If you’re not sure how secure your position in the company is, it’s natural to worry about your future – especially when you suspect there could be more layoffs.

But resist the natural tendency to hunker down in fear mode where your brain doesn’t operate at its best. The better strategy is to think about how to turn uncertainty into an opportunity.

For example, if organizational changes make you uncertain whether your contract will be renewed next year, look at it as an opportunity to seek a full-time position.

Focusing on how a “bad” situation can be turned into a “good thing” for your career puts you in a constructive mindset. And the positive energy that comes with it will help you perform at your best while worrying about the downside will drag you down.

How to strengthen your position and create better career opportunities

Assuming you want to stay with your current employer, here are 3 steps to make the seemingly worrying situation into an opportunity:

  1. Identify potential advocates
  2. Put together the case
  3. Make the “ask”

1. Identify potential advocates

So much of what gets decided about your career happens behind closed doors, with you on the outside. That’s why it is vital to have advocates who can speak on your behalf.

You can never have enough advocates saying great things about you. But in challenging times, it’s especially important to have someone in a senior enough position to advocate effectively. This is where you want to have a sponsor and not just a mentor.

While mentors are great and you need them to succeed in your career, their role is to give you advice. They don’t need to be in positions of power or influence, and they might even be junior to you or outside your organization.

On the other hand, sponsors are people who have enough seniority, credibility and power to make things happen for your career. They are decision-makers and influencers in your organization and will almost certainly be senior to you.

If you don’t yet have advocates in senior positions, it’s a great time to begin developing those relationships.

And since you can’t know for sure whether the potential advocate you’re targeting is in a secure career position themselves, spread your net a little wider and don’t put all your eggs in one relationship basket. Think of it as going shopping for advocates and have fun with it.

This brings us to the second step.

2. Put together the case

When you want people to advocate for you, it’s important to arm them with the relevant information about who you are and what you can contribute. But it all starts with being clear on what you want to achieve.

Think about what you want in the way of bolstering your situation. For example, if you’re working part-time or on an annual contract, perhaps you want to turn that into a full-time role. Or maybe you want to move to a different unit where your skills and strengths will be a better fit.

Being clear on your goal makes it easier to decide what to emphasize as you put together the case for why it’s a good idea. The key here is to focus on why it’s good for the organization, not just for you.

So, what’s the unique value you bring and how can you weave a narrative around that? For example, if you’re part-time or on a contract that expires, you could make the case that you know the organization (and you’re a known quantity) and can hit the ground running versus risking a new hire or leaving a crucial function unfilled.

If you struggle to come up with your special value add that no one else can provide, this is a great time to ask people you trust for their input. It’s often easier for others to spot your unique abilities, whereas we tend to take our skills and abilities for granted.

And now for the third step.

3. Make the “ask”

It’s up to you to reach out to your potential advocates. Remember, you are the owner of your career. Don’t wait for someone else to magically read your mind and provide you with exactly what you want.

In essence, this step is about advocating for yourself with your advocates. The “how” depends on where your relationship stands with them already. If they don’t know who you are, start by building a relationship. It doesn’t have to take long, but it’s an important step, like dating first before asking someone to be your life partner.

Once you’ve established rapport and a degree of trust, it’s time to make the ask.

As you prepare to make your ask, this saying in the fundraising world can be helpful: “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.”

Similarly, if you want someone to advocate for you behind closed doors, start by asking for advice.

For example, if you’re looking to convert your freelance role into a full-time position, you could say, “I enjoy working for this organization and would like to find a way to be part of the team full time. I’d appreciate your advice on how best to explore the possibilities.”

If you want to shift your role into a particular area where the organization is growing and have ideas for how you could add value, you might start the conversation with, “I’ve got some ideas for how we could expand our services in growth area XYZ. I’d love to get your advice on whether they would be compelling to the firm.”

And if you know there's been a 20% salary cut across the board, acknowledge the current environment and even make it part of the selling point.

For example: “I know there’s belt-tightening and we’re looking for way to increase our return on investment. That’s why I wanted to share this idea with you and see if you think it would be compelling: If I were to take on XYZ role full time, I believe we could increase our results by 50% through the strategy I used with my previous project teams.”

Keep in mind that this is not a “one and done” kind of conversation. Good relationships are built on a series of conversations, and cultivating sponsors, mentors and advocates is a long game.

That’s why it’s important to start now.

The best time to start turning a worrying situation into an opportunity is now

Every “bad” situation can become a gift and an opportunity. It’s all about your mindset and the action steps you take.

Take these three steps to strengthen your position and create better opportunities for your career:

  • Identify potential advocates – focus on possible sponsors and don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • Put together the case – get clear on what you want to achieve and focus on why it’s good for the organization
  • Make the “ask” – take the initiative, establish rapport and have a series of conversations

If you want more actionable strategies and tips to build relationships with key stakeholders and advocates, plus word-for-word scripts to have effective conversations about your career, then take advantage of the Career Mastery resources below.

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