Who knew this pandemic would last so long or have such far-reaching impact on people’s lives and livelihood? As a career & life coach, clients often ask what they can do to get ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing for what’s next. While no one has a crystal ball, and we don’t know how long it will take, my recommendation is always to focus on your career as if your job depended on it. And it does.
If you are still working, but your environment has changed, be grateful.
Some of you are working from home right now and liking it. You may be realizing that going back to work in an office is not for you. You have choices.
And, if you are out of work right now, and your prospects are slim, look at it as an opportunity.
Each of these scenarios—and there are so many more in between—requires a significant amount of patience and positivity. These personal qualities may be in short supply right now. Nonetheless, it will help you to cultivate both as though they are seeds you planted. Nurture them and let them sprout. Their growth will support you as you build your career options regardless of your situation.
Start with the Fundamentals
- Core Values can change when significant life events happen. When your career turns on end, what matters to you may shift. Figuring out what you value most now is an ideal place to start. I share an approach to defining your core values in a short video on my podcast, which you can watch here.
- Your vision of the future may seem obscure and unclear at the moment. However, this is an excellent time to bring some clarity to your career direction. What do you want in your next career move? How can you make that happen? And who can help you? When you answer questions like these, it will become easier to create options that focus on your career, even in uncertain times.
- Concentrate on what you can control. I’m sure you’ve heard this from many different sources over the last several months. The reason you have is that it is sound advice. When you worry about all the things you can’t control, you waste much-needed energy—which you could reserve for the next fundamental idea.
- Staying positive in the face of adversity is a yeoman’s feat, and it is a worthy one. That being said, it takes practice. Finding the exercises that work best for you will help make it easier to become optimistic, hopeful, and confident. Whether you create and repeat affirmations, or engage in mindfulness activities, lifting your spirit will make the rest of these ideas more straightforward and less stressful.
Build Skills to Enhance Your Career
- Take an inventory of your skills, competencies, and knowledge. Make it an exhaustive list, so you are clear about what you have to offer. Many of my clients find this an enlightening exercise because they remember things they have done that they did not reflect in their current resume. This discovery could lead to a door opening that was previously closed.
- From the inventory list, highlight all the items that you “love” to do. You are likely to awaken some passion for this list. The idea is to focus on your career’s future with these in mind.
- Often, you can feel trapped in what you’ve always done for a living, seeing no other options. When you identify transferrable skills, you start to see possibilities for exploring new solutions to your career challenge.
- Next, you get to see where you can improve your skills. To close the gap on skills or uplevel them, you could research and engage in online-training that you can add to your resume. In my experience, recruiters and prospective employers look favorably on candidates who use this time to improve themselves. It’s a differentiator.
Do Your Due Diligence
- With the business landscape changing, new consumer needs will emerge. What if you research what new products and services will be needed to address the changing environments? How could your skills—current or newly developed—play into that gap?
- With your values and vision firmly in place, it’s a great time to research your fields of interest and companies who are leaders in those fields. Create your target list of employers for whom you would like to work and keep a close eye on the opportunities that arise. You may even be able to create some of your own through networking, which I cover below.
- One of my clients’ favorite research approaches is brainstorming. Gather a small group of trusted colleagues and work together to identify options and research possibilities for each other. It is a powerful way to network and keeps everyone on a positive track, which leads me to the next category.
Networking is Queen
- Expand your network. As much as 85% of jobs are found through networking. Make new connections with people who align with the work you want to do. Establish common ground for building relationships. And keep at it.
- As you continue to connect with new people, work your network through engagement. Follow them, read and comment on their posts. Share articles that create conversation and participate. Let people know who you are and what you believe so that you can deepen those relationships.
- Above all else, keep yourself in the candidate pipeline. Although it may seem futile sometimes, don’t go dark. You will differentiate yourself by staying on top of what’s going on, broadening your associations, and reaching out to new connections regularly.
- Whenever you can, arrange exploratory conversations with people who may be able to help you. You never know when you’ll meet a potential mentor who has a connection you need to know. The result could be that you tap into someone whose creative mind opens the door to new possibilities you never imagined.
Preparation as a Focus on Your Career
- With all the research, brainstorming, and connection work started, you may want to revisit your resume and social media profiles. As you identify skills not already reflected or gain new skills by online coursework or certifications, be sure to update all the sources that represent you in the job market.
- Hone your interviewing skills to be ready when the gates open. If there are any questions you typically stumble to answer, practice your responses until you are comfortable. Mock interviews are often helpful in this area. Find a partner, coach, or colleague and explore all types of questions—behavioral, ethical, cultural, and the like—to be sure you’re ready.
- Preparation like this will help you to identify differentiators that allow you to stand out in the crowd. As you plan your responses to questions, think about stories and scenarios to illustrate how you show up in various situations. Stories lend credibility and are likely to be remembered. You want them to remember you.
- Practice—Practice—Practice. You cannot be over-prepared to make a lasting impression on the company and hiring manager you have in your sights. Enough said.
Begin with the End in Mind
When you develop and maintain a positive mindset, your capacity for having patience with the process will follow. These characteristics will serve you well as you move through each of the phases you undertake to focus on your career.
Start with the fundamentals of values and vision. Take inventory of your skills, do your research, and build your network. Then, prepare and practice.
Whatever the new normal will be, you will be ready to meet it head-on.
María Tomás-Keegan is a Career & Life Coach for women, specializing in transition. She helps her career clients adapt to changes such as a layoff, forced retirement, job restructuring, or career reimagining. If you would like to explore how she can help you, schedule a complimentary consultation, and open your mind to the possibilities. She helps women go from panicked to powerful, and from rocky to resilient. Take the first step so you can focus on your career.