For the majority of us, our career stories have changed over the last 60 days; some more drastically than others but nonetheless – we’re all experiencing a level of change. One of my recent social media posts read, “While some things never change, your approach to managing your career should.” It’s one thing to work remotely, it’s something else to: work remotely, have everyone who resides in your environment at home with you at the same time, manage responsibilities to home school, etc. all during a pandemic! Although several aspects of your life are being managed simultaneously, I’ll use this opportunity to recommend 10 things that will help you better manage yourself, better manage your career and better manage the work.
I recommend that you create space, commit to boundaries and that you consider your consumption. Here’s what I mean:
1. Create space. If your calendar is bursting at the seams as mine tends to do, you’ll need to set aside time to breathe and take breaks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the wall “doing one more thing” or thinking that if I keep going, at least I’ll remove a few things from my plate. The reality is: your well-being has to be prioritized if the goal is to do well at work and to be well physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Let’s face it, output is a reflection of input. Your success is an inside job that begins with you identifying how you redefine time and create space by balancing your well-being with your workload.
2. Commit to boundaries. At least if you worked from home prior to COVID-19, you had an opportunity to travel, go shopping, have dinner at your favorite restaurant or head to the spa. With stay at home orders in place and conversations of reopening the country in phases, your options are now limited. It’s easy to work more; to work harder and work longer hours. Because you no longer have to pick the kids up from school and take them to practice doesn’t mean you should consistently fill the space with work. Ideally you should establish start/stop times to ensure there’s a divide between your career and your personal life.
3. Consider your consumption. According to Psychology Today’s article “How To Stay Positive During A Pandemic”, it is recommended that you limit how much time you spend watching the news, listening to the radio, and scrolling through social media. In doing so, you can help restore a sense of normalcy while reducing your sense of dread. The point isn’t to remain uninformed and unaware, but to remind us all that we need to be knowledgeable and respectful of our individual emotional and psychological limits.
Manage Your Career
With so many things changing, it’s easy to prioritize everything else over managing your career. This of course can still happen during COVID-19, it simply requires sound strategy. I suggest the following:
4. SWOT Analysis. I recommend that you manage your career like a business, not only in this climate but consistently in any climate. A SWOT Analysis is no stranger to employers and it shouldn’t be for you as an employee. Revisit the following while managing your career during this quarter:
• Strengths: Know what they are and how what you do contributes to the organization’s strategy, both short term and long term.
• Weaknesses: Be aware of the limitations that work against your career success then create a plan to diminish them.
• Opportunities: Consider external factors you can capitalize on that will increase your visibility. For example, if employee engagement has plummeted, what’s your solution for increasing engagement? If you’ve identified communication gaps that are hindering productivity and efficiency, what will you do to streamline communication and improve the process?
• Threats: Take a moment to reflect on what has happened, what is happening and what could potentially happen with your role as well as with your organization. Simply knowing what could jeopardize your role might inspire you to innovatively reinvent yourself.
5. Speak up. Consider your capacity and volunteer for stretch assignments or projects external to the scope of your work. When you do, assess the impact of the project to the organization as well as how the opportunity will not only broaden your skill set and relationships but how the opportunity will also increase your visibility.
6. Solicit feedback. Now, more than ever, you’ll not only need to communicate your wins and your goals to your leader, but you’ll also need feedback. Organizational priorities 60 days ago have shifted; you should definitely be aware of what they are, why they’ve changed as well as what you can do to demonstrate leadership.
7. Seek support. Consider your relationships; both personal and professional because you will need support, encouragement, accountability and advocacy. As Alfred Edmond Jr., Black Enterprise Senior VP so eloquently states: “Just because you can’t come within six feet of mentors, sponsors, advocates, colleagues and others does not mean you can’t maintain and leverage those relationships virtually. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you; schedule time to regularly engage and share details of your job search with them via Skype, Zoom, traditional phone calls—any virtual means available to you. Also, don’t forget to be a resource to others in the same way.”
Manage the Work
When you consider your productivity as you work from home, you’ll need a plan; your awareness of how your colleagues function as well as their needs and personalities should shape your perspective when you approach your work.
8. Plan. While structure and systems are necessary, I’m learning to work incrementally. Although there are some aspects of my work that I can knock out all at once; my best results occur when I approach my projects in segments. For example, I complete presentations over the course of days whereas at one point in time I would allocate a day to create and design content. I’m still creating a plan and achieving goals, I simply introduced change to produce better results in a way that doesn’t simultaneously produce mental burn-out. Being proactive definitely isn’t anything new; it simply looks different during a pandemic which requires that you be different. When you’re able to anticipate interruptions, incorporate flexibility and overcome perfection – the work tends to become more manageable.
9. People. I recently facilitated 5 webinars over a 10-day period and an attendee posed the question: “How can you balance being an empathetic leader without being perceived as too soft?” Compassion is a competitive advantage – especially during this crisis so please don’t compromise your core while balancing the needs of others with your performance. Compassion and confidence can create a powerful presence during this season. Lead where you are, continue to perform exceptionally and serve others in the process.
10. Perspective. COVID-19 has shown many of us how much control we actually have or don’t have. Psychology Today states, “Shifting your attention toward those aspects of life you can control can help restore your sense of agency and self-confidence.” Take inventory of your thoughts, your mood, how you’re speaking to yourself and others; how you’re responding at work and what you give your attention to. We are all creating new habits right now and they will either help us or hinder us in the upcoming months.
I believe wholeheartedly that this too, shall pass but until it does – we are all required to manage change and change who we are in one way or another. Continue to manage yourself, manage your career and manage the work in such a way that you can celebrate how you’ll actually be better on the other side of COVID-19 than you were prior to its surprise arrival.
To continue this conversation, feel free to join me in my Facebook Group or in my LinkedIn Group called Confident Career Woman.
Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: ErickaSpradley.com