During these past four months, I’ve heard from many more professionals than usual on LinkedIn and privately—particularly those who have decided to use this unprecedented time to rethink their lives and careers. For so many, what was intolerable in their work before has become more glaringly so, and the hopes and dreams they had for their lives are now even more pressing. In fact, according to my recent Power Gap survey, 76% of the close to 1,000 women around the globe who completed the survey indicated that they’ve lost sight of their thrilling dream for their future, and 25% feel this is the most pressing of all the power gaps. Many are finally ready to do something about it.
During this time, when millions no longer have to physically commute and have extra time available to them, people have decided that now’s the time to take action and change what isn’t working in their careers. And I’ve seen this phenomenon occur every time there’s a major crisis in the world. It happened to me and so many others after the tragedies of 9/11, where suddenly we realized that so much that we’ve taken for granted simply cannot be counted on. And we’ve seen that life is much more precarious than when recognized before the crisis, which bring with it a sense of urgency and agency.
Personally speaking, after a brutal layoff in the days following 9/11, I finally left my 18-year corporate career to go out on my own, and became a marriage and family therapist, and later, a career coach and writer. It was the powerful catalyst I needed to pursue a new career that aligned much more closely with who I am and what I care most about in the world.
What people begin to see in times like these is that no job or career is truly “safe and secure.” The only constant is change. Once that dawns on us, it often motivates us to take the reins on our lives and careers and finally pursue that new job, career or field, or get on the path to starting that new venture we’ve been dreaming about for years, because we see that there truly is no time like the present.
But during these uncertain times, and always, we need to be very strategic and intentional in our efforts if we want to land plum roles or claim new opportunities that will be a great fit with our values, needs and desires.
Here are four key steps you can take starting today (yes, even during this pandemic) to make the most of this time and make the changes you want in your job and career:
Stop focusing only on applying online
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that more than 80% of jobs are NOT achieved through applying online and 70% of jobs aren’t even publicly listed. If we are engaging only in applying online and sending out our resumes, we’re missing the boat completely. It’s effective and powerful networking that is what is needed now, and that includes numerous ways of “bringing yourself to market” and also connecting with mentors, sponsors and “ambassadors” who can open key doors for us that we can’t open on our own.
My friend and colleague Judy Robinett, author of How To Be a Power Connectorand Crack The Funding Code, shared with me that women are so often “in the wrong room” in their networking, meaning that they stay stuck associating with people at their same level but fail to reach higher and connect with people of influence who can make things happen for us that we can’t achieve on our own. Women are often networking at the wrong level for their goals.
In her book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsorand her research, Sylvia Ann Hewlett revealed that women on average have three times as many mentors as men—but men have twice as many sponsors (sponsors are high-level, influential people who can help elevate you and connect you with new opportunities that you can’t access on your own).
It’s time to get intentional and do the work to build an influential support community that will help you elevate and stretch beyond your current level. The fact is we simply cannot manifest our most thrilling dreams by trying to hack it out alone and in a vacuum. We need others who’ve already achieved great success and impact who can uplift and support us and advance our causes by opening doors for us while we’re not in the room. And we need to stop feeling ashamed, humiliated and “less than” because we’re not where we want to be.
It’s been exactly those times that I finally openly admitted to influential supporters and advisors that things weren’t going well in my career or business that allowed my problems to shift and be solved. When we muster the bravery to admit—and take accountability for—addressing our core problems and challenges head on, then we will experience the growth we’re needing.
Find new ways to be of service and demonstrate your potential to your influential supporters
Once you start building a powerful network, support those in your network. Ask how you can help your ambassadors and supporters. What do they need that you can offer and provide? What introductions can you make for them? What skill do you have that may be helpful to them?
Maybe you’re a fantastic writer and can help your sponsor or mentor by rewriting their bio or polishing up their Linkedin profile. Or maybe you’re a wizard using Canva and can help your advisor create some beautiful new images and quotes to share on Instagram.
Don’t focus your efforts solely on you and how you want to make more money or build more success. Think about important ways you can help the people in your network to thrive and grow. It feels enlivening to be of service and use your talents and gifts in ways that help others. Secondly, it is highly generative and creates more growth for all involved. As your supporters grow and flourish, so will you.
Speak up more bravely and confidently about the new work you’re thinking you want to do (even if you don’t have it all nailed down yet)
So many professionals tell me that they have an idea of what they want to do in the next juncture of their career, but because they’re not 100% clear about it, they don’t feel comfortable talking about it or sharing the vision with anyone else. That’s a big mistake.
You can’t move forward with your idea or vision for the next chapter if you won’t talk about it. People are very resistant to share about their new ideas or potential new directions for three key reasons: 1) they’re afraid that their current circle of colleagues and friends may think the idea is silly or that they’ll get negative pushback, 2) they fear their ideas aren’t good or sound enough, or 3) they fear that if they don’t have a clear idea of how to execute on their vision, or what the new direction is with absolutely clarity, that it’s not worthy of being discussed. These are faulty reasons for staying quiet.
Yes, in certain circumstances you might want to keep your innovative career or business ideas to yourself until a specific point along the development path where you’ve vetting them more fully. But in general, if you won’t talk about what you’re thinking about and hoping to create, you can’t build support for it. And we need a great deal of powerful support if we’re to achieve the biggest, most thrilling dreams and visions we have for our lives.
During this pandemic—when you may have more time to think and evaluate where you are today and where you want to be in the future, take empowered steps that will help you gain more control over your future. This is a perfect opportunity to put yourself first, finally, and decide what you want for your life and make the changes you need, to achieve those thrilling goals and visions.
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