Transitioning into the pandemic lockdown was simple in comparison to coming out of it. Organisations face real challenges in reinventing themselves for a post-pandemic world, and so do many of us. A recent survey of global human capital trends from Deloitte highlights the evidence that C-suite leaders are more focused on preparedness than previously. Around three-quarters of respondents identified adaptiveness and reskilling as a priority for workforce development.
If those are organisational priorities, they could also be a focus for individuals as we get ready to weather post-pandemic turbulence. There will almost certainly be new opportunities – for example, new roles, and wider access to employment regardless of location – but we need to be ready to seize them. So, if the challenge we face is the same that our employer faces, it’s also true that some of the approaches they use as corporate entities can be useful for us as individuals.
Here are three suggestions for actions to be taken now, in what we hope will be the final months of lockdown.
1. Gather some data
Strategy reviews in organisations normally involve gathering market data, about customers and buying patterns. But many organisations have had to discard their existing assumptions about how customers behave because the changes we all experienced during the pandemic are likely to persist for some time. They are having to innovate and redesign products and processes without reliable insights from data.
But that’s not true for us. We do have information and insight about our working lives, and the pandemic has taught us much about how we want to work and how we don’t. It’s worth reflecting on this, because almost all of us will have some choices to make in the next few months, even if it’s just how many days a week to work in the office. If you are clear about what kind of working arrangement works best for you, it will be easier to make those decisions. If you find that you have to look for a new role, or that you want to do so, there are some questions you’ll want to answer now. For example, what new skills have you developed during the last year (for example, the ability to teach in a home school)? Which of your skills might be transferable to a new context?
2. Set a direction
Although the present feels endless, this is the time to look ahead. Where do you want to be in, say, 5 years’ time? What sort of work do you hope to be doing? You may not be able to predict accurately how your organisation or your industry will operate in the next normal, but developing some insight about your preferences, or an emerging sense of purpose will help to give you a sense of direction.
This sense of your possible future may well have changed during the months of lockdown. Many people report that their definitions of what success looks like to them have shifted, along with their plans for where to live and how to work. Re-examining what your own personal new normal could look like will increase the chances that you can make it a reality.
3. Make a map
And turning these ideas into next steps is vital. There are no standard paths to career success, and even the best-laid career plan may have been blown off course by Covid-19.
As Sir Dominic Cadbury said, “careers are like crazy paving, and you have to lay it yourself.”
To do that successfully, you need to understand the material you have to work with – your skills, experiences and interests – as well as a sense of where you are trying to get to.
In the turbulence of the year ahead, you may not be able to make a traditional career plan, but you can proceed step-by-step, making decisions and choices which are headed in the right direction.
Developing your own strategy
These three suggestions are essentially the three stages of corporate strategy that organizations go through. They start with the present: where are we now in the market and what resources do we have? Then there is a focus on options for the future: where do we want to be? And finally, the action question: how do we get from here to there?
Having a sense of your strategy will serve you well. The decisions you have to make will be easier, and you’ll be able to see which opportunities might work best for you. It will help you to navigate through the turbulence ahead, to find a route to a successful working life, however you define it.
Kathryn Bishop is an Associate Fellow at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford and Chair of the Welsh Revenue Authority. She explores the ideas covered in this article in her new book, Make Your Own Map: Career Success Strategy for Women, which is published by Kogan Page. Although her book is written for women, the ideas in it will work for everyone.