The Eos life-work resource centre: Briefing note #1
Career First Aid
In good times we have a satisfying job and enough skills and resources to do it well. But sometimes pressures exceed our resources or things start to go wrong. If you are worried about your work or personal life, or feel that events are getting out of control, your first priority is survival. These Career First Aid tips may help:
I. What is the problem - concern or crisis?
If we have an obvious problem we become concerned. Concerns motivate us to find answers. Unresolved issues cause more problems. These can become a vicious circle where problems build up faster than you can solve them. Sooner or later these become a crisis. Whether you are concerned or already in a crisis, the first task is to stabilize the situation, with help or advice from others if needed.
2. Take care of yourself and manage stress
How can we stabilize a career crisis? The first priority is to manage the symptoms of stress to get back in control and think clearly. Three key tasks are fitness, training for stressful situations and relaxation (stress dumping). Regular, quality exercise (walking, cycling, swimming etc.) half an hour each day can make a big difference, especially if sleep is affected. This can save you an hour a day with clearer thinking and fewer mistakes. Take care of yourself, family and colleagues who may also be stressed. Take care when driving and working - there is a greater risk of errors or accidents when you are stressed. Try to stay calm when others get angry. Practice relaxing and breathing easily several times a day and before stressful tasks eg meetings or interviews. Take regular breaks and find 'still moments' in your day.
3. Seek help and information for immediate problems
Check facts and seek help. Some situations need prompt action or referral for expert advice eg legal or financial advice, medical advice for illness or severe distress, counselling for relationships and advice from someone you trust and respect in difficult work situations. Early action may prevent a problem from getting worse. If you help other people recognise your limits and know when to refer to others.
4. Buy time for major decisions
Stress can affect our judgement and our ability to think ahead. Buy time, take a break, re-schedule tasks. If possible put off major decisions for a few weeks until you can think clearly again. This applies to stressed groups and families as well as individuals. You may want to escape. Try not to quit jobs or relationships - at least until you have checked all options. If you have to make a major decision under stress check your options with someone you trust.
5. Check your options
By checking options, even hypothetical ones, we can make better quality decisions and feel more in control. Most problems have more than one solution. For example you have options to struggle on at work or take a day off, to act now or later, to have a main plan and a fallback position. When we are under stress it is even more important to check options to reduce the chance of making mistakes. Checking several options and discussing them with others helps to sharpen your ideas about what really matters to you.
6. Don't give up - your future starts today
Hard times show us life from a new perspective. It is a chance to rediscover what we really value, and who our real friends are. Have courage. When things seem at their worst new opportunities may be very near. The darkest hour is just before dawn. Remember how you survived past changes or disappointments. Sometimes we need a crisis to let go of old ways and come to terms with a new reality.
7. "Eat your elephant a spoonful at a time"
Sometimes a major problem seems to be blocking us completely. Find the smallest, easiest thing that you can do successfully and try it. Small victories give us confidence to move forward again.
8. Support your friends
Harassment and scapegoating are common in stressed organisations. Confront them firmly and stand by your friends or you may be next.
9. Have something you can look forward to
Plan things you enjoy, time for yourself and to be with people you like every week, starting today!
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page updated 8 September 2010 Return to top