Seven Days, Seven Ways: How Career Development Prepared Me for this Pandemic

Seven Days, Seven Ways: How Career Development Prepared Me for this Pandemic

May 11, 2020

Career development is purpose-built for helping people through complex, challenging transitions. Even pandemics.

Career development theories, tools and approaches help us to detangle messy and unpredictable realities, find personal meaning and hope and create preferred futures. Big picture, it’s clear to me that career development has never been more needed than it is today and our sector is uniquely positioned to help people cope with the current uncertainty and move in meaningful and sustainable ways toward recovery.

I’ve been thinking about how career development has helped me personally these past weeks. So…here are seven ways (one for each day of the week!) that career development has been helping me personally to survive and (sometimes even) thrive through this pandemic.

  1. Positive Uncertainty: It turns out that career development theorist, H.B. Gelatt, was downright prophetic in his recognition of our need to find ways to live positively in chaotic and unpredictable times. The paradoxical notion of positive uncertainty – that we don’t need to have certainty in order to move forward positively – has been freeing for me personally, and the associated strategies have been timely.
  2. Self Awareness: Knowing yourself is a superpower, my friends. It always has been and is perhaps more so than ever right now. Whether it’s navigating the landmines of co-habiting 24/7 with others, figuring out what I need to stay sane while working remotely or understanding the importance of filling the void left by isolation…knowing myself lies at the core of finding happiness and success…whatever the circumstances swirling around me.
  3. Opportunity Awareness: Career development is underpinned by competencies – knowledge, skills and attitudes – that enable us to look at the world around us through clearer, more focused lenses. When supported by career development, I engage with opportunity differently. I’m aware of the possibility of planned happenstance. I see local, relevant labour market information on my own main street, in casual conversations and social media. Career development helps me to see opportunity even when it’s not hitting me over the head.
  4. Circle of Allies: Career development reminds me of the importance of having a posse that includes people who can help me in practical ways (such as making sense of government programs, managing on a diminished income or parenting through a pandemic) and less concrete, but nonetheless fundamentally important ways (such as loving me unconditionally, laughing with me, crying with me and generally having my back).
  5. Dependable Strengths: It’s easy to be painfully aware of shortcomings and skill gaps right now. I have had days when I feel like a technology accident waiting to happen…days when I wish I could rescript a parenting (or lack thereof) moment. Career development activities such as Dependable Strengths, help me to remember the foundation of skills and strengths that have gotten me this far in life and to become aware of the new ones being built as I navigate the new normal of today.
  6. Nimbleness: Career development has taught me that I am not one dimensional. Work search experts remind me that my strengths can be combined in many ways to meet the needs of many different employers, gigs or contracts. This awareness makes us nimble – able to adjust our approach and personal branding to reflect current needs without losing the essence of who we are. We’re all being called upon to adjust, shift and experiment right now on so many levels; it’s helpful to know how to do this while holding fast to what’s most important. This capacity will become even more important as we move into recovery.
  7. Grounded Hope: Last but not least, career development reminds me of the centrality of hope and gives me concrete strategies to nurture it, rekindle it and build it. It’s not that I don’t have my share of bad days, but career development has helped me to build a foundation of hope that is steadying when the skies seem darkest.

I want to thank my brilliant and beloved colleague and friend, Suzanne Klinga, for inspiring this blog. The notion that career development actually prepares us to better weather this pandemic is hers and – as has so often happened over the last 20+ years – her wisdom and insight got me thinking (and writing) in new ways.