Rejuvenating Your Career Post-COVID
This post is part of a series of branded posts sponsored by Verizon Business. The focus of the series — part of a paid partnership between Verizon Business and CircleAround — is on women small business owners, and how they are navigating the complexities and challenges of contemporary business, from the pandemic to the economy.
Jennifer Mackin of the Oliver Group and the Leadership Pipeline Institute U.S. gave us tips on growing our careers after the pandemic has changed the work landscape.
The New Work Environment
The pandemic led us all to reevaluate our priorities. What matters most to us, and what role should work play in our lives?
The pandemic put added pressures on women to do more child care and to accomplish more at work. Women left the workplace in droves, about 2 million in 2020. Others took lower-paid roles to free up time at home. The result is a widening gender gap in wages.
Our needs as work returns to normal are very individual. Not every worker, or company, has the same needs. Now there is high demand for workers, and companies that figure out how to provide flexibility will succeed.
Your Possible Paths
Are you a specialist or a leader?
Specialists are experts in one area. As they move up in their careers, they have greater responsibility to share their expertise within the company and develop other talent.
Leaders coordinate specialists and lead team members and, eventually, other leaders.
In either path, as workers move up, their responsibilities and focus must change, from hands-on work to sharing knowledge with others who can move up behind them. Companies need to lay out development paths for employees from the beginning of their careers.
Does Your Company Take Your Development Seriously?
Companies that handle career development well have certain characteristics:
- The people plan must connect to business strategies.
- Leadership development must be leader-led.
- Reinforcement and practice –skills must be put into play.
- Development must be face-to-face.
Companies usually fail to develop careers in three ways: ill-prepared leaders, lack of learning culture, or lack of leadership involvement. If you see these in your own company, consider them red flags.
Knowing When and How to Make a Change
Workers are in high demand right now, which gives employees power in their workplaces. You can use that power to ask for what you need in your role. Faced with a possible new role, ask how leaders develop their people and ask about the company's overall strategy.
Consider the culture at a new company, and ask about future development. Are they diverse and flexible? Are they engaged in their employees' careers?
Leverage your mentors and colleagues to explore new roles. And make sure that a move is truly an improvement.
When are you ready to step into a new role? Women usually wait until they have 80% of the competencies required, while men apply when they have at least 40% of the requirements. Consider what transferable skills you have, like consensus building.
Compensation will rise naturally in a good corporate environment, so consider more than your initial salary — think about development for the future.
Don't wait for your leader to plan for you. Ask your leaders to help you grow, and consider how you can make your leaders look good. Talk to leaders about their roles.
Communicate what you're working on. Keep track of your successes and make sure they're known.
Be visible. Volunteer for projects that are central to the business and can build your skills. Don't just keep your head down and work hard; make sure you are seen.
Ask for what you need. Be your own best advocate.
If you're a leader in a company that isn't handling change well, what can you do? Communicate your concerns up the leadership chain and offer solutions, and communicate down the chain as well to support your subordinates' career paths.
How can women enhance their career paths? Once again, be visible. Also, think strategically — how your work can contribute to the organization's larger goals. Finally, communicate to leadership how you want to grow and change.
What to consider if you feel like taking a break from your career? Consider why you feel this way. What will you do with the break to make it productive? Consider making a change in industries or careers to something you'll find more rewarding. And consider timing the break to coincide with another big life change, like having a child.
How do you know it's time to move on? People often wait too long. Does your leader take no interest in your development? Are you not actively engaged? Are you not having fun anymore?
The pandemic has created a lot of chaos and hardship, but it's also created an opportunity to reflect and redirect. Whether you're planning a career change or looking to take the next step in your current environment, we hope that these tips will help you as you move forward into this new environment. This is a stressful time, but it can also be a transformative one.