I’m far from the world’s bravest person, so when I say it’s important not to let uncertainty unnerve you, I’m speaking from the heart. It’s true both of your professional life and your personal life. The question is, how do you handle uncertainty to minimize its adverse effects and open up the best possible outcomes for your work and your life?
Anyone who thinks he or she can accurately predict the future is probably delusional. (If you believe in psychics, feel free to discount this statement.) You can plan all you want–and I advocate having good career plans, job search plans, financial plans, and more. That doesn’t mean you can predict the outcomes with a high degree of accuracy. You just need to recognize that uncertainty is often the norm and your plans should take that into account.
Seriously, what should you do?
Start by acknowledging that the uncertainty exists–or if you think it’s all in your imagination, determine what’s actually going on before you take action to address the uncertainty.
Decide what your down-side risks are for moving ahead with relatively little information if you can’t see a way to resolve at least some of the uncertainty. Which seems worse to you–taking a particular step with the possibility that it won’t turn out the way you want or staying stuck and praying that the uncertainty will turn out not to be a big deal after all?
Since you can’t predict the future, you’ll undoubtedly have to make some choices from time to time with uncertainty as a big piece of the puzzle. Shall I pursue this job opportunity, which is outside my comfort zone but looks really promising? What will happen if I move to that location and then the new job evaporates? And so on.
Yes, those job search dilemmas do occur, and you might find that you need to make a decision based on a balanced approach. In other words, it’s not so much about being brave (thank goodness!) as it is about viewing the situation with a sense of balance (perspective).
What do you have going for you that can make you more comfortable with the uncertainty? If you can think of situations in the past where you’ve moved through uncertainty to a positive outcome, that might help you see how to balance your actions. Weathering other storms gives you energy and insights to tackle the next one.
Learn to accept that uncertainty is more normal than we might like to think and recognize that you don’t want to wait until you reach complete certainty in order to move forward in your career or job search. To quote French philosopher Voltaire, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”