On 22 March, the European world was shaken. Two bombs first killed 11 people at the airport where I often leave at exactly the same time in the morning. Another bomb went off one hour later, at a metro station in the EU district where all of us “EU Bubble” people often pass through or get off. This bomb killed more than 20 people – and amongst them a former colleague of mine, a young woman of 29 with a bright future ahead of her.

Brussels Public Affairs professionals are certainly used to high levels of stress. At the same time, we are human beings. And whilst we are used to work under strong time pressure when the stakes are high, we are not trained at all to deal with life-threatening situations. Moreover, we are trained to plan ahead, to turn uncertainty into positive outcomes. Now, we are faced with a situation where we have to live with uncertainty, and where we are at a total loss of influence on the outcome.

Accepting uncertainty is hard for everyone. Human beings seek security, and security comes from being able to control what is happening. Psychology tells us what we need to get over a difficult situation: we need to understand, act, and learn, before we can get entirely back on our feet. That’s true for horrible experiences such as the Brussels attacks, and it is also true for disruptive career experiences – whether you get fired, your company goes bankrupt or you face other issues in your professional life.

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