Resources for dealing with fear and isolation in a time of job uncertainty

A woman stares to her right as she sits at a table with a laptop in front of her.

There’s no sugarcoating it: Navigating a pandemic is hard, but when you throw a precarious economy and potential job loss into the mix, it can be downright terrifying. As a career counselor, I’ve been helping many of my clients over the past month prepare for everything from the transition to remote work to sudden job loss and everything in between.

If COVID-19 is impacting your career, know that you are not alone. While we may not know what the next few weeks and months will look like, it’s important to take one day at a time and practice self-care. Here are some ideas on how to address certain emotions with practical tips and take care of yourself while facing career uncertainty.

Elizabeth Schrimpf
Elizabeth Schrimpf

If you’re feeling helpless, do something productive.

When you’re feeling panicky about your situation, it’s tempting to ignore it by queuing up your favorite show on Netflix. While taking some time to relax certainly is a form of self-care, it likely won’t curb feelings of helplessness, and could exacerbate the problem. Instead, take time to do something productive. Take the dog for a walk, tackle that neglected to-do list, or start your novel. If you want to do something work-related, check out sites like TheMuse.com or TheBalanceCareers.com for helpful articles on writing a resume and cover letter. Working toward something and feeling a sense of accomplishment, no matter how minor, can do a lot for your well-being.

If you’re afraid of the unknown, focus on what is known.

To help calm anxiety, first recognize what is inside and outside of your control. Putting your energy into the things that you can control can help calm your anxiety. In this way, building skills, updating your resume or reviewing interview questions can be an act of self-care. Now may be the perfect time to enroll in an online course or program that boosts your skills. Websites like Alison.com offer thousands of free online courses, or check out the websites listed above for articles on free courses from around the country. If you don’t feel ready for a new professional skill, instead embrace something you’ve already mastered, like devoting time to a hobby or activity you can do safely from home.

If you’re feeling isolated, reach out.

Even if you’re self-quarantined with family, roommates or your pets, it’s natural to feel cut off from the rest of the world. While you may be stuck inside, there are still plenty of opportunities to reach out to your community. Connecting with loved ones, friends and colleagues can be a form of self-care for everyone involved. Social media is a great way to stay connected and engaged with your circle. Video conferencing resources like Zoom and FaceTime are great tools to help you get face-to-face interaction with others. If you’re unfamiliar with such resources, Zoom Help Center offers plenty of tutorials that help explain the basics—and who knows, with enough practice, you may be able to add a skill to your resume!

While inserting self-care into your routine is important, it’s natural to still struggle at a time like this. Remember, you’re not alone in this challenging time. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Career Corner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Elizabeth Schrimpf, a career counselor, can be reached at elizabeth.schrimpf@wisc.edu.