The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of adaptability and resilience for organizations and individuals alike. With entire industries disrupted and global economic uncertainty ahead, it's more crucial than ever to take proactive steps to crisis-proof your career. By managing your skills, network, and mindset effectively, you can gain control over your professional trajectory even during periods of massive change.
Today we will explore how to take charge of your career during crises. First, we will discuss creating and demonstrating value by generously sharing information and ideas when companies need all hands on deck. Next, we will explore the benefits of learning on the job and making internal connections outside your formal role. Finally, we will provide guidance on evaluating whether your role and industry have growth potential, or if you should seek opportunities elsewhere.
With deliberate planning and a flexible mindset, you can future-proof your skills, add value to your organization, and take purposeful action to advance your career, no matter the external circumstances. The insights below will position you to thrive during times of instability and come out stronger on the other side.
Demonstrating Value by Sharing Insights and Ideas
When organizations are in crisis management mode, they need all team members to step up, share expertise, and provide innovative ideas. Rather than retreating or solely focusing on your formal job description, look for ways to create value by providing important industry information, analysis, and recommendations.
For instance, you may have access to research reports, webinars, or newsletters with timely data about how your sector is responding to current challenges. Offer to distribute or present key findings to colleagues who will find them useful. Volunteer to compile competitive intelligence or put together a list of crisis management best practices used in your industry.
This is also the time to develop your own original perspectives and solutions. Do in-depth research on emerging trends and pain points. Come up with strategies for overcoming roadblocks caused by the crisis. Present data, scenarios, and ideas to execs to inform critical decisions. Look for ways your organization can serve customers better or differentiate itself in the current climate.
Stepping forward with vital information, strategic insights, and innovative solutions demonstrates initiative and care for the company. It builds your visibility and value as a thought leader during difficult times. While an "all hands on deck" crisis can be stressful, embracing the opportunity to share your expertise helps the organization while positioning you for future growth.
Making Connections and Learning Across the Organization
In a crisis, silos break down out of necessity. To pivot quickly, companies need collaboration and idea sharing across departments. Be proactive during this time about expanding your skills and making connections across the organization.
Seek out learning opportunities that stretch your capabilities and gain exposure to diverse roles. Ask colleagues in other divisions if you can sit in on virtual meetings, collaborate on projects to support their priorities, or get an overview of how they approach challenges.
Maybe volunteer to spend a few hours a week supporting an overloaded team, offering your helpdesk, writing, or analytical skills. Learn more about how decisions get made from company leaders by asking for mentoring conversations.
Look for chances to build relationships and learn workflows beyond the scope of your normal responsibilities. Developing competencies across functions and building social capital company-wide will enhance your resilience.
When the crisis stabilizes, you'll be able to bring more value through your expanded business acumen. You'll have insight into how the whole organization operates and key relationships across divisions. Investing in cross-training and knowledge sharing now will help you take on increased responsibility later.
Evaluating Industry and Role Growth Potential
The pandemic has turned some industries upside-down, while catalyzing growth for others. Take time to objectively assess whether your role and sector have room for expansion once conditions stabilize. This evaluation can help you determine if you should upscale in your current job or explore new opportunities.
First, analyze your industry's projected growth. Factors to research include technological disruptions, shifts in consumer preferences, restructuring, and new opportunities created by the crisis. If your sector is poised for expansion, identify skills needed to take advantage of those opportunities.
For example, the rise of telemedicine during COVID-19 increased demand for online patient portals and virtual care infrastructure. Healthcare IT specialists with those e-health skills would be well positioned for growth.
Next, consider potential in your specific role. Do projects in your pipeline indicate headcount, responsibility, or budget increases when operations normalize? Have leaders mentioned plans to develop your role? If promotions, raises, or increased scope seem feasible, invest now in skills training to capitalize on that growth.
However, flat team budgets or staffing reductions may signal it's time to look elsewhere. Reflect honestly on whether there's a career path for advancement in your current company and function. If the picture looks murky, spruce up your resume and start networking.
With some industries in flux, being open-minded about new opportunities is key. Focus on transferable skills and keep sight of your long-term goals. With strategic foresight, you can pivot into growth sectors.
The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated agility, resilience, and proactivity in managing our careers. By embracing an “all hands on deck” mindset, making internal connections across the organization, and evaluating our growth potential, we can crisis-proof our professional journeys during uncertain times.
Demonstrating value to your company now by generously sharing information, insights and ideas will build your reputation as a leader. Cross-training and forging relationships beyond your day-to-day role expands your skills. And assessing your industry and position with an eye toward future growth allows you to make deliberate moves rather than reacting passively.
With deliberate planning, resourcefulness and care for your organization, you can take purposeful action to advance your career no matter the external conditions. By following the guidance above, you can future-proof your skills, maximize your adaptability, and come through crisis ready to succeed at higher levels. The insights in this article will help you maintain control over your professional trajectory during periods of instability so you can build the career you want, crisis or no crisis.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.