Managing Your Career in a Crisis

Managing Your Career in a Crisis

Did you know that the Chinese symbol for crisis and opportunity are the same? Believe it or not, this unprecedented time offers us a unique opportunity to advance our careers.

How you respond during difficult times can have a lasting impact on your career. While you may encounter the fear and paralysis common in a crisis, you don’t have to succumb to it. Now is the right time to prepare for new and unexpected opportunities.

Hard times have been known to accelerate growth in a variety of business and leadership skills. It can also give you an opportunity to support others, live your values and position yourself for greater long-term success.

Taking actionable steps in your career right now, may also help relieve anxiety and channel your energy into something you can directly impact. Start by focusing on these five tips to effectively manage your career during a crisis.

Tip 1: Demonstrate your value

In a time of crisis, when many leaders are overwhelmed, be the colleague that puts your hand up to lead a project or offer to help someone with a task. If your company uses social media platforms, participate and work to create a supportive community.

Use your 1:1 time with your boss wisely. Ensure that he/she knows what you’re doing and how you’re contributing. Stay relevant and make it obvious why you add value to the company. Think about what might be pressing topics for your organization and offer to take the lead on them. Be there as a source of support, a great thought partner, a sounding board, and above all else, someone that that can handle the ambiguity and pressure of a crisis.

Tip 2: Prioritize networking

Growing and maintaining your network is one of the most important career skills. Nothing shapes your trajectory and adds to your market value more.

The best time to build your network is when you don’t need anything and aren’t yet launching a job search. If you find that you have extra downtime right now, focus on checking in on and reconnecting with your professional contacts.

Try setting up a virtual coffee meeting or cocktail hour, reach out over text or email, but regardless of how you do it, do it authentically. No email blasts or large group messages. Connect personally and see if there are ways that you can be helpful.

In a world that's gone virtual, don't forget about social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with your expanded network. Re-share articles that you like, comment on someone’s post or better yet, create content yourself.

Tip 3: Sharpen your brand

Crisis or not, always have an optimized LinkedIn profile and resume ready. LinkedIn and your resume help to communicate your career story and it's important to keep them intriguing and sharp.

At least twice a year, review both documents and update the following sections on LinkedIn: your headline, keywords, profile picture, job descriptions and volunteer affiliations. By optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you may make new connections or attract new job opportunities even when you are not actively looking.

Remember to join relevant industry groups and follow companies and thought leaders of interest. Finally, post content at least once a month. LinkedIn gives valuable real estate to help you network and brand yourself. Don’t be afraid to share your expertise.

Tip 4: Understand the market

Whether you anticipate looking for a new role or not, it’s always good to have a pulse on the market. Make time to conduct research and better understand your local job market along with which industries are growing during these turbulent times.

Know what positions are in high demand and how your skills and experience stack up. Be able to articulate your unique value and transferrable skills should you want or need to launch a job search in the near future.

Tip 5: Adapt to virtual job searching

You’ll need to maximize your efforts during a virtual job search. But first, make sure you set your expectations appropriately – some processes are simply going to take longer as companies try to hire in these unprecedented circumstances.

Regardless of the situation, be prepared for potential hurdles and try not to take it personally. There may be less demand, interview delays, offers held up for in person meetings, or you may have less leverage in negotiations. Expect a few setbacks, but don’t give up.

Networking remains the best way to attract promising job leads. But don’t forget to let technology do some of the work for you and set up job alerts so relevant roles come directly to your inbox. As always, if you’re interested in applying for a role, do your best to find someone in the company that you can connect with, and ideally, someone you know well enough that will recommend you for the role. Failing that, if you must apply online, find the hiring manager or recruiters name and reach out to them letting them know about your application and that you’d welcome the opportunity to discuss the company’s needs and how you may be able to help.

To put your best foot forward during virtual interviews, make sure to find the best background, camera angle and lighting. If you’re not accustomed to virtual meetings, practice with a friend beforehand – there is an art to connecting online. Focus on building rapport, watching for body language and pausing appropriately between comments to facilitate a smooth dialogue.

Finally, don’t forget that careers are long and they inevitably include several bouts of economic turbulence that will both test and refine your resilience. Whether you are looking for a new job or not, try to remain positive and productive over the next few months and continue to look for opportunities to grow your skills. When you stay focused, it is indeed possible to advance your career even in difficult times.

BCG Career Services & Executive Placement Services