It is possible to move your career in a different direction during uncertainty if you are willing to consider a range of options. Strategically plan for setbacks, but don’t fail to envision positive outcomes as well.



During times of uncertainty, we tend to hunker down and cling to the status quo. A kind of myopia kicks in, and we focus on our most urgent decisions: how to keep our families safe and healthy, how to keep our bosses happy, or, if we’ve lost a job, how to find a new one as quickly as possible. When we’re overwhelmed, it can be hard to find the time, motivation, and mental energy to think about longer-term questions.

But despite the challenges that extended periods of uncertainty present, those periods also offer unparalleled opportunities for strategic planning. Total control and predictability are always an illusion — and when circumstance strips that illusion away, it can open our minds to the wide variety of paths we could take. On the basis of our experience as consultants and leadership coaches, we’ve developed five strategies that can help anyone leverage the power of uncertainty to reinvent their career strategy.

1. Explore a range of options — including the unthinkable.

Anything can happen in uncertain times. The breadth of possible outcomes can be overwhelming, and even when we understand them intellectually, we often avoid confronting our worst-case scenarios. But explicitly considering the most unimaginable of outcomes can actually make them less intimidating, enabling you to think through your options more clearly and to plan more effectively.

One of us, Dorie, worked with an organization that was drafting budgets detailing what it would do if the pandemic led to revenue declines of 5%, 10%, or 20% for the year. Dorie urged it to craft a scenario in which 50% of revenue evaporated. Thankfully, that financial apocalypse didn’t come to pass. But knowing what it would do in that case meant that the organization was prepared no matter what, giving it a far greater shot at success than peer organizations that avoided even considering such a possibility.