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Concerned about your future? Here’s how to take control of your career path when you’re on furlough

By Gaelle Blake, Director, Hays Permanent Appointments, UK and Ireland

I’m sure almost all of us will admit it’s easy to get swept up in our day-to-day routine of work and often neglect thinking about our long-term careers. But now, huge amounts of professionals find themselves with more time and flexibility on their hands as a result of being on furlough leave, which I believe presents a valuable opportunity to think about your future and take control of your career path

If used well, your furlough leave can be a great time to upskill, set out a career roadmap and put some concrete career goals in place. If you’re able to take some of these ideas on board whilst you’re on furlough leave, you’ll benefit from taking control of your career and putting your best foot forward when returning to work.

Knowledge is power, so broaden your skillset

There is no limit to upskilling with the amount of resources available today, but here are some ideas that may prove a useful starting point. The most important thing is to get into a routine by dedicating time to regular learning, as this really is the way to achieve real results. Whatever area you upskill in, it’s those who have been proactive who will return to work in the best position. I’d recommend you:

  • Take an online course. Udemy, for example, offers 100,000 courses hosted by top instructors around the world on a huge variety of subjects. You could also try OpenLearn from the Open University, Duolingo for language and Codecademy for online coding courses
  • Explore the world of podcasts. You can find podcasts on nearly any topic and they’re almost always free. Feedspot has come up with a list of career podcasts for 2020, or browse PlayerFM for podcasts on a range of subjects
  • Read your way to new skills. The global research and advisory firm Gartner has published this list of must-read business books which you can use as a starting point, or try The Economist or FT for up-to-date business news and expertise

Build a career roadmap

Be honest: how much time do you really spend thinking about your long-term career? Most of us don’t dedicate much time to this, despite knowing that our career is one of the most important aspects of our lives.

Now you have the time and flexibility from your daily working routine, commit to building a career roadmap. This sometimes comes under the guises of career plotting, career planning or career mapping, but essentially the broad idea is to get you thinking about your wider career beyond your current role. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started:

1. First of all, think about the immediate priorities of your organisation:

  • What does it want to achieve over the next few years?
  • What role does your function or department play in this?
  • What can you do in your role to support this?

2. It’s also important to think about the future direction of your profession:

  • What are the major digital changes happening in your line of work?
  • As a result of these changes, are particular jobs or skills likely to be in demand?
  • What sets junior professionals apart from leaders?
  • Who are the leading figures in your profession and what do they think about the direction it is going in?

3. Reflect on whether the Covid-19 challenge has had an effect on the way you perceive your career:

  • How has it impacted your profession or industry?
  • Has there been any change in your sentiment towards remote working?
  • If you were working remotely, has this changed what you might be looking for in a role?
  • If you were working remotely, what have you learned about yourself professionally?

Write down your answers to these questions and see if they illuminate career ideas which you hadn’t considered before.

Reassess your goals

Again, setting out career goals is a task which often takes the backseat in our everyday lives. But their value isn’t to be underestimated - having these in place will give you direction and motivation, and bring your career roadmap to life.

Try separating your goals into these timeframes and remember that not all career goals need to be a promotion or a pay rise. Sideways movements into different teams or adjustments to your work-life balance are also very valid career goals.

  • 6 months: Where do you want to be in 6 months and what are the immediate actions you need to take to get there? Be realistic and consider how the Covid-19 crisis may have impacted on the roles and skills that will be most in-demand in the coming months. 
  • 12 months: Where do you see yourself in a year? Will your immediate game plan help you get there?
  • 2-3 years: What are your long-term goals? How can you break these down into achievable steps?

Think seriously about whether you see yourself achieving these goals in your current organisation or whether there are changes you need to make sooner rather than later.

With so much out of our control at the moment, it can be incredibly reassuring to sharpen your perspective on your career and set out some clear direction. If you use this time productively and take some of the above ideas on board, it will no doubt help you take control of your career and give you clarity and motivation when you return to work.

To discuss your next career steps, contact your Hays consultant, or for further advice and insights to help navigate the evolving world of work, visit our Inspire Me in the New Era of Work hub.

About this author

Gaelle joined Hays in 1999, and in her time with the business, she has led dedicated teams providing expert recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions. In 2018, Gaelle started her current role as UK&I Director of Hays Permanent Appointments, where she works with 800 Permanent Appointments consultants across the UK and Ireland. She helps organisations to find the talent they need to achieve their goals, and help customers to find the roles they need to move their careers forwards. In July 2020, Gaelle was also appointed as UKI Director of Hays Construction & Property, leading the 300+ recruitment consultants in the largest specialist Construction & Property recruiter in the UK.

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