If you are one of the lucky ones to have a good job right now, I know that you still might not be feeling so lucky. The year started out strong and suddenly, we’re faced with a global pandemic that’s turned everyone’s lives upside down. Between the newfound stressors of managing your work with the rest of your life while in quarantine, and the constant drip of alarming news on the pandemic, you might have put managing your career on the back burner. While this certainly is not the time to ask for a raise, it is important to continue to manage your career, and your personal brand, with an eye toward the future.
Don’t wait until things “go back to normal” to think about your career growth. If you spent time and energy thinking about your career before the pandemic hit, now is not the time to press pause. Here are a few simple things you can do (from home) to make sure you’re future proofing your personal brand, even if you’re just trying to get through another day.
Show up consistently. When life is stressful and uncertain it’s easy to give yourself a pass on putting your best foot forward at work. Perhaps you feel the temptation to coast on your past accomplishments and sneak in an extra Netflix binge, or two or three. Or maybe you’re worried about friends and family members and you don’t have the energy to behave as your normal, friendly self. I don’t expect you to act like a robot, we are all human. But you might need to push yourself and try harder than normal to make sure you’re still behaving like yourself. You’re allowed to have a bad day here and there. But the latest forecast has many of us working at home for 7 or 8 weeks. Make sure you’re not falling into the easy trap of letting this slide because you’re at home and it’s (hard, lonely, boring, scary, fill in the blank.) Now is the time to perform at your best.
Communicate problems quickly. While you do need to continue to put in the effort, this is also not the time to keep anything you’re struggling with to yourself. If you are having difficulty completing tasks, a teammate you depend on to get things done has disappeared, or you need to take a few days off to focus on your personal life, it’s important to advocate for yourself. Not even the best manager is going to know what you need all the time. It’s up to you to ask for what you need to thrive in all of your relationships.
Remember that paying attention to potential problems goes beyond what you’re experiencing in your own life. This is an important time to be thinking strategically about the long-term growth of your employer (which logically trickles down to the long-term prospects of the job you’re in.) If you see an opportunity to help innovate for growth or protect against losses, now is the time to bring those ideas forward.
Help others. I hope this one is self-explanatory, but we all need a reminder now and then. Now is the time to support each other, not break each other down. If you have more time on your hands right now, reach out to someone you know is juggling a lot and offer some help. If time is at a premium right now, go out of your way to praise someone who you know is working hard on your team. Help takes many forms, and it doesn’t need much of your time or energy to be impactful.
Be sure to track your results. Eventually things will stabilize, and you’ll be sitting in front of your manager ready for your next performance review. Whenever that day comes you want to be equipped with a full list of your accomplishments. Tracking your progress and the impact you’re making at work is especially important without the constructs of a traditional office space. Even if you already worked virtually, chances are that you’re boss is more distracted now than ever. Take the guess work out of the process and keep a detailed log of your activities, hours, accolades – basically anything that will support your future case for what a dedicated and integral part of the team you are. You won’t get the pay or recognition you deserve later if you don’t pay attention to the details now.
Be patient. Brand building is a long-term strategy. Whether you’re building a company or you’re advancing your career, success rarely comes over night. In this case the adage, “slow and steady wins the race” really does hold true. This is especially important to remember during tumultuous times. Your employer, or industry, will likely be feeling the negative effects of the pandemic long after it’s deemed safe to return to work. You don’t have to give up on your dreams, but you might need to adjust your expectations.
Be prepared. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but you need to prepare yourself for the prospect of losing your job. No one wants to hear those words but it’s irresponsible not to consider the idea that you could be laid off. You don’t need to panic but you do want to be ready – just in case. I recommend beginning by asking colleagues for recommendations on LinkedIn and make a point to give recommendations as well. The best time to ask for a recommendation is when you’re still working with someone. This is also a good time to make sure your resume and cover letter are up to date. If you do suddenly lose your job, it’s a lot easier to rebound when you’ve already prepared for the worst.
Although I’m encouraging you to prepare for the worst, it is important now more than ever to remain optimistic about the future. Give yourself the time and space you need to protect your mental and physical health, but don’t become complacent about your career and your personal brand in the process. It’s a lot easier to protect your brand than it is to rebuild it.
If you’re interested in learning more about personal branding, check out my new book “The Personal Brand Project: How to Uncover Your Purpose, Achieve Your Goals, and Communicate with Confidence.”
Looking for more career advice? Check out my post “The One Piece of Career Advice I’d Give My Younger Self.”