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Take Control of Your Career – Pandemic Edition

Posted by Patra Frame

Whatever your current work status – from a great job you love to unemployed, this period has many of us second-guessing our life choices. The terrible toll of the coronavirus and the uncertainty it creates has some people fearful or battling mental health issues. Some are trying to predict the future, while others are day-drinking.

Many government contractors are still busy working, perhaps from home a bit more than usual. Others are sidelined or fearful of their company’s future. Wherever you are on the career spectrum, now is the time to think a little more about your future.

The only certainty now appears to be uncertainty. We suffer a basic but useful delusion in life that what we expect will come true. And that we have control. Now we are reminded of the larger world’s impact. You must remember your strength isn’t your plans but is in your capacity to make them. To adjust. To be flexible. To adapt. Actions squash anxiety.

Taking Control

Your career is always within your control. Unforeseen events may hit hard, but you control your reaction and create your future. Even before the novel coronavirus hit, half of all workers were not happy in their jobs!

What are your career options? The most successful people pay attention to their careers. Too many of us allow ours to operate on autopilot until something bad happens. Then we are forced to reboot. Happy, successful people develop goals and ways to achieve them. They are ready to pivot as needed. They keep learning and developing new skills and interests. If this describes you, congratulations! Otherwise, read on for some actions you can take to help yourself into the future you want.

Start with self-assessment. Work on these questions to get started. Create notes to help you gather and assess data. Once you have completed the internal questions, you will be ready to explore. Consider new career options, changes in your current field that may impact your work, new fields of interest, new companies, or even locations. That leads to assessing what you offer for the most interesting next steps and what you need to learn or develop now to get there.

Say you’re interested in AI. You can learn about its impact on your current work or can focus on which aspects of it seem to offer a new good career path. You can read books, articles, research, or newsletters on the broad concepts or specific applications to learn more about what you need to move forward. You can make new connections to people already in the field or take classes or get involved in professional organizations. But you cannot do much without a good understanding of yourself and your goals.

Let’s Get Started

A. Start your self-assessment with these questions:

  • What do your ideal life and career outcome look like?
  • What do you care about which influences your work?
  • What is the worst-case scenario in your fears?
  • What has energized you in your current/most recent role?
  • What aspect of your work is the most boring? Why? The most difficult? Why?
  • Why do you do the work you do now?

Often these questions will take some time to be fully answered. Deepen your answers by re-visiting them several times. This review helps ground your decision-making as you move forward.

B. Move forward to figuring out what work interests you the most.

Start with a list of your top 15-20 accomplishments. Think across your life span – work, volunteer or community service, family interests, or at school. Choose those accomplishments that made you feel good, not just those someone else praised you for. Be sure to include why and how each felt important. Describe what you did and any obstacles or learning in the process.

C. Once you have completed A and B, assess:

  • What are your best abilities or attributes?
  • What are your ‘super-powers’ – the things you do well or have been recognized for?
  • How do you want to use your past experiences and achievements in support of your future?
  • Are your goals to deepen your current career knowledge or to move into other aspects of it or to change career focus? Do you want to be a subject matter or technical expert? In management or leadership roles? A consultant? An entrepreneur?

Once you have basic goals:

  • How do your best skills and abilities map to the needs of the roles you find most interesting?
  • What do you need to learn or develop for such roles?
  • What organizations have such jobs?
  • What do the roles require?
  • If you do not have all the requirements, what will you do to acquire them?

As you develop answers to these questions, bring in the people who support and influence you. Ask for their support and advice. Sometimes we do not recognize our ‘super-powers’ while others do. Or we discount how good our skills are in an area. You may also learn information that is vital to your decision-making process – good or bad. You may decide to change goals based on this feedback.

Consider your current employer: Do they offer the roles you are most interested in? Who there do you count as mentors or supporters who can help you assess how to move forward within the organization. Do they offer any development or training you may need?

The Action Plan

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Build an action plan that works for you. Create a series of small steps forward if you have time to do that. If you need to make larger changes fast, then design a plan that does that. Every action plan includes the main 2-3 goals, the steps to move forward to achieve them, and any learning necessary, as well as a time frame for each step.

Remember to update your social media profiles as you make each goal. Use social media to help you achieve them and to develop activities or knowledge needed.

Work with your connections. Tell them of your goals. Ask for specific help as needed. Seek out new contacts who can provide information and insight to help you move forward.

If you are in an active job search now or expect to be within several months, use the information you gained in this process to update your marketing materials. Find and assess target employers based on what you learned. Activate your network in support of your interests and learn all you can about the market and your target employers. Ask for referrals as appropriate.

Remember, your career is your biggest investment in life. You get out what you put in is an old cliche, but still an accurate one. Taking the time during this pandemic time-warp to assess where you are in life and where you want to go creates openings for greater happiness and ‘life’ in your life.

Patra Frame is CyberSecJobs.com’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 Friday, May 01, 2020 2:58 pm

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