2-minute read

There may be no facts about the future, but one sure bet is that at some point you will face a storm that threatens your career path. It may come as a bad performance review, a challenge to your position, a pissed-off client, or a loss of funding.

A Career Storm is not an“if” event, it’s a “when” event,
and it happens to everyone.

And, it usually sucks. The good news is that, if you look for it, there is real upside. A Career Storm presents a unique opportunity to learn how you think and act under stress.

Today we’ll talk about planning for and managing through your Career Storm. Because once the storm has passed, and assuming you survive, colleagues and managers will move on to the next challenge and the cause of the storm will begin to fade from their memories. But what they won’t forget is how you reacted in the moment.

Over the past few months we’ve talked about goal setting, defining success, and creating personal expectations. These are the principles that define your career. Designed for structuring a career path, your principles will also serve you well during the difficult times. They are the thoughts and ideas that keep you focused on the future, define how you want to act in the present, and help you manage through your when.

Plan Ahead

The moment your storm hits may come as a surprise, but there are things you can do in advance to ensure that you’ll react well and steer through the difficulties with your head held high.

Pay Attention
Career Storms are often built from individual incidents that quietly add up over time. Which means that there are usually signals along the way. What may seem like unplanned conversations about job performance, project progress, staff management, or your handling of a difficult client could be indicators of a problem brewing on the horizon. Pay attention to these signals.

Address them quickly when they first arise. Then, when a storm presents itself, you can point to your early awareness and/or proactivity and move quickly toward solutions.

Get Counsel
Make growing your network of trusted peers and mentors a habit.These advisors are your best career resource. In bad times they’ll provide balanced advice and guide you towards the best possible decisions.


Manage The Moment

How you manage in the moment shapes other’s perception of you. For your colleagues, how you act during these make or break moments demonstrates how you work under pressure and how you’ll support them during their difficult times.

First, Step Away
This may seem illogical, and is definitely hard to do, but necessary for understanding the makeup of your storm. Stepping away is not a metaphor! It literally means stepping away. Go for a walk around the block or at least around your office. New visual input will help you gain perspective on your situation. As you’re walking, take deep breaths. Breathing deeply is calming and provides the oxygen your brain needs for making decisions.

Get the Facts Out of Your Head
When the storm hits, don’t panic. Ask yourself, “Exactly how bad is this storm?” By getting the facts out of your head you can realistically assess the storm’s severity and level of threat.

Create a three-column document listing bullet-point answers to

  1. What is not going well?
  2. What resources are available to address the issue?
  3. Who is part of the solution?

Laying out the facts makes it easier to create action plans and identify the best resources and people to help. Armed with a plan, you’re less likely to appear to others as a victim or someone looking for sympathy.

Don’t Own the Storm
Sometimes, we hold situations too close for too long. The sooner you can identify your sources for help and collaboration, the faster you’ll get through your storm. When bringing people in, communicate the facts, not your emotions. That sounds like “This is a real issue/challenge because…” versus “This is a disaster!”


Assess the Result. Plan for What’s Next

Sooner or later the storm will pass. The natural inclination is to move on quickly. But, if past is prologue, make time to learn from the experience.

Pause and think about how you acted and what you said.

  1. What could I have done better?
  2. What am I pleased with?
  3. What did I learn?
    – Who helped?
    – Who didn’t help?
    – What was the best advice I heard?
  4. What resources or skills do I need to weather the next storm?

Reflection and planning during the calm times will make the next storm easier to manage.

The bottom line is that you will encounter a Career Storm. Face it head on by paying attention to the indicators, not panicking in the moment, asking for help and advice, and learning from the experience.


Was this post helpful?

If it was, don’t thank me.
Thank Diana Buckley Muchmore from ProjectArt in NYC.
This topic was her suggestion. Thanks Diana!

If there is a topic you would like to explore,
send me email and we’ll cover it in 2019.