Navigating Uncertainty

The Career Studio Podcast Ep

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Uncertainty is uncomfortable. And yet it’s a normal part of the transition process as you remake your career identity. You have to spend time not knowing what the next step is, before you’re clear on where you want to go. 

But uncertainty feels untethering. Our culture values clarity and certainty - having a plan and executing against it. And so the tendency is to try to get out of uncertainty as quickly as possible. Relieving the uncertainty becomes more important than really figuring out what is the best next step. Which is a recipe for professional and personal misalignment.

In this episode I shine a light on uncertainty and reposition it in a way that feels normal and actionable so you can welcome it into your life and make intentional decisions that get you on the best path forward for you.

In this episode I discuss:

  • What happens when we make decisions to get out of uncertainty
  • Reframing uncertainty in a way that supports the transition work you’ll need to do
  • The most important thing to do to move through uncertainty
  • How to explore your uncertainty in the most productive way 


Welcome to the career studio podcast, where we boil down the noise and focus on the core concepts, essential for building an energizing career you love. One that is simply an extension of who you are and how you wanna live your life. Anyone can do it. It's just a matter of knowing what to focus on.

Hello. In an ongoing effort to make these podcasts more sustainable for me. I've probably spent 20 minutes thinking about what to say for this episode and just decided to get on here and record it. So today I was speaking with a client of mine who is in the middle of rethinking her career, and she wanted some coaching on managing the uncertainty She.

She felt really lost and really challenged by the uncertainty she felt around not knowing what comes next for her professionally. And we had a really rich discussion and I decided to come on and kind of repeat here what I said to her, because this is something that I see so often with the people that I'm coaching and, and it's a common hurdle for creating a career and life that you really love. And I think the issue is that uncertainty is a normal part of any transition. You get to a period in your professional life where the version of you who is doing the job that you're doing, that no longer feels right, so you know. You're growing out of wherever you are, but you're not sure what comes next.

And that uncertainty can feel really uncomfortable, right? Because people like to have a plan. You like to know exactly where you're going. You like to have focus and direction so you can build against that. And so when we don't have that, because we don't know what comes next, it can feel like we're free falling.

It can feel like we're doing it. It can feel very uncomfortable. And what I see happen all the time is that people are so uncomfortable with the uncertainty that's part of growing into someone new. That relieving the uncertainty becomes more important than figuring out actually what is the best next step for me.

Right? So maybe an opportunity presents itself and we just hop at that. To have made a decision so that we're no longer in uncertainty. You know, we take the first job that's offered to us, or we just pick what is familiar or that we know already that's slightly different than where we are. In this way, the uncertainty is released.

We have a destination where we are going. We've made a decision and we. Quote unquote, relax. But actually the problem with making a decision just to have relieved the uncertainty is that decision is, is made in haste, right? It's just made to relieve the uncertainty. It's not made because it's the right decision.

And then so you find yourself in another role that's not right because you made your decision in haste, not from an aligned place. But from a place of panic and urgency to not feel uncertain. And so the tricky part or what's really uncomfortable is allowing you, allowing yourself to settle in to the uncertainty of not knowing so that you can give yourself the time and the space to really explore what is the best next.

This is really what is crucial to redesigning your career in a way that makes better sense for the person that you're growing into or the person that you've become. I kind of often use the metaphor, Of fog. So think about you're on a boat and you have pushed off from the shore behind you, okay? But the river that you're on, or the lake, the body of water that you're on is covered in fog and you know that there's land on the other.

You just don't know how far that land is from you and you don't really know what it looks like, but you've heard about it. You know it's there, but you're in this fog and you can't see it. And so transitioning your career is a bit like this. You're in a boat in the fog paddling towards ashore that you're not really sure what it looks like cuz there's fog in the way and you're not exactly.

How long it's gonna take to get there. But when you give yourself permission to feel uncertain, when you accept that, that's normal. It's a normal part of your growth process. It's a normal part of a transition. That's when you really can have the spaciousness. To explore, and that's what's essential for redesigning your career in a way that makes sense for you.

You have to take action through the confusion. You have to keep paddling if you're gonna get to the other shore, right? So this looks like really taking the time to talk to people, doing the variety of things that interest you, and have those conversations and. Allow that to happen and allow yourself to learn from those conversations and allow your body, the space it needs to react to something.

You know, do I feel curious after that conversation, was that exciting? Was that interesting? Do I wanna know more or do I not? And do I feel closed off? When you give yourself time to explore, you can allow yourself, Recognize the signals of what feels like a yes versus what feels like a no. And you have to keep taking action through your confusion by having conversations following what feels warm, what feels interesting, what feels fun.

Eventually the fog will lift. You'll know where you're going, and you'll have had enough conversations that you'll know the path to get there. But it's not a, um, process that's the same for every single person. Everyone's journey is unique because what everyone wants is different. And so how long that's gonna take you depends, right.

With my clients, we work together for five months, so it takes no less than five months, sorry, no more than five months to figure out where is that shore and how do I get there. But if you're doing it on your own, it might take longer and that's okay too, right? It's okay to do it by yourself cuz you have less structure, right?

And you don't necessarily know the most efficient way to go about the process. But what is the most important thing is giving yourself that time and space to explore. And there's a couple ways to set yourself up to explore in an effective. . So one, it's, it's good if you can see your day job as something sustainable.

It's good if your day job feels sustainable, right? So you don't wanna be working 18 hour days. That's not gonna give you capacity to explore, right? My clients in management consulting often I think they need to be on the beach or kind of taking a sabbatical from management consulting in order to have the capacity to really explore.

It Doesn't mean you can't do it, it's just easier if work is a bit chiller or if you can make sure. You know, you structure your day job in a way where you're doing things that interest you. You know, while you know that it's not the long-term solution, you're seeing it as supporting you with money or with continued learning opportunity so that you don't resent your day job, right?

You don't wanna be in a negative place about the work that you do every day. You wanna see it as supporting or benefiting you again, to free yourself up mentally, because if you're in a negative space about your. Day job. This is just gonna cloud your vision of what's possible for you. It's gonna make you feel rushed to make a decision so that you can get out of your day job.

So make your day job sustainable in that. Go after the projects that interest you. Make sure that you have enough time for your personal. You're not working crazy hours and really look at it through the lens of the perspective of supporting you in some way and having been good for the past few years.

And now it's time for something else. And that's okay. Right? So the more sustainable and chill you can be about your work, the more you'll have capacity to explore. And another really effective way to explore and navigate uncertainty is to. Work in a job that allows you to explore a variety of things that you might wanna do.

So I'll give you a personal example. When I decided I wanted to become a coach, I wasn't exactly sure in what capacity. I wanted to be a coach, and I found an opportunity at a training and coaching company that worked with Fortune 500 companies and I used. That experience over a couple years to explore the coaching industry.

And I was running marketing for them, which is kind of my previous career. So I knew that job wasn't gonna be a long-term solution for me, but it afforded me a window into the industry to explore all the different ways that I could become a coach. Right? Did I wanna go in-house? And work at a, on a learning and development team.

Did I wanna be on a roster of coaches for kind of external agency? Did I wanna have my own business? Did I wanna do group coaching versus individual coaching? So it allowed me to. Have a paycheck in a sector I was interested in while taking the time to explore what is actually right. So yeah, this is basically my point.

Uncertainty is normal when you are growing out of one version of yourself and into someone else. And what's important is that you don't rush to not feel uncertain, embrace the fact that you feel uncertain that you don't know what comes next. That's….  It's an experience in life that's normal. It doesn't mean that you've messed up, it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.

And I think, you know, those are the perspectives that often get people tripped up, not just it feels uncomfortable, which is kind of what I talked about at the start. But also I think there's a perception that. We have culturally that people will judge us for not, I don't know, having our shit together and knowing exactly what we want at all times, that somehow not knowing what you want is a negative thing.

And I would say it's only negative if you, I mean, it's, do whatever you want. Nothing's negative. That's, that's my, you know, perspective. But it's only negative if you, Don't take action, right? If you're saying, oh, I don't know what I want and I'm unhappy here, but I'm not gonna do anything about it, okay, well then maybe you're not making the most out of your life.

Right? Which would be okay too. But what's important to remind yourself that if you are taking action through your uncertainty, through your confusion, and if you're taking action by exploring, talking to people, asking them questions, trying to figure out what would be a good fit for you, then this is still clarity.

This is still action. This is still someone who's striving to create the best life for themself. So it's okay to not know what you want. It's okay to feel uncertain. Embrace that and know that eventually if you have enough conversations, if you keep taking action through your confusion, eventually you will find something that feels good, and this is a bit spiritual in that I'm gonna tell you that you kind of just have to trust the universe, right?

You kind of have to trust that eventually you'll find something. That clicks. And the way that you're gonna find that is if you follow what feels warm, what feels interesting, what feels exciting, what feels fun, right? So take action by talking to people, by exploring ideas. Follow the ones that feel warm and interesting and fun, and eventually something will click.

Eventually the fog will lift. Eventually you'll see the land on the other side. So that's all I have to say. Uncertainty is normal. If you feel uncertain, that's fine. Don't make a decision just to make a decision. Only make the decision once it's a hell. Yeah. And you'll know. You'll know when it's a hell.

Yeah. Cause I can promise you, you've had jobs and opportunities where it's been like, yes, I cannot wait to start. And then you've had other jobs and opportunities where you've been like, oh, I could do this, or it'll look good on my c. Or I'm just gonna take this because of X, Y, Z, rational reason, like it'll be a good experience or it'll position me well.

And while there's nothing wrong with making those kind of strategic moves, ultimately those moves are not life giving. They're not energizing. You usually move on from them, or you're usually unhappy pretty soon. So you know what a yes feels. So just keep taking action through your uncertainty until you feel a yes, and that's all I wanted to say today. Short and sweet. All right, guys. Have a great week.

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