NEWS + ADVICE
How to Reboot Your Career When Your Future Is Unclear
Are you discouraged by all the pandemic issues, plus wondering about your future? Feeling stuck at work? Unemployed? Is your job search taking far longer than you expected? Have you missed promotions or pay increases?
This is a tough time. Some of the issues are familiar but the pandemic has made the future less than clear. Our lives are in for a long period of uncertainty – the pandemic is changing many aspects of the economy, technology is rapidly changing how we work, and the economy is forecast to take years to come back. Our children are going through remote schooling and the loss of normal social interaction – creating time management issues for everyone and fears for their future. Many of us are already mourning the loss of holiday plans for at least this year.
You may feel bogged down by all this uncertainty and change. Many Americans are dealing with anxiety and distress now. If this is you, there is help available. Talk to people you know. Check your health plan for mental health support, if employed. There are other resources, such as https://www.apa.org/helpcenter. There are even apps to help now.
Consider ‘task therapy’ which the excellent career guide Barbara Sher recommended for those unhappy and stuck. Task therapy for careers includes:
- Creating a weekly goal for your career needs
- Breaking it into doable daily tasks
- Scheduling each on your calendar
Remember even baby steps to achieve your goals will help mentally and in actual progress too.
If you are unemployed, do not blame yourself. Many people who are competent and have the performance reviews and references to prove it are too.
If you are employed but unhappy, you need to move forward too. I regularly see job seekers who saw the stagnation signs in their current work but felt too busy to find a better option internally or externally. Others thought they could have a new job with a few phone calls. Some lost a job where they had been for many years and found their skills lacking for current jobs in their field.
While usually very successful, very few people recognize early that only they can define and achieve their life goals. These are the people who have made a career plan and acted on it regularly.
Your path forward depends on making the time to do the work to achieve your goals. In good times and bad, no one ever has enough time. The difference between long-term success and ‘just a job’ is who makes the time to invest in themselves. Grab a notebook and start with these questions:
- What are your career goals?
- What are your personal values that apply to your work?
- What environment or culture do you succeed best in?
- What is your action plan to achieve your next career step?
Talk to People You Know
Many people are having difficulty coping during this pandemic. You are not alone. Reach out. Talk to people you already know – from work, hobbies, school or community organizations. Make the effort.
- Suggest a quick coffee together or call people you respect and see how they are.
- Send an old friend a card or a link to an article of interest, or just a note to say ‘how are you’.
- Start with a simple ‘check-in’ to see how each is. A lot of those highly successful, wonderful life folks you think you know are hurting now too.
- Then you can move on to ask for support or ideas for your next move – and offer support to them as well.
Post a little something regularly on your LinkedIn or other social media account – just to remind people you are an active, interesting professional. Connect two people you know who you think might interest each other.
Keeping up your relationships with other people enhances your knowledge of what is going on in your field and the market. It enhances the likelihood they will be responsive when you need some help. Far too many people just reconnect when they need a job – that works once to twice before they feel used by you. Many mature workers tell me that everyone they knew who could help has retired – as if they have no contacts under 60+.
Next, get more active in connecting. Find people you have lost. Go to professional meetings in your field and those adjacent, join relevant online groups, and make connections. There are many career-enhancing events and webinars online now so look for them.
If you are in job search mode join a virtual job club, and talk with people at events you attend in-person or online. Ask your current contacts for introductions or names of people that they think might help you learn more about your target employers or career options.
In all career fields, the changes seem to be coming ever faster. Disruption is the ‘game’. Your career is in your hands. This means you need to be watching what the trends are. Pay attention to what is happening in your organization for clues to its future. Read some of the free newsletters which cover your interests. I like many in the SmartBrief series.
You have to create your own professional development program. Maybe your boss will support it, maybe not. But you have to make the time and pay the costs to keep yourself current and learn new things, because it’s your future and your career that will get hurt otherwise.
Do you need education, training, or certifications you don’t have? Your planning needs to get you started on getting whatever is needed done. Unemployed? Check for local free training programs available through your state’s CareerOneStop or local programs.
Consider the broad range of online classes, coursework, and webinars as another way to grow your skills. Check out areas that interest you and add to your career skills.
Create a program to educate yourself and add information about your achievements to your resume, your social media profiles, and in discussions with contacts and your boss. Talk about your efforts to recruiters and hiring managers during your job search. Show how you are keeping up with new technologies, market changes, appropriate certifications, or whatever is most important in your field.
Develop Effective Job Search or Professional Growth Tactics
Job search has changed a lot in recent years. The pandemic has increased the speed of new technologies, like virtual interviews, and the amount of people searching. But when you are looking for a new opportunity, are you assessing your job search regularly to bring your best game to bear?
Yes, you need to do this internally as well if you want to grow and develop with your current company!
Step 1 – Ask Yourself
What aspects of my job search are working well? If you are getting:
- Contacted about jobs then your resume is probably pretty good.
- Screening calls and then interviews, that says you are good at the basics of applying for the right jobs and selling yourself on the minimum requirements.
- Moved on to second or third interviews, then you are interviewing well and making a good case for being hired.
Look at each aspect of your search and figure out what is working and what needs to work better.
For internal growth and promotions, the same process applies. What are you doing that’s working?
- Do you know and keep up with people in other departments and functions to keep abreast of important issues?
- Have you talked with your manager about a career development plan?
- Volunteered for company teams or cross-training?
- Kept up with what skills that will be needed for the company’s future plans and figured out how to add some to your toolkit?
Step 2 – Other Critical Moves
How many new contacts are you making per week?
There are a variety of ‘right’ numbers depending on the work you do, the level of position you seek, and the experts you read. But the minimum is probably 3-5 in job search, and the same monthly for career development. Only those which are 1:1 and include follow-up count, although they can be in real life or online.
What am I doing to stay in front of my target audience?
Start with the simple stuff. Update your resume when appropriate, and if in active job search, to ClearedJobs.Net. Post a professioal update to LinkedIn or Twitter at least 3-4 times a month. Update your profile with new achievements or certifications regularly so that you are ‘visible’ to your connections in case they learn something of use to you.
Better yet, work your way through your network asking specific questions and reminding them what you are interested in. Attend professional meetings to learn and to network. Consider building an audience on Twitter or another social media venue. Or volunteer in a way that supports your career and job goals.
What am I doing to demonstrate that what I offer is valuable now?
- What achievements and new skills can you talk about to give a potential boss insight into what you can do immediately?
- What goals can you discuss that show you’re prepared for a specific job, promotion, or the next contract that fits with your desired future?
- How do these show up on your resume and in social media to help build your brand?
- What questions are you asking your boss or potential employers?
All of these are critical to showing a current or potential boss what a valuable, committed and enthusiastic employee you are/would be. Talk with some of your contacts about this and ask what they hear when you talk, what they think of your answers to common questions – and learn.
Focus on what you can do to have the job you want to match your career goals now. This is your time, your career! Taking even small steps forward can be energizing at a time when so much seems uncertain or too difficult.
Me? I’ll be dying my hair purple – it’ll cheer me up and make sure you won’t miss me in all those Zoom events!
Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.This entry was posted on Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:36 pm