedIn profile
You can’t prepare for every possible scenario. But if you remain cognizant of the fact that change is inevitable, you can stay limber in your career and always be ready.