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.