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Facing Job Uncertainty? Enter the Pivot Phone Booth

3 Steps to Discover Your New Possibilities

Photo by Antoine Barrès on Unsplash
Photo by Antoine Barrès on Unsplash

A new survey finds 70% of Americans fear they will lose their job in the next six months as economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.

As someone who has reinvented my career several times, and written a best-selling book on the topic, I want to share encouragement with everyone facing this fear.

For many of us, our identity is closely tied to our careers. Yet to deal with the kind of massive, ongoing change we now face, we need new ways of continually re-assessing our identity. I call this “entering the Pivot Phone Booth.”

The conventional wisdom is that we are either born with a certain identity or develop our identity when we’re very young, and that identity is supposed to be relevant for our entire lives. I believe identity is more ephemeral — that what interests us, our gifts and talents, and how we want to share these things with the world changes over time.

Today it’s more important than ever that we evaluate or upgrade our identity on a regular basis, just like we upgrade the software in our devices. Unfortunately, many people are not taking the time to do this. Instead they seem busier than ever, perhaps in an effort to fend off all the fear, uncertainty, and worry they feel.

One of the greatest benefits of our new normal (or new abnormal if you prefer) is we get to choose. We can use this time to decide who we are in the world now and who we want to be in the world tomorrow.

Those are identity questions. But you can’t do that exploration unless you have time for it. And you won’t have time for it even now, if you are keeping yourself busy to keep feeling safe.

One paradox of our current social isolation is it presents up opportunities to get closer to others using technology. Physically we’re distant, yet socially we can connect. We have the same 24 hours in a day, but we can recapture time we would have spent commuting to and from work and traveling. There is time to connect with people that you might not have found before.

To pivot to whatever awaits you next, you need three kinds of people to support you: stakeholders, mentors, and peers. I call them “Pivot People.” How about using this time to create a mind-sharing group with your own “Pivot People”? They could give you great feedback about whatever it is that you might be exploring, whether it is a career change, entrepreneurial ideas, the evolution of your business model, or even your relationships.

Creative people know you have to carve out and curate time and space to explore your creativity. My dad is a fiction writer, and when we were growing up, he protected his writing time like a grizzly bear. He was a recreation director for the City of New York during the day, and at night he would write. We lived in a tiny apartment — my parents, my brother and I. My dad had his writing space, and we knew not to disturb him when he was in that space.

Today this makes perfect sense to me, because distractions kill creativity. In order to deeply explore anything you value, you can’t constantly be stopping and restarting.

There’s a saying that the universe abhors a vacuum. The pandemic has given us time, but it is up to you and me to utilize it for creative purposes. Here are three things you can do make sure you can enter your Pivot Phone Booth:

1. Schedule. Each day there are things on my calendar that are sacred and non-negotiable. This includes morning resilience rituals; time for thinking, writing or filming; and time for exercise and meditation. Make sure you make time for the activities that recharge you, in resilience and creativity.

2. Define your space. Find a physical spot. For my dad, it was part of the apartment that was his space for writing. We could go in there and sit on the couch and read, but we couldn’t watch TV, play, or fight in there. There were boundaries and rules and we knew what they were.

3. Break out of fear. So many people feel stuck, almost paralyzed by fear and uncertainty over what the future holds. What can you do to break out of that pattern? When I start to feel that tightness in my chest, I interrupt it by taking a few deep breaths, and asking the question: “Is this useful?” Then I breathe out with a sigh of relief or even a chuckle. And I find myself in the moment physiologically changed.

Right now, the greatest fears that are coursing through people’s bodies are those we have made up in our own heads. There is a monster under the bed that is no different from the one we feared when we were 6 years old. It is a made-up monster that goes away the minute you turn on the light to look under the bed or in the closet. Keep your Pivot Phone Booth sacred, and enter it often, so that you can transform into the superhero you need to be for yourself, your family, and everyone who depends upon you.

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