In November 2019, I had the opportunity to do a webinar for PRSA Georgia’s membership titled “Career Management 2020.” At the time, I always understood the importance of managing one’s “brand,” but I wasn’t prescient enough to forecast just how critical it would be as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As I update my thoughts in mid-April ’20, the “new normal” is being determined. Too many people are losing their jobs and more will likely follow as the second quarter progresses. And others who have been actively looking for a new gig earlier this year, are now faced with a much different economy…and more competition for fewer available roles. And for those of you who have “secure” situations, things could change so it’s always smart to be prepared for whatever might happen. This is an unprecedented time, and requires careful thinking, planning and thoughtful action to successfully manage your career. Yes, you may need some luck, but as Branch Rickey the former Dodgers executive once said: “Luck is the residue of design.”
Your PRSA Georgia leadership asked what advice I had for you.
First, it’s important to know you are not alone. Also, that these extraordinary circumstances resulted in what we are experiencing, and not a failing on your part. That’s extremely important for you to know, because confidence and belief in yourself will ultimately get you through this time. You need to know that there isn’t a proven “playbook” to help guide you, but there are a series of things that you can be doing to provide some direction. Get past the anger, frustration and any bitterness and get moving with a positive and upbeat approach!
- Develop a plan: What are your strengths? What do you like to do? What skills/experiences can you leverage? Make sure you have a clear vision if you are asked for “your story.” You can have several different paths for your plan. Much like when I left my role as a corporate marketing and communications leader, I had a multi-pronged approach. I pursued more traditional positions, but was ultimately drawn to doing “something different,” which turned out to be executive search. Be open-minded and be creative. Be prepared to be flexible with your plan and adjust with feedback (but don’t over-adjust to everything you hear; take what makes most sense to you. Remember, you are the executive editor of your story.)
- Write your story: Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile tells your story. Highlight what you accomplished (quantify results, when possible) and not just list your responsibilities. Your responsibilities should be included but should be a high-level summary. Know what you will say when someone asks you for your story. Write it down and practice it with family members, friends. Bring it to life and show your personality. Make sure you are clear and relatively succinct: too often I speak to people who provide way too much detail and what is important gets lost in their story (i.e., I tune out and missed it).
- Give back: When you can help someone, figure out a way to do that. It will make you feel better, and someone you helped today may be in position to assist you in the future.
- Add to your skills: Register for online classes; obtain certifications in areas of development. One of my former clients said she has found tools like LinkedIn Learning as being helpful in developing new capabilities. This could be a good time to take a class or read a book on a topic that interests you but may not have a direct impact on your career search.
- Be creative and opportunistic: Be ready to meet a market need. One senior Communications leader who I know created her own consultancy and has been very aggressive with sharing advice and other thought leadership on social media. She is also leveraging her network which has enabled her to take on projects during this time period. Take advantage of your strengths.
- Don’t be selling: This is the fine line you walk today. This is a time for building and strengthening relationships. The smart marketers aren’t selling today: they are offering to help … with a service, advice, etc. You don’t want to be viewed as being self-serving especially during these times. Take the long-term view and build relationships.
- Have conversations: Check in with colleagues past and present; don’t forget people who may have reported to you. Ask how they are doing and if you can help, and certainly make sure they know your situation.
- Be prepared: when do you have an opportunity to meet with a hiring manager, be ultra-prepared. Know the company, its businesses, its competition, what they are doing from a communications perspective during the crisis. Know how you can contribute to the organization. Have questions. Project that you are an individual who can help the company through difficult times.
What is consistent since I spoke to your membership last year is that employers hire people who are Positive, Passionate, Prepared and yes, Pleasant.
Best wishes during this challenging time. Make what you do today into a positive experience that will help define your future success.