Interpersonal Edge: Plan for the best, prepare for the worst

Will we need masks this winter?

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By Dr. Daneen Skube

Q: With COVID-19 still happening, the flu starting, and the economy on a wild ride, I’m not sure how to plan my career. Do I hunker down and wait till everything settles down? Do I continue to take risks to move into interesting, lucrative jobs? How do you advise your clients to make career decisions during uncertain times?

A: I advise my clients that they’ll always be in some kind of uncertain times. If we cannot make decisions when things aren’t settled, we get stuck in career ruts. The best way to plan a successful career is create a spectrum of planning choices including best and worst case scenarios.

Grab a piece of paper and write the numbers 1-10. Underneath the number 1 write the worst circumstances you can imagine in the upcoming months. Under the word 10 write the best circumstances you can imagine. Feel free to put increasing improvements to your conditions between 2 and 9.

Now take two separate pieces of paper. On the first page, write the conditions you are most fearful you could experience and make a plan to cope. On the second page, write the best conditions and make a plan to take advantage of this opportunity.

Now comes the tricky part, put both pages in front of you and ask yourself what actions you can now take that protect you against the worst situations while still leaving you open to enjoy the best possibilities.

You’ll quickly notice that you have tradeoffs with any risk you take. If you take a new job, you may be the first one laid off during a down economy. Then again for a number of months you may have expanded your skill set, and salary. If you lose that job, you still may have improved your job prospects.

Part of your decision making is to be honest with yourself on your risk tolerance. If you enjoy change, easily adapt, and pivot quickly, taking more career risks makes sense. If you can’t sleep at night when anything changes, you may realistically have to be more conservative with your choices.

When we’re living in uncertain times all humans long for the security and  predictability of someone telling them, “It’s going to be OK.” However, the reality is our

circumstances will only be OK if we keep our heads and make good choices. Our experience will include times when it’s not OK and times when we adapted and made it OK again.

The good news is our capacity for self- advocacy is our power to make our situation OK for us. We cannot just leave our wellness up to others, the government, or our company. Anytime you’re worried or fearful about your future, ask yourself what power you can bring to bear if what you fear comes to pass.

For instance, many of the companies I work with use extensive credit lines. Right now credit is expensive and no one knows how high interest rates will go. Many of my management teams are paying down credit lines and not overextending themselves because this is what they have the power to do.

At work, we can always look around and see everything we do not feel we can control and feel anxious and powerless. Instead, I recommend you look around at anything you can influence or control and focus all your efforts in these areas.

Uncertainty will always be a central feature of a mortal life. However, if you can pre- pare for the worst and plan for the best you’ll be ready to adapt for what is around your next corner.take action. If we chose to sit and hope, we

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006)

You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.