At times, it feels as if the pandemic has changed everything about the nature of work. One notable thing that has changed is our work attire. For most of my career, I’ve thought of my work uniform as a costume. It’s a version of ourselves that we show in a certain setting. It’s like wearing certain clothes to religious services. You know that there are certain things that are expected, depending on where you are.
I started my career in engineering. Back then, I wore khaki pants, a golf shirt, and steel toed boots. Later in my career, I worked in marketing at a financial institution. Then, I wore a suit and high heels on many days. But now, things are very different. It is not unusual to see an entire team of people wearing hoodies and stretchy pants.
What should we make of this? The honest answer is that only time will tell. On one level, it seems that we’re focusing more on talent than appearances. But, are we also letting our work slide with our casual looks?
For me, focusing less on appearances allows me to focus my energy more on what really matters – the work. I love how casual work from home has become. And, I wouldn’t feel badly if I traded in my business suits for yoga pants and hoodies.
With this said, there is one time when you have to make the effort. When you’re interviewing for jobs, the same rules apply even though you’re remote. Dressing up for a Zoom job interview is similar to writing a thank you note afterward. It’s not something that you have to do. But, you want the job, so you do it to show interest.
It’s recommended that you wear the same suit you would have worn before the pandemic. Try it on in advance to be sure it fits properly. Do your hair and makeup in a similar way. Wear the same jewelry. Try to look as if things are normal.
Beyond what you look like, you also need to pay attention to your environment. In a normal job interview, you’d go in person. But at home, you have to take charge. First, realize that the company can learn so much about you that they couldn’t before. Clean up the area around you. Be sure your space is quiet. And, consider getting a ring light for the best on screen appearance.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the job offer you’ll secure. With any luck, the job will be remote. And, you’ll have the opportunity to wear casual clothes again day to day.
What will be curious to learn ultimately is what in person office wear will look like in the future. We will have spent almost two years wearing casual clothes together. Can we all agree that hoodies and yoga pants are in our future?
We’ve now been living in a pandemic for almost one year. It felt like things couldn’t get any stranger. Then, the last two weeks happened. A massive winter storm blanketed much of the country. States struggled to get the impact of the storms under control. Texas was one of the most extreme examples, with many, many people completely losing power. In other areas of the country, there were other issues, including a lack of water or other resources.
With many people working remotely, some employees have moved to another city temporarily. This has had many advantages. Employees have been able to spend more time with aging parents. They’ve been able to spend more time at their weekend homes.
But, the last two weeks revealed a challenge. With employees distributed around the country, our experiences are no longer universal. Not everyone is going through the same weather. Not everyone is struggling through the same issues. With different family situations, this was already true. But, the storms highlighted it again.
On Zoom, everyone appears the same. Unless coworkers share, it’s easy to remain unaware. We assume everything is fine. But, this invisible difference has been a theme throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are each having our own unique experience.
Some employees have small children at home they are trying to care for when no one is looking. Some have extra family members living with them who are out of work due to the pandemic. Some are trying to manage aging parents from a distance.
We are all going through the normal phases of life, including birth, celebrations, and loss. But, on camera, we are more disconnected from one another at work. We are less likely to realize when a coworker is struggling. We are less aware of what a hard time they may be having.
And, to a certain degree, it makes sense. Our businesses are struggling to stay in business. How do we find the time to care about basic day to day problems? We’re fighting just to make it through the pandemic. We’re doing our best to stay employed.
It feels important to recognize that we’re each having a unique experience. Frankly, the impact of the pandemic has been harder on some people at your company than others. That’s the nature of this separation and isolation from one another. We have removed many of the normal social supports that are in place. We’re left to get by on what we can do solo.
At work, try to remember that we’re all in this together. Try to be patient with one another. Try to check in on each other.
Ask your coworkers real questions beyond what you’re meeting about. Video meetings have made it harder to have personal interactions. Ask about children. Ask about pets. Ask about parents. To know what is really going on beyond the Zoom meetings, we must ask one another.
Every day, I hear from job seekers who are unhappy at work. They will share that they wish things at their current job were different. If only things were a bit better, they would like to stay. If only their boss were better, they would prefer not to leave. If only the company would pay them more, they’d like to stick around. If only there was room for upward movement, they would continue working there.
Unfortunately, hoping and wishing doesn’t change the situation at work. Only you can change your work situation.
Don’t get me wrong. I fault no one for staying at an incompatible job because they need the work. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But, waiting indefinitely for things to get better just doesn’t work. When you do this, you make yourself miserable.
Over the years, I’ve met with many job seekers who are trapped in this unfortunate cycle with work. They wish so much for things to be better, but they have such a hard time when they’re not. It can be anguishing. I have seen many people who struggle to stay focused because of this stress. It begins to bleed into their personal lives, where they may struggle with sleep and anxiety.
But, when the situation isn’t working, it’s not just you. It’s the entire situation. It’s like something in the ecosystem is off. And, the problem is, you only have control over you. You can only change one thing in a system that’s not working.
This topic reminds me of exit interviews. When you quit your job, your company will want to do an exit interview about your time there. So often, employees want to use it as an opportunity to vent. In reality, your comments will only make you feel better. Again, you can only change you. You can’t change everything else.
With that in mind, if you are wishing and hoping for things to be different, try looking elsewhere. At another company, you may find things to be different. You may find that you no longer need to wish or hope. Things may work better on their own.
The hard thing is, sometimes it’s easier to stay with the situation you don’t know than to go back into the unknown. It’s not easy to tell during the interview if the company will really be a perfect fit. After all, if that were the case, your current company might be a better fit. But, if you don’t try, you won’t know. And, in the meantime, you’re pretty miserable.
You’ve got a decision to make. You can accept the way things are. Or, you can accept the discomfort for now, knowing there’s an end in sight. Or, you can decide it’s not for you. And, if that’s the case, it’s time to start looking. Put your hopes and wishes into action, rather than just thoughts.
January’s unemployment rate fell to 6.7%, with over 49,000 jobs added in January. As in previous months over the last year, hospitality, retail, and travel continue to struggle. And, sadly, the pandemic is having a disproportionately higher impact on the careers of women.
McKinsey & Company estimates that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more at risk during this crisis than men’s jobs. Women fill 39 percent of jobs globally, but 54 percent of job losses have impacted women. You may wonder what would cause this difference. The pandemic is exaggerating an existing issue. For years, equality in the workplace has been on our radar, but the pandemic is causing a backslide.
One reason for this difference in career impact is related to unpaid care. Globally, women do 75 percent of the world’s total unpaid care. In other words, in many families, women are taking care of the children and the elderly. They are also doing the cooking and the cleaning. With many schools closed to in person learning, children are now home all the time. This increases the need for unpaid care day to day.
McKinsey also found the gendered nature of work makes up 25 percent of the difference that is being observed. Globally, women tend to more often work in industries that have been impacted by the pandemic, such as education, food services, and retail. Another factor McKinsey found was the high number of women owned small businesses that have been negatively impacted.
If you are one of the many people impacted, you may wonder what you can do right now to improve things. In all fairness, it’s a tough situation. There aren’t as many easy answers as one would hope for. If you have any opportunity to get help to lighten the load, don’t be shy about asking for it. But, sadly, this kind of help is often not available.
If your job is one that could be done remotely and you currently go in person, consider searching for a remote opportunity that might make it a little easier to do family and work simultaneously.
If you begin to interview, do your best to stand out. Research the company thoroughly. Look online for company reviews, company performance, and salary information. And, when you’re deciding which jobs to apply to, don’t wait for a job to be a perfect match. If you think you can do the work, apply. Let the company decide if you’re a fit. Too often, we take ourselves out of the race before it has even started. Many companies write job descriptions in a way that is unrealistic. They list everything they could ever want, and then wait to see what sort of resumes come back. If you think you can do it, send in your resume.
It’s no consolation, but the pandemic is temporary. Hopefully this will be an opportunity for us to find room for future growth.
February is one of my favorite months. It’s a time when we focus on love and happiness. People are more kind to one another. We think about what is going well in our personal lives, and we dream of new beginnings.
February is also the perfect time to reflect back on your career. So often, when we think of finding a new job, we think of everything we hate about our current job. Whether it’s the boss, the politics, or the type of work you’re doing, it’s easy to think of things you don’t ever want to experience again.
But, it can also be helpful to think about the things you actually like. If you were to write the story of your career, what have been the highlights? What were your proudest moments? What did you like to do? And, who did you enjoy working with?
As we move into prime job searching season, think back about what you would like to experience a second time. What does your ideal job look like? Who would you want to work for? And, what would you want to do?
This year is the perfect time for career reinvention. Think about it. Many people have been working from home for almost one year. It’s been hard. But, there have been upsides. We’ve had smaller commutes. We have had more time with family. And, we’ve had more time to think. Times like these give you a chance to reflect on what’s important. It gives you a chance to think about what you love and what you loathe.
The other big plus is that many jobs are becoming remote. Companies are letting go of their offices. They’ve found that many employees really can work from home. That means that you may have more job options than in the past. You might be able to land a job in another state without ever visiting (or relocating).
This greater ability to apply to work from anywhere gives the job seeker more options. It may also open up entire industries that don’t exist where you live today.
If you could do anything, what would you chose? If you could move to your favorite city, would you? It’s time to put a little heart into your career. If you’re feeling burned out or are just ready for a change, this is the time to reflect.
While you’re going through this process, take the time to update your resume. If there’s something you love to do, be sure it’s listed. If there is something you really dislike, try to minimize it or remove it completely.
Your job takes up a huge part of your life. Just like the people in your life, you should (hopefully) like your job. And, if you don’t, this is the time to change that. It’s time to find a job that will love you as much as you love it.
Before the pandemic, your manager probably had more of a say in where you are day to day. Liz Ryan from Human Workplace explained, “The authority to decide where employees must be at certain dates and times is a big part of many managers’ power. Now that numerous corporations have announced their intension not to bring employees back to the officer, some managers are losing that power. Not everyone is okay with it.”
In short, it’s tough to ask people to be in the office every day now that it has been proven to be unnecessary. This is the truest for white collar jobs, whose work life revolves around a computer. For many years, companies told us that we could not work remotely. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t productive. It would hurt our teams. Fortunately, this is not completely true. The pandemic taught us that.
The pandemic gave companies no other choice but to adapt. Offline process have found their way online. Meetings are now consistently held via Zoom. One on one conversations take place virtually. And, somehow, many big businesses are still in business.
The thing many people didn’t expect is the long term impact of staying at home. There are a number of large companies that have announced that they don’t plan to ask their employees to return. And, the trend is catching on.
When you look at job postings, location is no longer such a factor for many jobs. Some are listed as remote. Other postings are listing more than one large city to give increased flexibility. And, many are listed with both a city – and information that the company is open to any location and remote work.
If you are one of the many people who likes working from home, this may be the time to think of looking for a new job. It’s not clear yet if companies will remain as flexible once the pandemic passes. But for those who lock in a permanently remote situation now, they will likely be able to keep the option long term.
And the best part? Companies are now interviewing remotely too. There’s no longer a need to fly all over the country to shake hands. You won’t even have to sneak out of your job to interview. You’ll be able to interview from the comfort (and the privacy) of your own home.
In the past, I would have suggested searching for remote jobs. But, if you can work from anywhere, simply search without a city name. Read the job description to see if the company mentions remote options. But, even if the posting doesn’t, you should consider applying. Job seekers are applying for jobs out of their market and are being hired with no expectation of relocation (even after the pandemic is over).
The nature of work is changing. If you enjoy working remote, make a resolution to make it permanent.
This week is a big one. One president will leave office, while another will join. The transition of power in the United States has been quite a complicated matter. Chances are that recent events in our Capital have dominated your news feed. And, if you’re like many people, work can provide a much needed break and distraction from our current political stress.
At work, colleagues come from many different backgrounds. This diverse workforce is part of what helps make companies successful. With that said, you know your coworkers through the lens of the workplace. At home, coworkers may have very different views on topics such as money, religion, and yes, politics.
As you work this week, I would encourage you to keep in mind that those coworkers you respect for their work may have different views than yours. Discussing politics, the transition of power, or the recent events at the U.S. Capital with colleagues is risky. This may sound counterintuitive, as you may have views that feel very straightforward to you.
However, in order for these conversations to have a positive impact, a number of things must be in place. The person must share your views. You must communicate in a way that is clear and easy to understand. The person must be open to hearing your message. They must receive the message in the way you intended it.
You likely agree that there are a number of dependencies that are required for things to go well. And, if they go badly, there is potential for them to go very badly. Your colleagues may have hurt feelings. These issues are big. Their significance has a magnified impact this week. If the conversation goes badly, it has the potential to negatively change your relationship permanently.
Avoiding the topic of politics with coworkers is a better bet in January. Think of it like attending a dinner party. You often don’t know others at the dinner party well. You have a common connection: dinner. This is much like your common connection of work. Beyond dinner, the other guests may have very different views on money, religion, and politics.
The one exception to this suggestion is in the event that you work for an organization that is centered on common beliefs. For example, some organizations share their religious or political views up front. Employees know in advance that their coworkers will likely share the same views outside of the workplace.
The upcoming weeks are set to be difficult. We may be inundated in news related to the presidential inauguration and the transition of power. If it helps to discuss these topics with others, identify a friend or family member who is outside of work that you can call. The political stress we are facing is temporary, but your job is permanent. Be careful with your words this month, and you will increase the likelihood of political peace at work.
As the pandemic continues to rage on in the United States, many of us have felt locked indoors. We’ve felt isolated. It’s been lonely. It’s scary. This is especially true for anyone who is living away from their loved ones. It can be hard to get help with things when you need it during the pandemic. It’s difficult to travel home for a number of reasons. The entire experience can be isolating, especially in a big city.
With no end date to COVID in sight, many workers are trying something out of the ordinary. They’re working from a new location. They’re going where their loved ones are. Countless people are moving to their hometowns, near their parents, or to other cities where they have connections. Even if the move is temporary, it provides the needed relief, and a reconnection to friends and family.
When I first witnessed this phenomenon, I was truly surprised. I wondered how in the world people were able to uproot themselves to work from another location. How were they able to make it happen logistically? Where did they stay? What did their company think about this extra remote work situation? What did the boss say about this request?
But, time and time again, it’s working. Many companies have become very good at remote work. Employees are working from vacation homes. They’re working from other countries. They’re working from the guest room at a family member’s home. And, they’re getting the same amount of work done that they were before.
If you’ve been wondering whether or not working from another city is right for you, I’d encourage you to explore your options. I’ve been surprised at just how understanding many employers are being towards their employees. Even some government workers have the option to apply to work from another location.
If you’re finding yourself alone and in need of a change of scenery, now is the time. Before you do anything, have a conversation with your boss. Get the verbal okay to work from another location. Then, put your intension in writing in an email to confirm. From there, you can plot out your move.
If moving all of your things is not a viable option, look for a storage unit near where you currently live. For a small amount of money, you can store your current belongings until you return. Then, look for furnished apartments in your destination city. Typical apartment rental websites and vacation websites like Airbnb are a great place to start. If you don’t see good furnished options, there are companies that rent furniture month to month.
The pandemic has been awful. But, for remote workers, this time may be an opportunity. If you’ve thought of working from another location, your time to do it may be limited. Talk to your boss. Do your research. Make your move, and make some lemonade with these pandemic lemons.
If last year taught us anything, it’s that things can change in an instant. Even small things we took for granted can become complex and unknown. Life is short. We’ve learned that the time is now to get our priorities in order. It’s important to decide on what matters to you and to focus in on it.
For many people, their personal life has a greater weight. Suddenly, a spouse, children, and loved ones are more important than ever before. And, it makes sense. The realization that our lives may be cut short has never been more present.
Even though there is still a pandemic raging, life continues to move forward. This is not the time to give up your career dreams. It’s time to pursue them differently. 2020 prepared us for living and working under the strain of a pandemic. 2021 is our opportunity to put what we’ve learned into practice.
It’s likely your priorities shifted over the last year. If so, here’s an exercise you may want to try. Write down the goals you had one year ago this time. Then, adjust them for our new normal. You may want to be in a smaller city. You may want to live closer to your family. You may want to permanently work from home. You may want to focus less on climbing the ladder and more on happiness. Whatever your goals are, putting them on paper can help to clarify what you are setting out to do.
If you’re like many people, accomplishing much of anything right now can feel impossible. There are things you can do to help make this process easier. After you write down your goals, type them up on your computer. This will allow you to prioritize them and to create steps under each goal. Move the most important goals to the top of your list. Then, outline what you will need to do to achieve each goal. Estimate the time each step will take you. Begin to put a timeframe around each step and goal. Decide on what you’ll accomplish this week, next week, and next month.
I know this sounds simple. But, as you continue to live through the pandemic, you can use your goals as a guide. Having goals written down can help you to stay on track when things are feeling tough. You have a game plan already that you can focus in on.
Don’t plan to check things off your goal list at the same rate as in the past though. The pandemic creates new challenges every day. It will likely take you longer to complete tasks, and that’s okay. The important part is that you stay focused on your goals and on moving forward. That way, we can make our way through 2021 more smoothly than we did last year. Although we may continue to live with a pandemic, this year we’re more prepared.
The New Year is finally here. We’ve been waiting for 2021 since Friday, March 13, 2020. That was the day that it became apparent that a pandemic was going to be a big part of 2020. Since then, we’ve felt that if we can just hang on until January, things will go back to normal.
Although I hope this is the case, we have to prepare ourselves to move forward either way. It will take time to vaccinate everyone. In the meantime, many companies have already announced that remote work will continue through the fall. This is a huge bummer for some people, and a relief for others.
Whatever your perception is of this possible outcome, it’s best to prepare for anything. And, whatever happens, your life and career must continue to move forward.
By now, working from home has started to be routine for most people. If possible, it may be time to look for ways to put in a little extra effort. I, for one, may look to upgrade from the hoodie and sweats that have become my uniform.
And, it’s also the time to begin to think about your normal career goals. Did you know that many of the educational conferences you once attended in person are now online – and they are less expensive? This opens up options in terms of continuing education. And, there’s a good chance your company budget for training won’t be tapped out.
If you’ve thought of looking for a new job, this is a great time to begin. Think of this way. Many companies are still hiring. But, they are now conducting interviews online. This means that you won’t have to fly around the company to interview. And, you won’t have to sneak out of work.
Plus, if you land an offer, your new company is more likely to offer you a permanently remote position than they were in the past. This year, I heard from job seekers who looked outside of their metro area. They applied to jobs that were in other cities and were not listed as remote. But, companies considered them anyway! And, they didn’t expect the new employees to move. That opens up a lot of options. If your city is slim on job choices, the option to apply in other cities could be an upside.
You may want to also brace yourself for a new possible reality. Even if everything goes back to normal, and even you decide to stay at your current company, you may remain remote. You heard that right. A surprising number of companies have gotten used to remote work. They’ve found that it’s better for their employees and cheaper for the company. Even after the pandemic is over, they will continue to allow employees to work from anywhere.
2021 brings with it many options, and many dreams for a brighter future. Hang in there. We’re in this together!