Investing in your career during COVID-19
Kiddy & Partners
Covid-19 has forced a pause on ‘normal’ life for many of us, which of course presents significant challenges and we have all been bombarded with information about resilience and managing in the new environment.
But it also provides us with the opportunity and space to think about what we want from our life and career in a way that we haven’t been able to before.
As leadership assessment and development specialists, one thing we hear consistently from leaders is how much they value the opportunity to take time out away from their day job and focus on their own development, something they wouldn’t normally have time for.
From a business point of view reflecting on our performance and learnings from different situations leads to increased understanding and ability perform tasks effectively in the future (1). However, business environments often encourage individuals to keep going, believing that doing more is better and therefore miss out on the power of reflection.
From an individual point of view spending time to reflect on your career and what you want to achieve has many benefits, including increased career success (2,3) and increased satisfaction in your role (4).
Reflecting on your career so far and what you want next
We would encourage you to start with the Lifeline reflection task and consider these questions:
- How do you see the next 5-10 years of your career evolving?
- What impact do you seek to have in your career/life/at your organisation? What do you want your legacy to be?
- What do you see as the key changes in the operating context for your organisation?
- What do you see as the key requirements/challenges associated with operating successfully as a leader in your organisation? How (if at all) do you see this changing over the next 5 years?
Spending time reflecting on your career so far and addressing these questions, will help you identify what drives you and articulate what you want from your career going forward.
Reflecting on your strengths and development areas
Self-awareness is vital for your success as a leader, as well as for career success (5,6). While it’s important to reflect on what you perceive to be your stand-out strengths and the development gaps you need to close, it is also essential that you review the evidence that has led you to these conclusions. Very few of us are really aware of how we come across to others, or take take the time to think about it(7).
Take time to think about what you see as your 3 greatest strengths and the 3 main development areas, then think about these questions:
- What data do you have to support this e.g. would your team observe these to be your areas of strength and development? How do they relate to feedback you have received?
- What examples do you have over the last 4 weeks of where you have been able to leverage your strengths against challenges you’ve faced?
- Where have you overplayed strengths to your detriment? Have there been scenarios in the last 4 weeks where you’ve observed your development gaps?
- What have you learned from the scenarios where you’ve been able to leverage your strengths and the scenarios where your development gaps have been evident?
- What goals can you put in place to help you further leverage those strengths or close development gaps in preparation for the ongoing challenges that inevitably lay ahead?
The benefits of setting goals is well known (8) and is often part of annual appraisal cycles and development programmes. However, all too often goals are identified, written down and then forgotten about. Using this time to set SMART goals will help you gain clarity and focus on what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it in the short, medium and long-term. If goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, you’re likely to succeed with them. When thinking about setting your goals, consider:
- What do you want to achieve as an individual or as a leader in the next 6 months (particularly in response to the Covid-19 situation)
- Where do you see yourself in 2-3 years?
- Looking back at your career reflection exercise, have you clearly articulated your career aspirations? If not, refine your broadly defined aspirations using the SMART approach.
Download our SMART Goals Template to help you map out your goals.
Once your goals are defined, set aside time weekly to review these goals as well as continuing your self-reflection to build self-awareness. This HBR article provides a more in-depth overview of tips and techniques to keep learning and development front of mind.
While time out to think about your own development may not feel as productive as ticking off activities on your to-do list, having clear goals and self-awareness to help you to meet these goals, will increase your chances of success in your role and in your career over the longer term.
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 Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G. P., & Staats, B. R. (2016). Making experience count: The role of reflection in individual learning. Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper, (14-093), 14-093.
 Ng, T. W., Eby, L. T., Sorensen, K. L., & Feldman, D. C. (2005). Predictors of objective and subjective career success: A meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 58(2), 367-408.Guerrero,
 Gould, S. (1979). Characteristics of career planners in upwardly mobile occupations. Academy of Management Journal, 22(3), 539-550.
 S., Jeanblanc, H., & Veilleux, M. (2016). Development idiosyncratic deals and career success. Career development international.
 Church, A. H. (1997). Managerial self-awareness in high-performing individuals in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(2), 281.
 Brown, C., George-Curran, R., & Smith, M. L. (2003). The role of emotional intelligence in the career commitment and decision-making process. Journal of Career Assessment, 11(4), 379-392.
 Zell, E., & Krizan, Z. (2014). Do people have insight into their abilities? A metasynthesis. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(2), 111-125.
 Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Prentice-Hall, Inc.