Is your career disrupted? How you can regroup, refresh, and rewire for success
Issue 135 — July 13, 2020
What had you planned to do in 2020?
I could hardly wait for 2020. It was going to be an epic year. The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. So many events were already being planned that my calendar was filled with places I wanted to go to join the celebration. It was to be the year that Take The Lead was finally poised to scale up with our strategy to achieve gender parity in leadership by 2025.
I had so many plans. Just the sound of those round numbers 2020 were enough to signal a special year.
We were about to find out just how special.
For me, 2020 started inauspiciously when I fell while hiking and broke my wrist. That should’ve been a clue that all was not going to be rainbows and unicorns in the new year. It set me back a couple of weeks when I needed to be giving full attention to the Power Up Conference.
I had insisted that Take The Lead host this conference at the end of February. February 28 and 29 to be exact. Yes, so we could claim Leap Day, one of the most feminine of days. My team had resisted our holding the conference on short notice, as we only began planning it a few months prior and had barely begun to raise the money we needed to do it right.
Turned out, we were fortunate my bullheadedness prevailed, because the very next week all hell broke loose in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, and just like that, people stopped traveling. They stopped congregating in large groups such as conferences. Events canceled. Schools closed and parents (read, primarily though not all women) added “schoolteacher” to their already full plates. We joked about going without haircuts and manicures and started baking bread out of sheer anxiety.
As my Grandmother used to say, “Man plans and God laughs.” Woman too, it appears.
Life changed profoundly for everyone in the world.
Many careers were disrupted in what seemed like at first short term. Working from home became a new meme “WFH” for those fortunate enough to have jobs, or to have been able to create a new digital opportunity, such as the online yoga and exercise classes I take almost every day since the gyms are closed and right now the temperature in Arizona where I have been since that Leap Day conference is on average 110 degrees.
As healthcare facilities were strained to the breaking point, it became obvious that women and people of color were the heroes and heroines of the piece, the majority of essential frontline workers such as nurses and other caregivers, grocery store clerks, and first responders. Yet paradoxically, as the economy slid toward recession, women and people of color also quickly became the majority of those losing jobs because — think about who are the service workers in every sector.
If you have been furloughed or laid off or otherwise had your career disrupted, you may be going through the stages of grief from disbelief to depression. My guess is that relatively few of us are at the final stage of acceptance yet.
I quickly found that most of my speaking invitations — all of them gone from in person to virtual and largely unpaid — were asking for me to speak about Leadership Power Tool #5 “Carpe the Chaos.” That would have been funny, but…
- There is always the reordering after the chaos. But there is pain going through the reordering.
- The future lies in the uncertainty, in the chaos or what seems like chaos now. Chaos is always opportunity to innovate, to think differently, to use its energy to propel you forward.
- The adage that the best way to predict the future is to create it has never been truer.
To help, we created a free tip sheet “10 Ways to Reframe Your Career Path Following Job Loss.” You can download it here.
Four of the key points are:
- Don’t blame yourself. Don’t waste time and energy berating yourself for missing signs, being unprepared or having instincts about the change, or not having more money in the bank for emergencies. No one saw this catastrophe coming…no one was prepared. “Grieve, but also start looking for a way to move forward,” Phyllis Brust, Career Counselor writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Stay current and network actively every day. (The good news is you don’t have to buy new clothes.) Stay up to date in your field and on regional news for your market. Join associations and organizations connected to your line of work; if you are already a member, stay with it because these will be your best networks for finding that next position in your field. Know what is going on with competitors in related fields. If you maintain fluid relationships in your field, you will be apprised of new opportunities. When you maintain good relationships, it is natural to call on your network to gain information. Networking effectively does not mean randomly calling people; if the relationships are solid, you can ask for help quickly and without the person feeling used, and you can offer reciprocal help. For tips on networking during a pandemic, especially for introverts who say you hate networking, check this podcast out.
- Revisit your short and long-term plans. What if you were starting anew in your career? What would you do? Is this the time to learn a new set of skills so you can retool and refresh? It’s a good time to set new three, five and 10-year career goals. Take stock of what your strengths — your points of power — are. Don’t have a plan? This is a perfect time to create one. Be decisive and take steps to move forward. Be willing to try something new. It might not be your forever career. But I have found that every action results in something positive that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the risk.
- It sounds trite, but take care of yourself. For me, that means exercising at least an hour every day. Get enough sleep. In fact, this might be the time when you actually catch up on your sleep with all the time you’re saving by not commuting. Eat nutritious food at regular times and stay away from sugar and junk food — the latter are expensive as well as harmful to your health. Reward yourself for wins large or small. Do what helps you focus and stay intentional. For some people that’s meditation. For me, it’s asking myself each day, “What is the single most important thing I need to do today to get one step closer to my goal?”
If there is one thing COVID has taught us, it is how to pivot. Our grand plans for 2020 may have altered, yet our priorities can be more in focus. At Take The Lead, we have pivoted all our programs to the virtual space, even our formerly immersive in-person programs like 50 Women Can Change the World. We’ve launched a new improved version of our online 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career course and coaching services to help women make new plans and advance in their careers.
We don’t want to recreate the past just because it was comfortable. It’s not like the world of the past was so perfect, after all! But we can take the good parts and keep those while we create and generate better ways of doing and being.
I’m excited that I had a chance to talk with the extraordinary Renessa Boley Layne about how we can create work that’s perfect for us as part of her online masterclass series that runs from July 1–31. My interview with Renessa will air July 29–31 and let me tell you she is a rock star interviewer. I am sure that the entire series will be well worth your while and it is free.
Really it’s this very disruption that makes anything possible. All bets are off. All boundaries are broken or at least breached in some way that lets new ideas in. In a pandemic, anything becomes possible because the old rules are gone.
So carpe that chaos.
Who knows? 2020 might turn out to be an epic year after all.
P.S. Here’s my podcast discussing some of these questions. Please share it and this article with anyone whom you think they might help. Listen, subscribe, and let me know how it goes for you.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.