I’ve written many articles on how to have a successful career; but they have most of their relevance ‘in normal times’ when organizations went about their business without physical separation rules, without the need to redefine their business model on the run and without the ability to have employees working in an office environment.
It’s different now, and we don’t know when normal times will greet us once again.
Nevertheless, as individuals we must look to our long term future and not get punished by the (hopefully) short term challenges the pandemic imposes on us; we must journey on and take actions that will position us favourably for a successful future.
What does a COVID career plan look like?
It shrinks the planning horizon
The frame of reference for your plan is now down to a month from whatever you’ve been using up to now. The 5-year plan is no longer a viable way to plot your career journey because in a pandemic, opportunities appear and disappear in a heartbeat. And if you’re not poised and ready to capitalize from an event that just shows up, you’re going to be on the sidelines away from the action.
A pandemic doesn’t have a smooth flow to it; it’s chaotic and unpredictable moment by moment. So your career plan has to ride it’s wave if you stand any chance of responding and adapting to it in a way that makes sense for you in the long haul. Getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ is not going to be a straight line these days; you’re going to have to weave your way to try and achieve your end goal. An inch forward; a lunge to the right; a step back; a leap forward is the process that you need to be prepared to participate in if you want your career to continue advancing.
Have a long term vision for yourself, but if you’re not prepared with a 30-day tactical plan, the long term will never show up — Roy, think long term; act short term
It is online centric
Businesses are being forced to morph much of their operations to online; bricks and mortar selling and distribution is waning. This is creating a surge in demand for people who have skills relevant to an online play.
Benchmark Amazon to see the jobs available in the online world; choose one that fits your long term goal and get in the hunt now. And look at ways your existing skill set can be extended to include online requirements. Online marketing is a great opportunity these days in the small business sector. Look there.
It is dominated by learning
In an environment like this that is changing unpredictably and fast, it’s critical to ‘keep your feet moving’, and learning is the core of successful adaptation and responsiveness.
The career options you have in this pandemic are proportional to what you know about the opportunities that are revealed. What successful organizations decided to do is the source of your learning. Choose learning as your core competency during this pandemic and follow what you discover.
It has experimentation and ‘tries’ as themes
A pandemic is a stochastic environment that changes regularly and unpredictability, which means you can’t pick a path and stick religiously to it. You have to be prepared to shift and pivot based on new circumstances and try different things to move forward toward your goal. What this means is that you must try new opportunities as they arise to see if they are right for you.
Don’t dismiss an interesting prospect because you don’t believe it’s consistent with your long term career aspirations; in a pandemic you don’t have the luxury of foregoing anything that can contribute to your learning portfolio. Take a chance. Try it out. Find out if it’s the right thing for you by doing it not by thinking about it.
It has ‘COVID mentors’
Even though the pandemic is fast paced with little or no rhythm, it does have people who are leading their organizations to success; individuals who have been able to meander their way through the challenges posed by the new forces and survive. Find a few of these people and get close to what they’ve done. Forget about academic pedigrees; select people who are actually doing great things in chaotic times.
You don’t have to personally get to know them, all you need to do is be a student of their work. Study the strategy and actions they’ve taken and the results they’ve achieved. Follow them. Listen to them. Copy them.
It’s tactical in design
A planning period measured in days as opposed to years requires a commitment to being tactical in your approach. This means being extremely nimble in the way you approach your challenge. You have to be ‘on your tiptoes every moment and have your spider senses on to provide the input you need to shape your tactics.
In addition, tactics require that you have a laser focus on job availability. It’s a sequential paradigm that seeks to put together a string of job successes that you hope leads you — but doesn’t promise you — to where you want to go. This is a highly pragmatic way to move forward because career success is generally measured through a retrospective lens; you conclude success by looking back on what you did.
Despite the pandemic, you can pursue your career goals. The journey just looks different. No big deal because winning and success are all about adapting to what’s in front of your face, right?