BY Grace HUntley, Event Management and Communications

One of the hardest things about this situation for me has been dealing with the ambiguity. I’m a very type-A person, and in almost every situation, I want all the facts so that I know how I can start planning my next steps. 

Unfortunately, the very nature of this unprecendented pandemic means that most people don’t have the answers right now. We’re all waiting with baited breath to see what emerges next, and in the meantime we’re spending some, sometimes uncomfortable, time sitting with the ambiquity. 

I decided to tackle this predicament by consulting my network. Below are my colleagues’ best tips for navigating ambiguity from their past and present experiences. Hopefully they’re as useful to you as they were to me. 

Support Systems are Vital

Shannen Dawli, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Career Development: 

Working remotely and sheltering in place for an undetermined time can be quite stressful and anxiety provoking mainly due to the ambiguity of the current situation.

“The one thing that comforts me is the support of my family.”

Playing family board games, card games, watching movies together, facetiming with extended family members and lots of laughter has made the days more pleasant. Find ways to stay connected with your support system on a regular basis

Obstacles Can Lead to New Opportunities

Nick Vargovic, Coordinator, Administration and Planning:

I was working for a startup healthcare company and it was announced layoffs were happening due to insufficient patient revenue. Hearing this immediately brought on anxiety, not knowing what would happen when.

In the coming months, myself and others were left unemployed. At the time, this brought on many mixed emotions including thoughts of shame and scarcity.

After deciding to reconnect with previous professors, mentors, friends, and family, I was able to put the situation into perspective. I re-evaluated my career path, and I saw what seemed to be a detrimental outcome, soon became an opportunity for me to refocus my career path to something that is more in an alignment with what I wanted.

Through my outreach to previous mentors, I landed an opportunity in a field I love and have stayed with untill this day. 

Find What Grounds You

Sarah Montgomery, Associate Director, Experiential Education:

“When in ambiguous situations I look for anchors.”

What do I know to be true or safe or secure? How do my goals change or refocus in this new environment? Then I think about how I can get there.

We only have so much tolerance for change and ambiguity, so it’s ok to feel tired. I focus on trying to control what I reasonably can and then trust that I’m prepared for whatever happens next.

The most recent time I experienced a lot of ambiguity was when I was moving to New York to take on this role at the Center for Career Education. My environment changed completely and my support structures looked different. My anchors were maintaining my health and fitness routines and then leaning heavily on the friends that I had already established. I slowly took in more new information about my world and added it to what I could actively handle.

I also like to remember that nothing is permanent and that this too shall pass.

YOu’re Not Alone

If you’re struggling to deal with the ambiguity of this situation, or any others, please remember that you are not alone.

Reach out to counselors or services at Columbia Health or connect with a career counselor to strategize ways to handle ambiguity in your career.