If you are not worried about your immediate survival in the current national lockdown, then your next worry is how does this impact your employer and your future. Like most professionals, your job is and will remain your primary source of income for the most part of your life and this unprecedented crisis appears to be a major threat in the short to medium term. If you are not working in essential services, you have less work during a shutdown, leading to frustration and anxiety. Here’s how you can utilise the lockdown for a positive impact on your career.
As the lockdown proceeds, you will increasingly feel disconnected and irrelevant, blunting your professional edge and reducing your employability. Thus, your most urgent requirement is to stay busy and connected with work. Establish and follow a proactive routine to manage time optimally and get the results you seek. Work diligently and don’t miss the daily team call routine. Volunteer for additional tasks and deliver within deadlines. Next, check out online training programs offered or assigned by your firm and set aside an hour daily to complete them. You will learn new stuff and keep your brain engaged and sharp. Now, formulate and lead online training sessions on different skills ets for your junior team members. Finally, create and execute weekly projects from team goals that were put on the backburner earlier.
If the lockdown gets extended further, make plans for the next 6 months to a year. Firstly, build business scenarios for a post-lockdown environment along with your team. How will the market look like? What will be the impact on clients and vendors? Will they take your services, pay on time or continue to serve you? How will your answers change if the disease and economic impact is more severe or less severe than you imagined? Formulate your team’s plans for different scenarios. Secondly, use lockdown time to map your industry. Research on your competition, suppliers, customers, key managers in different companies by reading up industry journals, press releases and public financial information. When you return to work, your market understanding, and scenario planning will be critical for your job and your firm.
For the biggest benefits to you and your career, simply observe yourself. During the lockdown, you have lived a completely different life. You have engaged in online meetings, long distance collaboration, made more calls than before, spent more time in planning and less in execution. Your work habits have changed and so has your manager’s. What may have been taboo to you earlier is no longer so. Identify how your old way of being and thinking was restricting your growth and how you can implement new learnings and thought processes into your life. Finally, contemplate on the meaning of work for you.
The frustration of the lockdown may have helped you realise that you seek work not just for money. Perhaps your career is also the source of your identity, or a symbol of your independence and maturity, or a reason to get out of the confines of your home and engage with the world, or it fulfils an inner desire to contribute and make a difference. Now decide who will you be and how will you change direction so that your future career satisfies your other latent needs apart from providing an income!
What’s the future of your company?
What’s your company’s future? Will it recover? A McKinsey article on safeguarding lives and livelihood discusses different recovery cycles based on containment of virus and economic measures taken by a country. If a country limits the growth of the disease within 2-3 months and averts fundamental damage to the economy, a full recovery is possible in the short term. This means a V–shaped recovery for your firm in say 6 months and your job, increment and promotion is mostly safe.
If the disease spreads faster than desired while the economic measures taken are not optimal, but still manages to protect some parts and ensures a functional banking system, then the overall economic recovery will be slower. Your employer, industry and the business environment will limp back to normal over a period of about 2-3 years in such a W-shaped recovery. If your firm can survive this period it will emerge stronger. If you make yourself invaluable and retain your job, you will thrive too.
If health and economic interventions fail then the virus may spread unabated for 12-18 months. Conservative consumer behaviour may drag a country towards a recession. Supply chains may collapse as small businesses and companies default on payments or go bankrupt. This will push banking systems towards a crisis resulting in an L-shaped curve where the downturn extends with no immediate relief in sight. Your company may shut down most parts. Don’t bet on retaining your job. Work on reducing costs and figuring out other sources of income.
Complementary life skills
1. Elder anchors
If you are locked down at home with parents or other elders, this is a great time to rebuild communication and seek their inputs. As a result, their mental health and optimism will peak while you will gain wisdom from their experiences of other life crises. Most of all, the interaction will keep you grounded with the strength of your emotional anchors.
2. Children connect
Within the demands of your professional life when was the last time you sat down with your children, understood what matters to them, and contributed to their ability to deal with the world? Spending time to play their games increases trust, accelerates their learning, improves your parenting skills and opens vital communication lines for the future.
3. Surviving with friends
Remember your inseparable school buddies or the fabulous people you befriended in your previous jobs? Use this time to connect with them. Catch up with their lives and share your own updates. Reconnecting and recreating good times, creates resilience and optimism.
4. Staying sane
Evolutionary mechanisms in your body encourage movement. In a lockdown when these activities are supressed, you may be lethargic, irritable or depressed. Stay sane by seeking sunlight through a walk in your building premises or a cup of tea in the balcony. Housework, physical exercise or multiple 10-15 minute walks inside the house keep you sane and refreshed.
5. Unrelated skills
Have you nurtured and sustained an indoors hobby— like reading, drawing, cooking, playing music etc? If not, think of activities that engaged you or calmed you down earlier. Pick and choose a couple of favourites and set aside an hour or two in the day to recreate and rebuild your hobby. Developing unrelated skills engages your mind and keeps you sharp and ready for a return to the professional world.