The COVID-19 pandemic has hit this world hard. We’re locked down, shut in, masked, and defenseless. We’re working from home, home schooling, Zooming, and confused. We’re laid off, vulnerable to furlough, closed-for-now, or replaced by technology. The future of work is uncertain. No one likes being exposed. It’s scary. Change is hard. Very hard. Especially if you don’t know what we’re changing TO. Where are our lives and our jobs going in the future?
Fortunately, you are open to new experiences and ready to adapt to the new normal (even if it’s out of exhaustion from fighting for the return of the old normal). There are some productive ways to adjust (slowly) to this changing work environment. You already have a wide set of skills. You probably haven’t used most of your expertise in your work yet. This COULD be an opportunity to strengthen your personal connections and logistics.
Remember to acknowledge your past successes and embrace your self-worth. Then see the opportunities that lay before you. Here are five helpful ways to keep moving forward and prepare for the future.
1. Reconnect with former colleagues, old friends, school pals, past teachers, and cousin Jane.
We need connection for personal maintenance and psychological safety. When we surround ourselves with people who know us well (even if it’s from a long time ago), we feel a sense of security and belonging. That familiarity can make us brave. We remember that we’re OK, and if we’re not, then those close friends and family can help fill our needs. They will recognize when we need support and be more ready to lend a hand. We do the same for them. I’ve heard more than once that a phone call saved the day. So make lots of phone calls. Really.
Build community for the sake of community. You never know when you’ll be the one who is the strong friend. Plus, the more we’re involved with the environment around us, the more we know about local issues and how to solve them. We’re stronger together.
Someone else is craving a personal connection, love, and closeness. You’re not the only one having a rough time, strange thought, or loss of connection. Be there for someone new. Make positive comments on their posts. Send them a “thinking about you” text. Write a letter. It makes a difference, especially to those who can’t venture out for the necessities or be with their families.
Right now, someone is having creative thoughts about your future work- or you might for theirs. We’re all called to be mentors. Not only do you share a connection with others in a familial way, but you’re also an inspiration to someone else. I promise you, someone admires your work. Act like a mentor.
2. Up your technology game.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. You’re probably a pro at online meetings at this point. We all got really good at that really fast. But video conferences and shared documents are just the beginning. Many organizations will continue to evolve online collaboration post pandemic because we’ve all just dipped our toe in the water and we’re seeing how businesses can be run with work-from-home employees. Sure, lots of people will go back into the office when it’s safe, but some businesses are frankly more cost-effective when employees don’t have to come to a central location. And a lot of employees might be forced to get used to that. Global Workplace Analytics has an informative take on that.
Other ways to up your technology game are to take advantage of all the (free) learning available. Take a course on edX, MOOC, Coursera, FutureLearn, or Udemy. Or do something less formal like learning from the Smithsonian, NOAA, NASA, the CDC, or the National Science Foundation. In fact, most government agencies have “learn” or “education” pages on their websites. Finally, every online tool is dying to teach you how to use their product. Want to get a handle on Google for Business? (support.google.com) Want to understand Excel? (support.microsoft.com) Becoming a social media pro? (support.hootsuite.com) See any trends? And when all else fails, there are 1,000 people on YouTube who want to teach you things. Some of them are pretty good.
Professionally, it’s time to update that resume. Whether you’re ready to apply for a new job, volunteer for that Board position, or just need to be ready, job hunting sometimes comes when we least expect it. Today, most employers are searching for you online. A standard resume, while still valuable, is just a business card. It’s imperative to showcase your entire career arc. Hello, technology. It’s time for a website portfolio. You can do this yourself for little to no cost with many excellent platforms available. Need convincing? Check out these beautiful sites.
On a larger scale, understand how technology is constantly changing the way we work. It’s not about “learning the new program” or “downloading the new app” because there will always be a “new” product or platform. Our success in the future comes from being able to be aware of how things are changing and plan our work in accordance with evolving technologies. Check out this interesting piece on Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation by the World Economic Forum.
3. Get ahold of your finances.
Log into your bank accounts. All of them. Not just your checking account, but all the investment sites, retirement accounts, work pay deposit locations, PayPal, Venmo, and other places where you keep money. Do you have a comprehensive list? If something happens to you, would your partner (or lawyer, or parents) know how to access these accounts? Make a plan for that.
Open a new Excel, Sheets, or Numbers spreadsheet and do a recap of all of your assets. We update our list on the 1st of each month. For 8 years running now, we can see how all of our accounts have performed each month. We know exactly how much money is in each, how liquid our money is (how fast we can access it), and what our assets are. This spreadsheet does NOT replace your traditional financial planning, it just gives you an overview so that you (and your partner, if anything should happen to you) are quickly informed about the state of your finances. Plus, entering this information and updating it often gives you a sense of connection to your money that is otherwise digitally distant. Track your debts the same way.
Check your beneficiaries, address, email, phone number, and pass codes. You’d be surprised how many things you might need to update.
Follow your stock portfolio, 401K, or managed accounts regularly and compare them to your spreadsheet to make sure you’re accurately tracking your numbers. You shouldn’t have any big surprises at tax time, holiday time, or during a major life event.
Having a strong knowledge of your finances gives you the power to know where you need to make changes and how much you can casually spend. It’s good to see the numbers go up and down. We spend differently when we feel in control, regardless of the size of the bank account.
4. Change your passwords.
Ensure your online safety. A lot of us received an email from pirates threatening to expose our online search history (fake or not) and had access to our email address and password. Credit and identity theft is real, and if you haven’t experienced it, you probably know someone who has.
Lock your credit. Close old accounts. Shred documents you don’t need anymore. Quit giving your password to everyone. Change ALL your passwords often, like on your birthday or on New Year’s Day. And use strong passwords. If you write them down, keep them somewhere secure. If you don’t write them down, ensure your partner/beneficiary knows how to access them if something happens to you.
5. Join some organizations.
This is a great time to research online organizations that will become in-person communities once the pandemic is over. We all need a fresh look at life right now, and joining a new organization or two will help fill the void of lost societal connection.
You can make new friends in a workout club, language group, or parent’s organization. Strengthen work connections by joining industry groups, technical classes, or clubs for like-minded people with your work affiliation. Stay current in your sector by taking an online class, training video, or watching documentaries.
If you’re already part of a wide group of organizations, try reaching out to the other members to share stories, offer advice, or ask questions. People like to feel helpful. If you have the capacity to volunteer for a leadership role in these organizations, you will bolster your resume and advance your career. Not up for more projects right now? Help someone else achieve this goal.
Overall, we’ll come out ahead if we feel connected, informed, and in control. The way to do this is to tackle our personal organizational challenges and use innovative ways of connecting to others. We can’t control disease or business economic hardship, but we can talk to others about what we’re experiencing and be there for them. We can understand our personal financial position and safeguard our accounts. We can continue learning and embrace the opportunities that this period of change is affording us. Baby steps. Positive outlook. Chin up. We’ll survive.