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Dodge career complacency and get your best foot forward

All levels of government have had to catch up and become creative in their responses. Some of these responses seem to have been on the whole successful, such as JobKeeper (although not without its faults such as largely excluding workers such as artists). Other responses seem to have been lacking in areas such as quarantine hotel security arrangements.

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For too many workers, COVID-19 has been a cruel reminder of the uncertain nature of even the most supposedly secure jobs. Regular readers will know I have been banging on about chaos and uncertainty in careers for two decades, and I even have a theory to my name alongside my colleague Robert Pryor that emphasises the uncertain, ever-changing nature of work and careers.

In times of employment stability, it is easy for any of us to fall into the complacency trap and fail to run our own pandemic-planning exercises. Even in the good times, we should be keeping planning skills up to scratch by looking for opportunities, developing contingency plans and being strategic about our futures. We cannot make long-range predictions (so much for long-term career plans).

What we can do is develop skills of opportunity awareness such as strategy, optimism, risk-taking, curiosity, flexibility, persistence and luck readiness. Right now would be a good time for us to mark our own performance against these skills.

Ask yourself how can you be more flexible, strategic and curious and how can you take more calculated risks? I think we should be asking ourselves these questions routinely in good times as well as bad.

This doesn’t mean everything rests with the individual. Governments have a responsibility to provide opportunities for jobs growth, for personal growth through education and work, and support for those that need it. One thing they can do is embrace skills-based careers education from the beginning of formal education and not leave it to the last minute with an emphasis on a single transition from school to work.

None of us know what a day will bring, which makes it all the more important that we equip everyone with the skills to be able to deal with success and adversity with felicity and grace.

Jim Bright FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to opinion@jimbright.com. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright

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