If you are part of the contingent workforce, and are on an assignment, you will inevitably be faced with something unexpected, something you hadn’t planned for.

You can prepare religiously, but running into something unanticipated can still happen. But yourself more relaxed and poised when encountering the unexpected gives you a big advantage.

The following sailing story gives an example of how to handle the unexpected. Two people went on an extended sailing trip, expecting to be out about five hours. They were good sailors, they knew how to sail well, but didn’t have a lot of experience sailing in bad weather. They spent several days getting ready for the trip. They looked at maps and came up with a route. They got food, packed emergency supplies, and notified friends of their plans and their route.

A few hours after they set sail, however, they saw a thunderstorm in the distance bearing down on them. It was right in their path.

What they did then was something not many would have the presence of mind to do – they stopped the boat. They pointed the bow into the wind, making the sails go slack. Then they talked about what their options were. They could try to return the way they came. They could try to navigate around the storm. They could try and wait it out. Or they could try to go through it.

It was a brief conversation because they didn’t have much time. They considered the different choices and decided to go through it, and they made it.

When they started the trip, they knew there were too many things that could happen that they couldn’t plan for, so they had a plan for how to deal with the things they didn’t know how to deal with. When they ran into the storm, they didn’t freeze. They stopped and talked and they made a considered decision rapidly.

The lesson here about handling the unanticipated is, first, to stop the “boat.” If events are moving fast and pushing you to make a quick decision, do what the sailors did – point the bow into the wind, and let the sails fluff. In other words, give yourself a chance to think. If you can, take a break from what you’re doing.

Next, evaluate what choices you have. The past is irrelevant here – work with what you have now. What outcome are you looking for? What do you know now and what resources do you have available to you? Then set out your choices. Make a choice and carry it out. Do it decisively, without hesitation. “Tentative efforts produce tentative results,” the philosopher Epictetus has said.

It may not be ideal, but realize that it’s the best you can do under the circumstances.

If you’re looking for a chance to prove yourself on the job, contact StaffEx. We can place you in temp-to-hire (as well as temporary and even direct-hire) assignments with some of Tampa Bay’s best companies. We look forward to hearing from you!

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