Career Development in an Uncertain Time

August 5, 2020
Written by: Jennifer Mazawey, CREW NJ

COVID-19 has had profound impacts on many aspects of our lives. It has affected the way we work, as many of us have moved from in-office or in-person interactions to work from home models; it has also impacted the ways we seek the work itself, utilizing emails, calls and virtual meetings in lieu of live, in-person meetings. Whether or not the pandemic has resulted in a job loss, many find themselves reexamining their career choices—by necessity or choice. How do we best position ourselves to face these challenging and uncertain times?

If you are a professional in transition—whether you are looking for a new job within your same line of work or trying to change career paths—you are likely finding yourself unable to job search in the traditional ways. Experts suggest looking for creative solutions during this rapidly evolving period.

A recent Harvard Business Review article Reinventing Your Career in the time of Coronavirus, discusses strategies to employ while facing a shortage of face-to-face and in-person networking opportunities. The author suggests re-connecting with your “dormant ties” during this time. Dormant ties are people with whom you were once close but haven’t had much recent contact. In a study involving more than 200 executives, it was reported that the advice received from past relationships was, on average, more valuable and novel than the advice received from more active relationship sources. Since your strong or close ties usually have the same information and contacts as you, it’s less likely that you will learn about new opportunities by tapping that network. While weak ties may be a source of new information, they are not motivated to help you, especially if they are also stretched for new opportunities. Dormant ties can serve as a fertile middle ground for productive networking and learning opportunities.

In addition, the article recommends finding new and different ways to share your story with others and receive feedback. Working with a career coach online, creating Zoom meetings, or engaging in socially distant congregation all present opportunities to maintain safe but personal connections. This concept is also shared in the Korn Ferry article Networking in the Age of COVID-19. You don’t need to be in-person to have personal contact.

Korn Ferry also suggests that professionals continue networking, even though it may look different, and importantly, don’t forget the basics. Successful networking continues to be about building relationships, whether we are in a time of crisis or not. “If you want to be successful at networking, you must keep in mind that it really isn’t about you.” Korn Ferry reminds readers that networking remains a two-way street. Continue to look for ways to provide value to the people with whom you are networking.

During this time, take an inventory of your particular skills and work on upskilling and reskilling, in lieu of focusing on job titles. In the article Career Advice for a Changing World by Strategy and Business, the author suggests that rather than focusing on a particular job title, professionals should focus on particular skills that will make them successful, and further focus on how those skills will transfer from job to job. In fact, forward-thinking employers will also use this time to approach their existing employees to seek out particular skills and aptitudes that they need. “You need not limit yourself to the work you’ve always done—especially if it’s something that can be fine-tuned with the right combination of technology and human ingenuity to provide consumers or businesses with better products, services or experiences.” Concentrating on skills, instead of title, will help you and your employer determine the best career development strategies for taking on new roles and responsibilities.

Trying new things, like coursework, pro-bono or advisory work, are important facets of the career reinvention process. “The most common path to a career reinvention involves doing something on the side—cultivating knowledge, skills, resources and relationships until you’ve got strong new legs to walk on in exploring a new career.” The Harvard Business Review article on reinventing your career recommends doing “new and different work with new and different people” as an opportunity to learn about yourself and evolve.

Finally, for those looking for different career paths, be open and available for opportunities within your organization. The Harvard Business Review article Now is an Unprecedented Opportunity to Hire Great Talent reminds leaders to look to existing key players within their organizations to develop during these challenging times. “The pool of available talent is suddenly both changing and expanding, and visionary leaders can make the most of it, preparing the ground for post-crisis recovery and growth.”

In the end, it is important to maintain and continue to grow relationships and maintain safe but personal contact with others during this time. Use this time to take a career inventory centered on your skills, as opposed to title, and be open and available for different opportunities within your organization to position you for success.

CREW Network remains committed to assisting members in developing and maintaining their careers and provides many resources to help facilitate these goals. The CREW Network Career Center provides members with access to hundreds of careers across all sectors of commercial real estate. For additional career tips and advice, watch the CREW Cares Professional Development Series sessions focused on career education, management and growth (CREWbiz login required).

Jennifer Mazawey

Jennifer Mazawey is a partner at Genova Burns’ Newark, New Jersey office. Mazawey practices in the areas of commercial real estate, land use and construction law. She is an active member of CREW NJ, serving as chapter president in 2018.

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