Coffee Break: Paused.
How to move forward when life comes to a standstill? How do you stay positive when Covid-19 has pushed the pause button on your progress?
This time last month I was on The Back 2 Businessship programme, a wonderful 6-day returner programmes for marketing and communication professionals. I was working with a fantastic career coach and meeting with loads of inspiring people to better understand the working world I wanted to re-enter. I was feeling positive and confident about my future. And then Covid-19 hits and very abruptly and annoyingly pushes the pause button. Grrrr. What do you do? How do you move forward when life comes to a standstill?
The old adage, “Focus on what you can control” comes to mind. Like so many, I adjust my daily personal routine, my gym classes are now online, my long dog walks are even more treasured and meal preparation is extra creative. The structure is reassuring. On the career front, I focus on what I can, namely:
Preparing myself for the job market and continuing the work that I started on the Back 2 Businessship programme. This includes taking a fresh look at my CV to see if it tells a compelling story, fine-tuning my professional bio (more important than you think!) and working on my “elevator pitch”.
One of the best pieces of advice I received about writing a CV is to create a master document that lists everything you have done and every way you have done it. I started with key competencies so things like Leadership, Teamwork, Strategic Thinking, Risk Management and under each heading, I wrote qualitative and quantitative examples of how I demonstrated these skills in previous roles. Now, when I apply for a job all I have to do is cut and paste the most relevant skills into a tailored CV, tweak the profile and submit. Easy peasy.
Here are a few links you might find helpful:
Practising, Practising, Practising.
Taking Katharine Landale’s recommendation to heart, I am using my time at home to practice saying my professional pitch aloud. I am also researching and rehearsing potential interview questions in front of the mirror and in front of my locked-in family to make sure I sound both competent and compelling.
In an attempt to brush up my presentation skills, I recently enrolled in a two-day CityLit course taught by the terrific Tim Vaughan-Hughes. I was slightly dreading the course – the thought of spending two full Saturdays indoors watching myself back on video was not appealing but the course was a revelation. I learnt so much and gained so much confidence. Tim believes everyone can become confident when public speaking and he uses this phrase as a mnemonic to remember the key elements to public speaking – they are Energy, Connection, Belief and Conciseness.
Connection is key so when practising think about how you engage your audience by making what you are saying relevant to them. In a professional setting – an interviewer wants to know how you will benefit their organisation so the faster that you can move from speaking about yourself to a thoughtful discussion about the role and ways you can help the company meets its future challenges the better.
This might be the most important thing for all of us missing day-to-day human contact with those other than our immediate family or flatmates – and that is participating in conversations and activities and just generally getting involved where you can personally and professionally. I am not an essential worker but I can help those more vulnerable in my community by registering with my local COVID-19 Mutal Aid organisation. I encourage you to do so as well. The Guardian has put together a helpful list of other ways you can help from food banks to supporting the NHS.
Professionally, LinkedIn and Twitter are a good place to start conversations and learn about online lectures and courses. I have been slow to embrace LinkedIn Groups but new and established groups done well can be a great way to meet like-minded people to share information and ideas. You might even want to start your own group. I am thinking of starting a 50:50 Project one – will you join me?
Eventbrite – as always is a great place to look for online events to attend. Through Twitter, I learned about a webinar with Herminia Ibarra entitled Taking Advantage of Coronavirus Disruption to Rethink (and possibly reinvent) your Career based on her work for her book Working Identity. Adobe has moved its digital summit online with 100+ breakout sessions and keynote speaks – all free. And of course, there has never been a better time to do learn a new skill or even start a degree course.