Written by
Jean Martin

Published
31 May 2017

Five tips for making Brexit a career opportunity

31 May 2017 • by Jean Martin

Findings from CEB’s most recent Global Talent Monitor reveal that one-in-three UK employees believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on their careers. But it doesn’t have to, savvier employees are thinking about how they can use Brexit to accelerate their careers.

During periods of uncertainty, most people have a tendency to keep their nose to the grindstone until we’re told otherwise. And yes, it is important to stay focused and keep working, but it is actually even more important to work differently; ask questions, engage in conversations and speak up.  That is because there will be both upsides and downsides to the UK leaving the single market, including new and different opportunities for firms, the people within them.

The reality is that Brexit, like any other significant change in business, can just as easily make careers as break them. The key is for eager employees to seize opportunities to maximise their careers in these five ways:

Study up on the business implications

Whether or not your seniors have talked about the implications of Brexit, now is the time to read-up on the issues and sharpen your understanding of how Brexit will affect your industry and your company. There are of course lots of unknowns and many questions to be answered, but by reading and listening to different viewpoints and thinking about how exiting the single market could affect your industry and your company, you will gain a better understanding of the decisions and opportunities your leadership team face.

Prepare your 'elevator conversation' implications with executives

Brexit will hit every company differently, but thinking hard about what scenarios might play out for your organisation and forming a view on what the company needs to be prepared for will help you elevate conversations. If you find yourself stuck in a lift with your CEO, or in a meeting with a senior stakeholder, you’ll be armed with a point of view and smart questions to ask. 

Make your ideas known

Re-engage with your seniors as a way of influencing their thinking. This is your chance to show your commitment to the success of the firm, share your ideas, talk about your skills in context and discuss development opportunities. Ultimately, you are looking for an assignment that will allow you to stretch and develop, exposing you to new situations and new people that will allow you to flex a new or different set of skills.

Remember, it is hugely valuable for managers and leaders to understand the risks and challenges from different vantage points. So whether they create opportunities to hear different perspectives from employees, or you proactively raise questions and views, be ready to share these insights and connect them to business implications.

Have a Brexit career plan

Employees should use this time to reflect on their career and progression. Uncertainty in the economy and labour market provide an opportunity to revisit career aspirations. Whilst anxiety is inevitable, take time to reset on what is most important to you in your work, what passions are served by your current employment, and what are not. Think about whether this is moment to consider a change in employer or career move is required, and whether you are prepared financially to take that risk. Engage your manager in an open, candid discussion about your career. Their role is not to provide reassurance about the future or to resolve uncertainty, but to connect you to the resources and people that might be helpful to build your employability.

Get sharp on what you can offer

Give yourself an opportunity to reflect on your unique set of skills and experiences. You also need to think about your own aspirations, work-life balance and priorities. For example, would you be willing to relocate? What type of job do you aspire to have five years from now? What skills and experiences are you lacking? Is now the time to make a career shift? Your answers to these are crucial, and you need to get comfortable talking about them.

If you decide Brexit offers a compelling transition opportunity, you should:

1) Begin to network and do information-gathering in that area – understanding available jobs and organisations focused on your new area of interest.

2) Engage your manager in a conversation about your aspirations – be specific so that the manager can provide information about any appealing internal jobs.

3)  Create a timeframe for your transition – will you need additional skills before you are hired?  Will you need to firm up your connections to a most-wanted employer?  Will you take a break between jobs?  Allow appropriate time for each of these. 

4) When you depart, it’s important not to burn bridges – avoid “sky is falling” statements to remaining colleagues and instead, explain the personal motivations for your transition and that you look forward to keeping in touch.

There is no doubt that Brexit will affect every UK-based organisation, leader and employee. And as the UK redefines its relationships in the global economy, this represents an opportunity for every individual to carve out a new path for growth and innovation.