7 steps to tweak your career plans without losing sight of your goals
Firstly – accept the wake up call! Things have changed due to the coronavirus crisis. We have lost jobs, been furloughed, or abruptly become self-employed. We don’t know how things are going to play out over the coming months. It can feel chaotic and stressful.
There are plenty of things we can’t change, but there are things we can do to manage and even come out of the situation stronger.
Time to reflect, or embracing the liminal
Whether we like it or not, this crisis and time has been forced upon us, so try embrace it. Use it as a time to reflect on your achievements, your goals and your current situation. Take the time to question and interrogate yourself, your choices and your plans. Liminality – the state of being between phases – can be unsettling for many due to a sense of lost control and direction, and an uncertainty of what’s to come. But try to embrace it by accepting it, accepting that you can’t be expected to deliver or perform in the same way as you could when everything was ‘normal’. You may think you’re being unproductive, but productivity can be measured in different ways, such as self-reflection and evaluation, or by learning new skills, making new contacts, supporting others.
Talk and share
While reflection can be a good thing, it can also be solitary and inward looking. But talking aloud and airing your reflections, thoughts, ideas, concerns and queries with friends, colleagues, connections and confidantes is a valuable part of reflection also. It allows you to work these things out and to find new ideas and ways of thinking.
Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket – an old English expression that basically means diversity is good. This is especially true in times of uncertainty and with an obscured future. From a career perspective, while ambitions and goals are important, a little flexibility can help you maintain momentum when your path has been disrupted. Having diverse options does not necessarily mean career change (though this is no bad thing in itself), but it can mean finding new ways to achieve your goals. If there’s a certain firm or sector you want to work in, but it’s been badly affected by the pandemic, consider sidestepping to find an alternative route through a different sector. Many skills are transferable, while diverse experience is very attractive to employers.
The side hustle, or long-forgotten projects
As part of embracing your newly limited situation, develop a side hustle or get going on back-burner projects. Cultivate knowledge, skills, resources and relationships. Take part-time courses, do voluntary or advisory work and develop start-up ideas. And don’t limit yourself to your career – move into other subject areas, gain a broad-range of knowledge and experience, do different things – it can be inspiring, as well as useful in your career.
Fire up your network
Stay-at-home measures have meant many of us are spending more time on social media, maintaining relationships and sometimes reigniting old ones, or ‘dormant ties’. These ties can be people with whom you once had strong bonds, but for whatever reason, they’ve slipped. But by reconnecting, you’re re-establishing quality connections with their own diverse networks. A study found that such ties may be even better and more valuable than your most active relationships.
So your network is buzzing, you’ve developed new skills and knowledge through the projects you’ve undertaken – now you need to shout about them. Make yourself and how you’ve been developing visible to all. Shout about it on LinkedIn and in your CV. Put yourself forward for projects and opportunities in your work place, or better still try to initiate change and innovation. Step outside of your role and broaden your presence.
Recognise and embrace changes
You might have changed during the crisis, perhaps only slightly and in ways that are difficult to recognise, but that you should embrace. You may have become more adaptable, resilient, creative, thoughtful or more organised, all of which are skills that can be transferred to your professional life, you just need to actively implement.
Final key lesson: once normality returns, don’t let the knowledge, skills, habits and connections gained during lockdown disappear. Actively make a point of maintaining and using them.