Career Moves to Help You Survive 2020, Thrive in 2021

October 2020
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During this pandemic we have frequently been reminded that “we’re all in this together,” but most of us are wondering how we will survive this year, and maybe next year, too. If you work in public relations for a corporation, government agency, educational institution or nonprofit organization, maybe you’ve been lucky enough to hang on to your job to date. 

On the agency side, after you helped your clients with their COVID-19 crisis communications, you might have seen big cuts in their budgets, especially among consumer clients. And some of you, perhaps because you’ve been laid off or furloughed, might decide this is a good time to start your own consultancy. 

As we look ahead to the remainder of the fall and into 2021, many of us wonder how we will regain our momentum, whether by resuming important work projects, rebuilding our account roster or finally turning the dream of owning our own business into a reality.

Based on my experience of weathering previous downturns, here are a few recommendations to consider:

Make contingency plans.

Everyone seems to be asking “When will we return to normal?” But we might be better off asking ourselves some “what if?” questions. What if it takes years to develop a coronavirus vaccine or an effective treatment? What if the “new normal” means we will always work from home? What if that pay cut your company imposed is never reversed?

Now is the time to write down every “What if?” scenario we can think of, and then start planning how to address them. Doing so will boost your confidence and help you navigate an uncertain future.

Network like never before.

During the pandemic, people have become more open to connecting with one another (virtually, anyway). Back when the economy was booming, requests for connections and meetings were often met with a shrug. Now we’re being given a window through which people are willing to help one another, connect on LinkedIn and share each other’s résumés, perhaps because we all know we might need help ourselves.

Take advantage of that window. Reach out on LinkedIn to build your network. Schedule online coffees. Introduce people to one another. Leave positive comments about posts and articles you read on LinkedIn. Seek to collaborate rather than compete.

Expect remote work to continue.

With health officials predicting COVID-19 will resurge this winter, we should embrace our work-from-home routines. We can all take the opportunity to create or improve our home offices by upgrading Wi-Fi connections and other technology, setting up filing systems on paper and computer servers, and decorating our work spaces so they look more professional on Zoom, WebEx, or Google video conferences. (Sorry, no more beds or open closets in the background.)

Be open to change.

In May, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicted the U.S. unemployment rate would reach 25 percent this year. While daunting, that figure doesn’t mean that all hiring has come to a stop. In fact, many companies are aggressively hiring during this pause in our economy. Finding talent is easy right now.

In unstable times, we can either hide beneath our chairs or be assertive. If you feel undervalued at work, then don’t let fear of economic hardship prevent you from seeking something better. Tell people you trust that you’re looking for a change.

Keep selling.

We all sell our ideas, recommendations, skills, experience and expertise. But in times like these, we might worry that others won’t be receptive to our sales pitches, whether to hire us for a job or retain our public relations services.

According to sales consultant Bob Burg, author of the book “Endless Referrals,” all else being equal, “people will do business with and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, don’t hesitate to inform potential customers about what you do well and thereby gain their trust. Whether they say “yes” tomorrow or a year from now, fill your business pipeline by reaching out to potential prospects and showing them the value you can provide.

Learn new skills.

If work has slowed down or clients have cut their budgets, then we shouldn’t fritter away our time. Instead, seize the opportunity to learn new skills that you can sell to clients or use to obtain a promotion.

In an economic downturn, it’s crucial that we show our ability to generate results. To that end, communicators might sharpen their digital marketing and social media skills. Through online courses offered by Google, LinkedIn and Instagram, you can quickly improve your knowledge of organic and paid media and earn certifications that will help you market your expertise.

As a new generation of consumers comes of age, PR professionals should also stay current with emerging platforms such as the multiplayer online video game Fortnite. PRSA members can take advantage of free learning resources, including virtual presentations and webinars. 

Focus your vision.

I’ve noticed a lot of talk online about people rethinking their careers and pursuing long-deferred dreams. Rather than further postpone our goals, we can make them happen by finally enrolling in an online master’s degree program, writing a book or starting the APR process.

Be kind to others.

I am grateful to have made it through multiple downturns in my career relatively unscathed. I believe in karma, which is why I try to help others with their careers whenever I can — especially now.

You might know people who, through no fault of their own, have been laid off because of the coronavirus shutdown. Be kind and do whatever you can to help them.

I’m inspired by my sister-in-law Katee, who launched a jewelry business from her home about a year ago. More recently she put her sewing talents to work to create free face masks for her family, friends and customers. Her kindness has been rewarded many times over, proving that paying it forward really does work. 

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