For so many of us, the coronavirus crisis has led to a feeling that the world as we know it has been put temporarily on pause. While government restrictions have taken some of life’s simple luxuries away from us momentarily, one luxury that most of us aren’t lacking right now is time – bar, of course the heroic healthcare and essential workers who are currently doing so much to keep our societies running, as well as those caring for vulnerable people and children.
Use this time of forced self-reflection to contemplate your career
Pre-crisis, most of us lived busy, non-stop lives. We yearned for more free time. While our present situations may vary, many of us now have more time available for reflection than we did before. After all, today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable short-term future, we largely find ourselves in a time of stillness, away from the hubbub of normal life. We are forced to live in the moment and be present with our own thoughts.
This presents an invaluable opportunity to think about whether you really are happy in each area of your life, including your career. Use this time wisely by intentionally taking a step back to reflect honestly on the trajectory of your professional career, and importantly, how you feel about it.
Here, then, are a few questions to help you reflect on your long-term professional goals and aspirations:
1. Who are you, really? This time of pause and reflection could help us all to better understand and appreciate what defines us, including our hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes. In short, consider what makes you tick.
In this context, think about your professional life and reflect on what inspires, moves and drives you. This will help you to understand how you could make changes to your career that will boost your professional fulfilment. Why not commit now to bringing more of your authentic self to work once this pandemic is over?
2. Are you genuinely happy in your current job? We are all guilty, from time to time, of getting wrapped up in the sheer business of life. This, in turn, might mean we fail to ask ourselves whether we’re truly satisfied by what we’re filling our days with. So, use this time to think about your level of happiness in your current role. What do you enjoy? What do you not enjoy? What changes would enable you to enjoy your job more? Is this role allowing you to take the steps needed to fulfil your long-term career aspirations?
3. Does your career have meaning and purpose? This has been an unsettling time for many of us. When challenges arise or the status quo is shaken up, it’s natural to reconsider what truly matters to us, and to adopt a different perspective on even the most familiar things in our lives, including our jobs. Perhaps the current uncertainty has forced you to realise what brings the most meaning to you personally, and as a result you’d like to consider progressing your career in that direction. In short, if you’ve realised during this period of lockdown that you’re simply not deriving real meaning and purpose from your current role, now might be the time to find a role that can give you what you need.
4. What kind of employer do you want to work for? In times of crisis, the way organisations react has a huge impact on their employer brand. Perhaps you’ve been disappointed by your current employer’s internal and external response to the pandemic or particularly impressed by that of another brand. Perhaps you’ve realised that you need to work for a more purpose-driven organisation, one that more closely aligns with your own personal values.
5. Is having more flexibility working for you? The current situation has almost definitely forced you to work from home full-time, possibly for the first time ever. While some people understandably prefer the routine of commuting and interacting face-to-face with their colleagues, others are enjoying the greater flexibility that they are now afforded. If, for example, you feel that working remotely has helped you to find a better balance whilst remaining productive – or has even improved your productivity thanks to the lack of ambient office chit chat – and your role doesn’t ordinarily offer this level of flexibility, perhaps the time has come to talk to your boss about long-term flexible working options. If that’s not possible, perhaps it’s time to look for a new job that offers regular remote working.
6. Are your skills being properly utilised? Right now, many people’s roles are shifting in scope. Some have been brought onto task forces, while others are assisting different teams with responsibilities that wouldn’t normally be part of their remit. Many have been given more autonomy and freedom to craft their roles than they’ve ever had before. If this sounds like the position you’re in, think about whether or not you’re using skills you didn’t realise you had. Maybe you’re developing entirely new competencies, or building on those you already possessed? Think about the skills you have that weren’t being properly utilised before this crisis. Is it time to craft certain new or emerging skills into your current role, or do you need to find a new job that gives you this opportunity?
7. What skills do you lack? This time of relative pause may have also led you to realise that your skill set is deficient in certain areas. Are there certain roles that you aspire to move into, for which you will require skills you don’t yet have? Maybe you’re a marketer, for instance, and could do with developing your technical expertise in such areas as data analysis, marketing automation or search engine optimisation? Or perhaps you would appreciate this refresher on how skills and competencies differ, so that you can consider whether you have the right balance between the two? Then, look into the online and virtual courses, events, conferences and webinars that could enable you to develop these skills remotely – this blog will help you. Bear in mind that after this crisis, some teams and even jobs might look quite different. It’s therefore important for you to reflect and ensure you have the skills you will need to stay relevant.
8. What are you naturally good at? Reflect on your career to date, and try to identify any patterns in terms of your skills and passions. You may realise certain things have repeatedly cropped up during your career that you are naturally good at. Also think about the tasks that put you into a flow state. In all likelihood, the duties you most enjoy are also the ones you’re particularly good at.
Perhaps now is the time to move your current role in a direction that takes these natural strengths into account, or to look for another job that is a better match for such skills? You might have even noticed, during the coronavirus crisis itself, that you have been able to quickly adapt to change and become more agile in your working. This period may have therefore revealed strengths that you weren’t previously aware of.
9. How do you work best? The current circumstances have forced many of us to work in ways that we have never done previously. As a result, you are likely to have already formed certain habits, and become more aware of triggers and distractions that could hamper your productivity. So, why not use this time to consider how you work best, on the basis of what you have learned while working in isolation? Once you understand these patterns, it will be easier for you to self-manage and work as productively as possible, wherever you are working for the rest of your career.
10. Do you need to rewrite your career goals? Much of the rapid change that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to our workplaces – including the proliferation of remote working and a greater tendency for organisations to deliver their services digitally – is likely to be lasting and permanent. This, along with your career self-reflection, may have led you to realise how out-of-date your previous long-term career plan has become. Indeed, even pre-coronavirus, a five-year career plan can easily become irrelevant and must be continuously refined and referred to.
If you need to revise your career plan, this is the perfect time to do so. Our Job Search Planner can help you strategically plan and define your goals to ensure you are moving in the right direction towards your ultimate career ambitions.
11. Is your CV up to scratch? Updating your CV is often a task we put off for another day, especially if we aren’t actively looking for a new job. But now that you have more time on your hands, why not use the results of your self-reflection to update your CV? When you do, be sure to add the skills you have learned and projects worked on during this crisis. You could also use any spare time to undertake volunteering or training that will make your skills even more relevant and useful once life returns to relative normality. Whatever your status might be right now, our CV Template will help you get your resume into shape.
Post-crisis, make self-reflection a regular habit for you
Once the lockdown period is over, it’s important not to presume that every aspect of your professional life will return to how it was before. We all need to learn lessons from this crisis, one of which is the importance of regular self-reflection. So, post-crisis, carve out time to regularly reflect on your career so that you make the right decisions moving forward. Crucially, commit to making this a habit.
Instead of constantly busying ourselves with being busy, to such an extent that we lose sight of what we really want to be doing with our lives, regularly take a step back and appreciate the ‘big picture’ of our careers. This will help you to pursue a more satisfying and successful professional life in the long run.
About this author
Jane McNeill, joined Hays in 1987 as a trainee recruitment consultant in London and is now Managing Director of Hays NSW and WA.
After two years with Hays Jane began managing her own office and quickly took on larger and more diversified teams of people and responsibility for a region in the UK.
In 2001 Jane arrived in Perth , Western Australia and shortly after took over as State Director for WA. After six years of significant business growth she was appointed to the Hays Australia & New Zealand management board in 2007.
In 2012 Jane moved to Sydney and now oversees Hays’ operations in New South Wales with board responsibility for Western Australia.
Jane has an MA in Psychology from Edinburgh University.
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