How can you keep your career on track during a pandemic?

Thinking about career progression? The world may have gone into lockdown, but your career doesn’t have to. Careers practitioner Helen Green of Career Confident shares her top 10 tips for keeping your career on track during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time last year, none of us could have imagined 2020 would throw up so many challenges. The impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be significant. Job losses and business closures have been devastating, and it’s not surprising many people are worried about their health and financial security.

With so much we cannot control, it’s more important than ever to look after yourself, be informed, develop your skills, and know your value to an employer. The news is not all bad – you CAN still plan for career advancement or use your time to place yourself strategically to be ready and competitive when the crisis abates.

Here are 10 tips.

Have a plan

Identify what you want out of your life and career so you can put in place the steps to make it happen. Look beyond status and salary to what motivates and fulfils you. Take the time to think this through carefully and research. It might help to discuss it with a trusted friend or colleague, or seek the advice of a career coach.

Boost your visibility

When you’re working alongside an ambitious team of people, it can be difficult to stand out. Rather than jostling for your manager’s attention, focus on how you can make your strengths shine. Speak up in meetings, put your hand up to take on projects, demonstrate your expertise, stay positive and engaged, and strengthen your relationships with your manager and colleagues.

Update your resume

Ask yourself, “Does my resume adequately reflect my achievements and grab the attention of readers?”

Though you may not be required to submit a resume for an internal promotion, you will likely have an interview or discussions about your work track record and suitability for advancement. Keeping your resume up-to-date is a good way to keep track of your accomplishments and success stories.

If you are required to submit your resume, ensure it is easy to follow and targeted specifically to the role you are applying for. Some pointers.

  • Use a plain, modern font and ensure your personal details include your suburb, postcode, and your LinkedIn URL (if applicable).
  • Pay attention to page one. A short engaging profile paragraph is critical because the reader may have only seconds to spend looking at it. Unless you are early in your career, include a ‘career highlights’ section and see if one of your referees would write a short, compelling testimonial about your work that you could include.
  • Focus on your achievements rather than a list of duties or responsibilities, showing how and where you added value. Enlist a friend or trusted colleague to help, or look online for some resources to help you identify your achievements at work and describe them.
  • Avoid borders, photos, columns, text boxes, graphs, and abbreviations.
  • Also avoid listing referees on your resume. If asked after an interview, put forward the most appropriate referees for the role (having ensured they have been adequately briefed beforehand).

LinkedIn matters

LinkedIn has the potential to maximise your personal brand and career prospects; it can also build your industry credibility and connections. Ensure your title and profile is keyword optimised. Does your photo need updating? Consider an eye-catching, yet appropriate banner background image to help your profile stand out. Write a brief but compelling paragraph in the ‘about’, section making sure your personality shows through and some career highlights are included. Check that dates and job titles align with your resume, though avoid posting your resume on your LinkedIn profile.

Make your connections genuine. Consider where you can add value to a discussion and what you can learn from the platform’s resources. LinkedIn’s benefits also include letting others know you are available for work (though avoid putting ‘looking for opportunities’ in your title).

Testimonials – they add enormous value to your LinkedIn profile. Ask some trusted referees or former clients/customers if they would write a LinkedIn testimonial for you.

Follow through on performance

Your brand might be strong and your performance must be too. On top of showing up and putting in the hours, add extra effort to aligning your work to organisational goals, demonstrating initiative, being open to change and showing respect to others. 

Upskilling and professional development

Now may be an excellent time for you to complete study, short courses, update licences, catch up on your continuing professional development and plug skill gaps – especially those essential for the industry in which you work or aspire to. For more substantive courses, Course Seeker is a good place to start and several heavily subsidised courses have recently been announced by the Australian government in response to COVID-19 – at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Volunteer

When, in the current climate, it’s safe and appropriate to do so, get involved. There is and will be so much need and people are mobilising to help. Try your local volunteering association or community Facebook groups/hubs as a starting point. Many people I know have found jobs/changed career paths as a result of volunteering. Be sure to include work you have undertaken as a volunteer on your resume and be prepared to speak about it during an interview.

Brush up on your virtual interview skills

Virtual interviews will be a necessity for many job applicants now. Prepare for a possible interview by checking that your technology is compatible (as necessary) and works well; practice speaking to the appropriately placed camera and ensure your background is uncluttered and free from distraction. Remember that panelist(s) may be interviewing you from their home(s) so be prepared for a remote work conference scenario. Of course, keep your resume next to you and know it well.

Contact your networks for help

While it’s always important to keep in touch with your networks, it’s perhaps more critical now. Reach out to sponsors, mentors or mentees for advice and support.

If you’re looking for work, contact those you are close to in your work and personal life and enlist their help. Remember, most jobs are not advertised. Keep in touch with your referees and have a think about who you might be able to be a referee for.

Look after yourself

Finally, balance is important. Look after yourself: try to bring structure to your days, keep in touch with those who matter to you, watch what you eat, exercise, and get enough sleep. Reach out if you need help with your mental health.

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636, eheadspace 1800 650 893 (12-25-year-olds)

Written by Helen Green. Helen is a careers practitioner and writer. She is Director of Career Confident in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs. Helen is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia. Adapted from an article originally published at Career Confident.

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