Brexit. Ouch… (and that’s an understatement) The current political and economic uncertainty here in the UK, due to the Brexit vote results, will have far reaching consequences for anyone in practice. How many of us are thinking, “this feels like Lehman brothers all over again?” My day today has already been hijacked by the Brexit vote. First off it was a conversation with a journalist, then a coaching session with my client turned into a post-Brexit plan. Therefore, in this blog post I’ll share some of my conversations with the client and the journalist and consider the implications for you and your career going forward.
This is what change feels like
Regardless of your political views or how you voted, I’m sure you are probably feeling unsettled. Friday in the UK was not a nice place to be as recriminations flew across the main stream media and social media. The instability in our financial and currency markets feels deeply concerning. The future may be exciting for some, but still daunting at the same time. I still remember what happened to the financial markets after the credit crunch really hit in 2008 and many banks went under or were bailed out by their respective governments. I clearly remembered the sharp contraction in the UK professional services marketplace. After all, that was the point I left my last employer as a result of redundancy! To be blunt, whether we like it or not, our world just changed. As with any period of change there will be both winners and losers, and everyone is going through a time of transition. It’s only natural in these times for people to worry about their future and their own security; and in this instance not just financial and job security. The media time being given to the antics of the far right across Europe are very concerning! Whilst we are nowhere near the recession of 2008, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to experience another global recession like it.
Give people time to voice their opinions
Whilst it is tempting to want to squash any conversations about Brexit in the office. This is actually unhelpful. Like in any period of change, people need time to talk and process their feelings. In our business we actually had our half year all-employee meeting. Yes, it was fair to say that the implications of Brexit equally focused and distracted our minds, but it was important for us all to air our views on the matter. I know that as a result of the conversation I felt much calmer and in control. Letting people talk through what is on their mind can help normalise what they are feeling and help them regain control. Let’s be honest this is an unique situation and one which none of us are experienced in dealing with.
Remind people about the values they signed up to when the joined the firm
Given the relative strength of feeling in the UK at the moment, some of the stuff you read on social media is ugly. (And that’s another understatement) It is only natural for people to want to “hit out” or “blame” others for the problems that are going on. Unfortunately, that “hitting out” or “blaming” can easily cause ill will and problems in a workforce who voted on opposite sides of the debate. Take the time to encourage debate, but remind people that making big generalisations, such as “anyone who voted leave is racist” is very unhelpful and can be incredibly upsetting to others; often without you realising how upsetting. Ask your team and the people around you to still uphold the values of your firm which normally have something along the lines of “treat others with respect”. Remind them that the conversations they are having on social media still needs to be in line with the company values. Just because you are not having conversations with your colleagues face-to-face on social media, doesn’t mean to say they don’t count.
Self leadership is key
Whilst we are nowhere near the recession of 2008, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to experience another global recession like it. But if we don’t carefully consider our own behaviour in response to this event, we could talk ourselves into another deep dark recession. According to the media it appears that the country is going to the dogs, civil unrest is just around the corner, we’ve condemned future generations of our children, and the economy will never recover from the Brexit vote. With this going on in the media it is only natural to feel scared about the future. However, we all need to step up and work this out together. Putting our heads in the sands isn’t going to help anyone. This means we all need to be brave and work out what is triggering our fears, and then what we can do to mitigate the risk. Being seen as a leader in these troubled times will improve your employability.
Attend to your network immediately
In the short term I truly believe that it is going to be business as usual. In fact some advisors may get radically busy in the short term dealing with the fall out from Brexit. I’d go as far as saying that Brexit may be the shot in the arm that the legal sector, tax professionals and in particular employment lawyers really needed. Not everyone in the professions will be winners as a result of Brexit. If I was based in the financial services or property sectors I would be feeling very vulnerable about the future. I suspect we will see an element of market contraction, and if the UK breaks all ties with the EU, a number of financial services institutions taking their HQ out of London into Europe. If you are in this situation, then the best thing you can do is improve your employability. If you’ve neglected your network recently, now is the time to refresh it and warm it up. After all, if you do find yourself without a job, then you going to need a strong network to support you to find a new role.
Hold your clients hands
I’m guessing that most of you have been thinking about the impact of Brexit to you personally. No surprises then that your clients have been doing the same. Now is the time to email and ring your clients to gauge their thinking and help them build contingency plans based on the many scenarios which are currently possible. If you are thinking email or call, my suggestion is email with a short briefing note containing your best guidance you have your clients and their situation. My financial advisor sent through briefing note on friday. Whilst it didn’t mitigate against all the dire things that could happen, it helped calm my fears about important stuff to me including my pension funds. After you have sent your briefing note follow up immediately with phone calls to your clients, starting with your most important clients. Whilst this may feel inappropriate at this point in time, your clients need your help right now to help them think through what is happening. This could be a review of contracts or helping a client reforecast based on higher costs due to the depressed pound.
What do you really want from your career?
Given that career change could be looming in the next 6-24 months for many of us, now is the time to identify what you really want from your career. Then set in place a career plan to help you achieve that, regardless of what is going or not going to happen as a result of Brexit. It’s far easier to deal with the likelihood of changes at work if you know what YOU personally want from your career and have a plan to get there.
Now is not the time for denial. Now is not the time to put your head in the sands. Now is the time to stand up and be counted and show your leadership qualities.