Many of the conversations I’m having with clients, candidates, and colleagues seem to focus on the stresses of working at home while homeschooling, entertaining kids who are also stuck at home, and dealing with conflicting responsibilities of home and work and, in many cases, just finding a functional space to work. But the things we are all complaining about could actually be the catalyst for growth. New patterns are emerging. Rather than just using your former commute time to work longer, reclaim it to invest in staying professionally vibrant and learning new things. That’s a more interesting conversation.
As a recruiter, I often ask candidates: “How do you stay current?” But, as the job market becomes more active, I believe the question will be asked in a different way. It may be: “What new things did you learn during the time you were sheltered in place?” There will be other questions too. What new processes did you implement for yourself or your team to be productive while working remotely? What contribution did you make to help your company or your community weather the downturn effectively? What new skills did you personally acquire during the quarantine?
If you were asked this today, what would your answer be? Did you take online courses? Study a new approach to your business or your craft? Read the most important new business books? Did you engage in activities that made you a better leader or improved your mental toughness? Did you explore a new skill or even a new part of the industry to work in?
Think about it. What have you done with your time at home for a solid three or four months to stay current? Now is the time to engage in activities that tell a positive story about how you’ve used this time to stay current both professionally and personally (and it doesn’t include watching every Netflix show known to humankind). Here are some ideas to stay vibrant during this time.
- Develop or refine a new skill within your area of expertise. A new language for a coder. A new tool for a marketer. A new leadership approach for anyone with a staff.
- Actually sign up for that online course you’ve been talking about.
- Read HBRs 10 Must Reads 2020.
- Focus on your health. Start a yoga routine, ride a bike, hike, or walk your neighborhood regularly.
- Learn to cook or explore five or six new recipes to make eating at home more interesting.
- Find a community service opportunity in your area. Food banks, frontline worker support, remote education, or tutoring for those who need it.
- Learn a new way to pour coffee. Ha Ha!!
Seriously, there’s a new normal for work. If there is a silver lining to being forced to pause our busy lives, it could be that we have the opportunity to emerge from the quarantine with new perspectives, new skills, and new opportunities to contribute to our workplaces and society. Now is the time to build the skills that will help you really stand out in your career, your community, and most importantly, within yourself. Now is the time to focus on your future and prepare yourself for the new realities of both work and life.