Many people have approached me to ask how they further their careers in a time like this. When COVID first hit, many people were just thankful to have a job and a steady income. Now that we have lived in our new normal for a bit, people are starting to think about their careers again. People are looking at their jobs and organizations through a new lens and are asking questions that have always been important but seem hyper-important now.
- Do I feel supported by my manager, my leadership, my peers?
- Do I feel like I am more productive and engaged or the opposite?
- Am I bored or overwhelmed? Can I strike a good balance?
- Does my organization have the technology infrastructure to support me in my work?
- Are there stretch opportunities for me to look at how we can do business differently?
- Do I have the development support I need?
- Is my manager accessible or are they trapped in meetings all of the time?
- Given our circumstance, is there a career path for me?
- Are there open opportunities inside my organization?
Going the extra mile, standing out among your peers or especially trying to pivot into something new can be difficult when you have lost touch with leaders or can no longer pop into someone’s office to ask for advice. When most companies promote people based on accomplishments and relationships, how can you be “seen” in a remote environment?
I have had three professional acquaintances in the last month find new positions in different companies. I know plenty of managers across organizations who think their people are not at risk right now — that people don’t have other opportunities. That is a mistake to get that comfortable. Talented people ALWAYS have options. People are asking questions and starting to look around if they can’t answer “yes” to many of the above questions.
From a leadership perspective, I would ask what you are doing to promote an engaged workforce today. Are you providing development opportunities and ways for people to move within your organization? Now, more than ever, is a good time to look at your internal mobility strategy and put one into practice.
For people looking for a career path and figuring out how to be seen from your living room couch, I would argue “what” you can do has not changed; just the “how” has. Connecting to people, having stellar LinkedIn profiles/internal profiles, pursuing external professional education and virtual experiences to boost your knowledge and connections still help you with your career. Focus on these six areas to get started:
- Know yourself. Knowing who you are and what you want or don’t want is still the best place to start. I highly recommend any book on Ikigai – a Japanese philosophy to understand what you like, what you are good at and what you can make money at. At the heart of this Venn diagram is the ultimate point of what you could do as a career. I have used this methodology myself to journal about my career desires.
- Make connections. I realize this is nothing new but it is even more important now to be extremely proactive in this regard. The key to being seen is to not let people forget about you. Good work should always stand out, and it will, but help yourself out and ask for virtual chats with people you respect and who you want to know about you and your work. So many people have told me over the years how they got passed over for a promotion and didn’t understand why. They were killing it in their job but no one knew. Schedule 20-minute chats. Make it a priority.
- Share your knowledge. Even though we are in unprecedented times, there are still forums to contribute, speak or just attend in your field. I have three speaking engagements in Q3. Although we can’t be in person, every professional organization is figuring out how to stay connected to share best practices and network. Write for a journal, if you like, pursue a certification in something and ask if your company will help fund it even if they won’t pay for the whole thing.
- Add to your expertise. The number of providers who are dropping their prices or even giving away learning for free are plentiful right now. Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare are offering classes dirt cheap to supplement your expertise or help you build knowledge in a new space. Now, I won’t lie. You have to be a very self-motivated learner to stick with these programs. Some are amazing and some are so-so but even the amazing ones can be difficult to stick with if you don’t have a schedule and the commitment to complete it. It’s like college. No one is standing over you to ensure you do your work. All of that motivation has to come from within.
- Update your profile. This is a great time to update your LinkedIn profile, internal profile, resume. Be ready when you do find a new opportunity whether that is inside or outside of your organization. Add that badge to your LinkedIn profile when you achieve a certification, attend a course or publish an article. Do something to further your knowledge and exposure within your field and then share it with the world.
- Share what you’ve learned. One way to stay visible and communicate how self-motivated you are is to offer to share what you have learned or what you have written about with your team and other teams. Back to being proactive, offer to share 10 tips for analyzing data or 5 ways to tell a better story. Whatever your area of expertise you are forming, offer to share that with your manager and other managers. Get the word out that you are a motivated learner and are trying to develop yourself. This will communicate volumes about who you are.
These times are challenging but it is not an impossible time to make a move internally or externally. Learn about yourself, develop yourself and promote yourself. These three points have been true forever but are even more critical now. Schedule the time and make it happen!