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How can you prepare for the unexpected? 6 lessons learned.

Careers rarely go exactly according to plan. You discover new options. You choose different directions. You adapt to the unexpected. In fact, as markets shift, business strategies change, and organizations restructure, expecting the unexpected is one of the few things you can absolutely count on throughout your career.

In recent months, many of us have been navigating the unexpected impact of the pandemic on both our work and personal lives. It’s been a good reminder to always be prepared, even when you can’t predict what’s next. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done.


For me, there have been three major, unexpected events over the course of my career that prompted me to adjust, adapt, and ultimately, embrace change. Each taught me important lessons on how to prepare and react to the unexpected.


Lesson 1: Take a moment to reflect.

Whether it was a team restructuring or a role in a location that didn’t suit my life, I’ve had to adapt to change quickly. Still, it’s essential to pause in the midst of what’s happening to reflect. As you explore your next job options, consider both the “why” and the “how” to ensure a potential opportunity aligns with your values as well as your work-life priorities.


Working with a coach can be invaluable as you come to terms with where you are and determine where you want to go. Many outplacement services provide access to coaching to assist in your transition. When they do, take full advantage. And, even if you don’t have access to coaching resources through your employer or outplacement services, I’ve found coaching well worth the investment as I’ve explored different career options and weighed decisions about next steps.


Lesson 2: Have your resume at the ready.

You’ve likely heard the advice to keep your resume updated and ready to go, even when you’re not actively looking for new opportunities. It’s good advice. When the unexpected happens, it’s so helpful when you’ve taken the time to create a strong draft, so all you need to do is make minor refreshes, and it’s good to go.


Lesson 3: Lean into your network.

When you find yourself unexpectedly looking for a new position, your professional network connections will play a critical role in helping you find opportunities, especially senior roles. That’s why cultivating strong connections and nurturing relationships are “must-dos” all along the way. In addition, ensure you’re visible on networking platforms, join relevant groups, and make a practice of sharing your insights and opinions.


Lesson 4: Get your finances in order.

In my career, I’ve learned that preparing for the unexpected includes having a handle on your finances, so you’re able to assess opportunities and understand when it’s okay to take a risk. Stay on top of the money you’ve got coming in and going out. Know the details of your assets, including your pension and savings plans – and make sure your beneficiaries and backups are up to date, just in case.


Lesson 5: Invest in your wellbeing.

Along with managing the practical matters, always build in time to focus on your overall wellbeing. Navigating the unexpected takes courage – and courage comes from your best self. Learn what works for you across the fitness, meditation, and social elements of wellbeing, and make them a non-negotiable part of your routine.


Lesson 6: Make learning a constant.

A big part of preparing for the unexpected comes from prioritizing ongoing professional learning. Invest in learning new skills, earning additional credentials, and positioning yourself for future roles and responsibilities. Learning helps you stay agile – and it can open the door to exciting new interests and opportunities.


As I’ve adapted to changes throughout my career, I’ve found that preparing to take on the unexpected is a vital step in your personal journey of self-discovery. As a coach, I’d be honored to help you explore and embrace the changes that come your way. Click here to schedule a complimentary 30-minute session.

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