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February 9, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Career Planning: Preparing Yourself for the Highs, Lows, and Everything In Between

By Susie Ward, Counsellor from the University Counselling Service

Navigating your emotions whilst exploring your career options and making applications can be tough. It’s normal to feel positive emotions, such as excitement and hope about future opportunities but often it’s easy to overlook the fact that sometimes negative feelings will surface too. Fear, anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, sense of rejection and inadequacy, stress, boredom and overwhelm go with the territory. Preparing yourself for the roller coaster of mixed emotions accompanying this intense process will help you to remain buoyant during difficult times.

Staying steady through the ups and downs…

Notice your thought-emotion-behaviour relationship

There is a link between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Experiment with paying attention to the way the thought-emotion-behaviour relationship works for you. This inter-link means that by changing one of the components there is a knock-on effect on the other two which can either go in a helpful or unhelpful direction. Often, it’s not the emotion that is causing the most distress, it’s how we interpret what’s going on or the story we tell ourselves. When you feel upset ask yourself:

1. What am I thinking that might be causing the emotion?

2. What thoughts trigger negative emotions for me?

3. What beliefs, standards, expectations of myself, others, or in life do I have that might be making things worse rather than better?

4. Am I being self-critical and blaming myself? How is that impacting on how I feel and act?

5. Which emotions are hardest for me to tolerate?

Changing thoughts is easier than changing feelings

Try and face negative thoughts rather than using strategies such as avoidance and distraction which can lead to anxiety and low mood and can get in the way of moving forward.

Work on being less critical and more compassionate, notice how positive self- talk and understanding impacts on how you feel and what you do.

Have some affirmations that are meaningful to you and motivating during difficult times: ‘the way I feel now is temporary’, ‘this will pass’, ‘everyone has days like this’, ‘I am a work in progress, I might not be where I want to be, but I’ve come a long way already’.

Think before you react and act, find things to do to calm yourself down and self-soothe when emotions are intense

Take a pause between a feeling and an action.

Do something different if actions aren’t helpful.

Ask yourself, ‘are your go to options of calming yourself down working?’ If not, are you willing to experiment with new and more helpful ways? Journaling, mindfulness meditation, exercise, or talking to a friend can be helpful in processing feelings.

Turn your radar to the positive events in our lives either currently or in the past. Find ways to lift your mood and cheer yourself up after a disappointment/ setback or with the monotony and tedium that can be part of the career journey.

The things that bring us joy/pleasure have been shown to decrease negative moods and increase positive moods which will help keep you steady as you continue to work through your career options and plans.

Give yourself regular breaks

Do things that help you to unwind and shift your focus, including activities that support your social, physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing.

Engaging in energising and soothing activities will boost mood and in turn will help with motivation and confidence, to keep going with your career journey.

Remind yourself that most things worth having are not easy, requiring time, patience, learning, flexibility, adaptability and planning so don’t give up when you feel challenged or stressed. As much as you are not in control of everything that happens to you, try to focus more on the fact that it’s how you respond to what happens to you that matters. Take your small wins along the way, good luck.

The Careers team can help you to clarify your own career wellbeing priorities, identify and evaluate options, and work through any concerns you have about your future career.

You might find it helpful to book an appointment to speak to a careers adviser, or visit our career wellbeing webpage to discover a range of resources, support, and practical advice.

Posted in Career wellbeingCareers Advice