The covid pandemic and the economic shutdown caused a lot of us to think anew about our careers. Many restaurants have had a hard time finding workers, not only because they don’t pay enough, but also because their staffs decided to change careers, for example.
Since the pandemic caused hundreds, maybe thousands of businesses to work remotely, their leadership realized that remote work can be successful and may even help them with recruiting and retaining top talent. Necessity really was the mother of invention in this case.
Many of the people who worked remotely in those companies during the pandemic decided that since they now can work remotely at least part of the time in almost any industry, they are re-evaluating their career and maybe making a shift.
This is true across all age groups, from 27-year old Emily Luna who described it to the Wall Street Journal in April as an “inward looking moment,” to 74-year old Sarah Smalls who told them “the person who went into the pandemic isn’t the same person coming out.” Like Kristan Collins, 59, these people are emerging from the covid cocoon with a new perspective on how they want to spend their time and that means with new goals, priorities and career choices.
As the Prudential “Pulse of the American Worker” survey found this year, 20% of workers changed jobs during the pandemic and 26% plan to do so after covid feels less threatening.
As you consider your post-pandemic professional life, here are a few important things to think about, no matter what career stage you’re at:
1. “Be honest with yourself in assessing your strengths and weaknesses.” Each of us is good at something and less good at some things, and downright weak in other things. So, “get real with yourself,” as Wendy Vittori Executive Director of the Health Products Declaration Collaborative (HPDC) told me on my podcast Green Connections Radio recently.
This is especially important if you want to advance your career. “When I decided I wanted to be a general manager, I looked at where I was strong,” and where she wasn’t strong Vittori said.
“Be honest with yourself,” she suggested, “all of us have our strengths and weaknesses, and those weaknesses are just opportunities to be better. That’s all they are. And instead of sort of living with that, address it.”
2. Ask mentors or people you trust who know you professionally. Try to be specific. You can ask what they think you’re good at and where they think you may be weak, or you can ask about specific roles you want to explore. When Vittori wanted to make a change, for example, she “sought advice from others,” asking, “’I want to be a general manager, what do you think?’“
She added, “look at the people who are really doing well and seek advice from them, seek advice from others that can really help you. And don’t be afraid of that.”
3. Take responsibility for developing your own skills and capabilities. To progress to where you want to go, identify what skills and capabilities you need to get there and to be taken seriously for those roles and “get that experience,” as Vittori put it.
Since she wanted to advance her career, she took charge of her own learning. “I started to focus in on my own development of my skills and learning more about the different managerial capacities,” she said, “And so I decided to get an MBA.” The MBA better qualified her for the management roles she was seeking, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field.
She added that potential employers will look highly upon your seeking to improve your skills, especially the larger firms. You’ll also likely find more career satisfaction working for people who value your desire to grow. As a boss, Vittori said she values it in her team, and when she was a top executive at Intel and Motorola. “Certainly anyone, whoever worked for me that came to me with something like that, I was like, wow, that, that is exactly the kind of person I want to support and mentor and help them advance because they, they get it.”
4. Seize opportunities: Inspired by her MBA to pursue a doctorate, Vittori began a doctorate program at Harvard Business School, but a job opportunity appeared that was too good to pass up, so she pivoted to the job.
“Keep an open mind, be looking for (opportunities). It might turn out to be something very different from what you were anticipating. I’ve done that multiple times and I think about the amazing things that happened, because I did,” she reflected.
Being open to new opportunities also means being open to lateral moves as well, as she explained more fully in our interview as well.
These powerful insights can help you be happier every time you get to work, no matter where that work is.
Listen to my full interview with Wendy Vittori of the Health Products Declaration Collaborative on my podcast, Green Connections Radio.