Six Career Challenges in the COVID-19 Crisis and What You Can Do
In last week’s blog post, I mentioned the email I sent to my community asking about the biggest challenge people are facing in this new environment when it comes to their work, job or career.
These are the six main themes that came from the responses I received – many thanks to all who shared them!
I’m sharing tips on what you can do if you’re facing these challenges too. So as you read through, take a moment to reflect on which of these you recognize in your own situation.
Six Themes on What’s Challenging Right Now
1. Keeping spirits up
People are finding it hard to stay positive with the uncertainties and unknowns that lie ahead. Even those who are normally positive are picking up negativity from the news and the fears of people around them.
What you can do:
It’s much easier to feel positive when you’ve had enough sleep, water, nutritious food and exercise. So, this is a great time to prioritize your self-care and take the time to “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others”.
At the same time, see if you can limit your exposure to negative news or people, especially if these tend to trigger your worst fears and anxieties. Note that your self-care will help you remain more resilient to those triggers.
Keeping your spirits up is easier when you look for the opportunity within the situation.
2. Finding a job
Economic uncertainties are leading many organizations to put hiring plans on hold, cut back on the work they give out, or resort to layoffs. The financial pressure this puts on earners and their families is a significant challenge for which there are no easy answers.
What you can do:
On the financial side, this is a good time to “run the numbers” so you know what it costs for you and your family to live each month and how that balances out against your income and financial reserves. The answers you find can make you feel better or motivate action, whether that’s reducing costs, building up savings, finding another stream of income or a mixture.
On the job search side, this is the time to keep connected with your network and broaden it. According to Harvard Business School, 65-85% of jobs are found through networking and that’s where you should focus about 80% of your time. (So don’t overinvest in those job boards!)
As you approach your job search, remember to take an inventory of your strengths, skills and experiences. Think broadly about where and how you can leverage these to add value. Don’t be afraid to pivot when you need to.
Above all, stay positive (see #1 above) and keep going.
3. Being productive
Working from home comes with distractions whether it’s news feeds, social media notifications, family members you want to spend time with, or children who are being “home schooled”. And not everyone has a “home office” set up that makes it easy to concentrate.
What you can do:
Recognize that with any change comes a temporary loss of productivity, including positive events like moving to a better offices space or changing jobs after a promotion. This situation is even more distracting, so cut yourself (and your team) some slack.
Give yourself permission to change your work routine to better suit your current situation. For instance, if you used to leave home before everyone else woke up but you’re now on breakfast duty with the kids, you’ll need to do some rearranging.
Do your best to set up your workspace and structure your time so that you can focus on what matters most. If you live with others, agree on some boundaries for when it’s “do not disturb” time. And make sure you schedule in break times and actually take them – it’s an important ingredient for staying productive.
4. Adjusting to online meetings (and all things virtual)
Conducting meetings, doing business and building your network of relationships online is challenging. Especially when you’re used to doing things in-person. It’s not only the tech, but also learning new “norms” for when and how to communicate.
What you can do:
First and foremost, make sure you’re staying connected with others virtually. That means making friends with your video conferencing system. It’s literally your window on the world when it comes to communicating with your team, colleagues, boss and clients.
If the tech is new to you, get someone to help – think of it as another way to connect with a colleague. And if you’re a pro, offer to help others. They’ll appreciate it.
When it comes to networking, be creative about translating your “in-person” strategies to a virtual version. Whether that’s setting up a virtual coffee, convening a group discussion, or making e-introductions, experiment with different formats to find out what works for you.
The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be. And remember, you’ll be developing a useful skill to have even after we emerge from this crisis.
5. Motivating team members in these hard times
For leaders and managers, it’s challenging to ensure you’re doing the right things to motivate team members and support them, especially if virtual working drags on.
When you can’t see each other, you can’t pick up on the non-verbal cues about how someone is doing. And not knowing what’s going on can easily lead your imagination to go to the worst-case scenario (“could my whole team really be binge-watching Netflix box sets in their pajamas instead of working?”).
What you can do:
In uncertain times, your team needs to hear from you, even if you don’t have all the answers. Make sure you’re visible and available to them. This is when people need your leadership more than ever.
At the same time, strike the balance between showing your support and intruding on their workday. When in doubt, ask them for the best times and ways to connect with them. And be prepared to treat each person the way they want to be treated – it’s not one-size-fits-all because your team members aren’t all the same.
Your team members are probably reluctant to reach out to you and interrupt your workday, and there are fewer natural ways to do the equivalent of stopping by your desk to ask a question. So find your way to make it “okay” for people to contact you.
Some leaders I know have set up virtual office hours when they’re available on video conference. Others have a daily virtual huddle with their direct reports, who then can cascade that down to their teams. Experiment with various ways and be prepared to be flexible and change course to suit the needs of your team.
And when you do get on that video call, remember to start by asking each person to share how they’re doing before you dive into business. It not only shows you care, it’s an essential way to the create common ground needed for a productive conversation.
6. Preparing for advancement
For some, the COVID-19 crisis limits their options for taking on new projects and showing the boss they’re doing the right things. For others, it’s a period of “downtime” they can take advantage of to prepare for advancement, but they’re not sure how. Both situations can feel stressful for achievement-oriented professionals.
What you can do:
Recognize this as a golden opportunity to get creative about demonstrating leadership, investing in yourself and enriching your life and career.
We will emerge from this crisis, and the important question is:
How are you using this time to emerge better and stronger?
Whether it’s polishing up on the soft skills that could be beneficial to prospective employers, getting trained on a new skill, developing another earnings stream, or taking a step back to reflect on where you want to take your career, look for ways to make the most of this time.
Don’t spend it in ways you’ll regret later – like staying glued to the newsfeed or worrying about things you can’t control (a personal favorite!).
Instead take action (yes, “baby steps” count!) and invest in the 2-3 things that will set you up for success going forward.
Finding Our Way Together
If you’re facing some or all of these challenges, you are not alone. We’re all finding our way forward in this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty. Together, we will prevail.
I’ll be covering these and other topics in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
And keep learning, keep growing and keep going.
Which of these challenges are you facing?
Leave a comment and let me know.