Stripped of the joys of our social life, many professionals who were unhappy at work became miserable at work. I don’t feel that “outside of work” activities should have ever been used as a bandaid to cover up the misery of our work lives; but in COVID, when work was all we had, so many professionals realized it was time for a change. I saw and heard about many professionals who quit their roles even in such dire economic times.
Gallup shows that in May 2020, engagement at work increased drastically and then dropped dramatically one month later. My take on this is that when we realized we could work from home, we were all stunned and jumping for joy. Then, reality set in. It isn’t easy to stay focused, productive, or innovative in a remote work environment. In fact, it is hard to feel the same level of fulfillment in a remote environment, especially when you can’t benefit from a positive office culture and smart colleagues. Not to mention zoom fatigue.
This makes it all the more relevant to find a role and industry that is fitting, suitable, aligned, relevant, intriguing, and important to you. Remote work sheds a very bright light on roles that are a wrong fit for you. For a large population of already disengaged employees, remote working has made it even more challenging to find fulfillment at work -- but that does not mean it’s impossible; it means you may simply be ready to explore which role will be a stronger fit for your interests, working style, and goals.
While job searching in the pandemic has been difficult, it has not stopped hiring or internal mobility. COVID has created an opportunity for individuals to realize their desire for change and to do work they believe in, and for companies to become more flexible and creative in leveraging and tapping into employees’ and candidates’ inherent strengths.
Here’s how COVID has created a new wave of career exploration:
- Your enjoyment (or lack thereof) at your job is now ultra-clear -- While work isn’t everything, many have realized that it is a core component (and a large portion) of your life, and it is not one to be ignored. With this opportunity on hold, many professionals have realized that they deserve to find a role, industry, and mainly, a work environment that aligns with them.
- Remote work has opened up your options - Now that so many roles are remote (though you may need to live within 50-100 miles of a company office), it means that there are so many more companies and opportunities at your disposal. There is no longer a need to limit yourself to what you can do, or where you can go.
- It is more common to pursue “career exploration” - Career exploration is a process that is separate and preliminary to the job search, including a series of steps of practical learning about potential career paths of interest as well as self-reflection. The goals and outcome of the process are to learn, compare, contrast, and narrow in on your options until you reach a point of clarity and confidence about which career path is best for you. It is grounded in the concept that learning + self-reflection (in an iterative and fluid manner) → clarity and confidence on your ideal career path.
- Job search struggles allow you to take a step back - If you’ve been tripping through your job search throughout COVID, consider:
- Your strategy and approach -- do you know job search best practices? Have you sought out career coaching guidance? Have you reflected on what has been working and not working?
- Your direction -- if you’re not sure what your ideal role and industry are, you’re likely struggling unnecessarily to identify exciting opportunities and to sell yourself as a strong fit.
- Your networking -- you should be having intriguing conversations. If your career search isn’t fun, your job probably won’t be either. Who do you want to talk to? About what? Your networking and interviews can serve as a mirror for the work to come in that role.
5.You have a new list of questions to ask in interviews - Now, we need to think about:
- Is the company remote, and will it stay that way? What will “going back to the office” mean? Are there timelines around this? Will there be remote work flexibility going forward?
- How has the management/project management changed to provide oversight without micromanagement in this new remote environment?
- How has the company culture changed in this remote environment?
HINT: Get more specific by asking about certain elements of the culture to get examples and stories out of your contact or interviewer so that you can feel confidentthat you’re getting truthful answers.
4. Has performance expectations/review processes changed in this new environment?
5. How is feedback delivered? Does this culture value giving and receiving consistent, honest, productive feedback?
6. What does mentorship and employee development look like in this new environment?
7. What employee benefits or support are new or strengthened in this new environment?
Interested in learning what the career exploration process entails? Check out iamwoken.com.