How do you respond to the inevitability of career chaos?
Chaos has an oversized influence on both the world of work and the careers of individuals within it. Our environment is complex, constantly changing, and systemic, and careers sit within a complex web of interconnected systems (Bright & Pryor, 2011).
McMahon and Patton (2017) include three systems of particular importance to people’s careers:
1. Individual – intrapersonal influences, age, beliefs, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.
2. Social – family, friends, media, workplace, education, etc.
3. Environmental – geographical, societal, locational, socioeconomic conditions, etc.

Interactions between these systems change over time, are influenced by chance, and lead to an unpredictable and chaotic career and work context. Because we are generally built to resist change and prefer predictability, we are often unprepared for the inevitable chaos created by shifts in these systems. As Jim Mattis notes in his book Call Sign Chaos, “You do not always control your circumstances, but you can always control your response” to them. So, how do you respond to the inevitability of career chaos?

You can become antifragile (Taleb, 2012). That is, you increase your ability to deal with uncertainty, be comfortable with the unknown and increase your adaptability whilst operating successfully within chaos and adversity.
Five tips to help you become antifragile and more able to respond to chaos in your career:
1. Embrace volatility: Seek out challenging situations that expose you to new experiences. Building antifragility is like building muscle. The greater the exposure to resistance, the stronger the muscle. Exposure will improve your resilience and adaptability, so push yourself to tackle volatile situations more frequently.
2. Cultivate adaptability: Being too rigid and overly specialised can make you vulnerable to unexpected changes and expose you to unforeseen changes in the job market. Work on your adaptability regarding how you think about work and career, and increase your skills and competencies in a way that links directly to your future career plan.
3. Develop contingency plans: Monitor shifts in the job market and future world of work, anticipate potential shocks or disruptions, and develop backup options. Prior preparation and planning can reduce the significance of unexpected events and how well you react to them.
4. Learn from failure: View failure as an opportunity for growth. Critical self-reflection, analysis of mistakes, extraction of learning, and adjustment of approach for the future lead to antifragility.
5. Build resiliency via your network: Cultivate strong relationships with people who support and challenge you. A robust social network provides emotional support during tough times, exposes you to diverse perspectives, and provides for future job opportunities.