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Reflecting on your career during lockdown? 7 questions to ask yourself

By Roddy Adair, Director, Hays Personal & Executive Assistants

During any extra free time that lockdown affords, it will come quite naturally for some to take a moment of stillness and reflect on their career – but for others, this will require a more proactive effort.

But being physically away from your usual workplace for longer than ever before is a great time to consider both your current job and your future career. To get you started, here are some questions you should ask yourself – you never know what they might reveal about your long-term professional goals and aspirations:

1. Does your current job bring you happiness?
It’s incredibly easy to let the fast pace of modern life distract us from addressing how happy we really are in our jobs. As writer Annie Dillard famously said, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”, so when our days largely consist of going to work, the true happiness this brings should be one of the first things we question.

Consider:

  • What parts of your job do you enjoy?
  • What would you change about your job if you had the chance?
  • Does your current role allow you to take steps towards fulfilling your long-term career aspirations?

It may seem like a big place to start, but it’s fundamental that your job brings you happiness so this should frame the rest of your career reflection.

2. Can you bring your authentic self to work?
The pace of change at the moment may be leaving many of us questioning our place in the world and who we really are as people. Whether or not you are contemplating this about your personal life, you might benefit from reflecting this way on your professional life by thinking about the person you bring to work every day and who you are around your colleagues.

Signs that you are your authentic self at work:

  • It doesn’t take considerable effort to go to work each day
  • You have like-minded colleagues who you enjoy spending time with in and out of work
  • You feel motivated to improve and better yourself in your job

As part of this reflection, now might also be the time to (virtually) explore any networks or groups your organisation has in place so you can reap the benefits of working alongside genuine companions each day.

3. Do you connect to the purpose of your job?
This unsettling and uncertain time might have also made you realise what brings the most meaning to you personally, and as a result, maybe this is the time to consider taking your career in that direction. It’s important to question what truly matters to you and whether your work aligns to this.

Try to go beyond simply looking at your company’s slogan and dive deeper into its values and mission. Your job should feel rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling. If you come to realise that your job doesn’t make you feel this way, now might be the time to find a role that better aligns to your own moral code.

4. Would you do as your employer does?
When organisations go through crises, their management strategies (or lack of) can expose a whole host of issues which may be of concern to you as an employee. Ask yourself:

  • If you were the CEO of your organisation, what would you be doing to manage the impacts of the pandemic?
  • Do you agree with your organisation’s internal and external response to what’s happening?
  • Has your organisation made you feel as supported as possible throughout this period?

Look at other brands to gauge how employers are approaching this differently and if you see something that you’re particularly impressed with, can you bring this into your own organisation or is it time to think about moving to greener pastures?

5. Is home working your preferred way of working?
It’s more than likely that the current situation will have forced you to work remotely, possibly for the first time ever. While some of us will already be looking forward to going back to our daily routines of commuting into the office to interact with our colleagues, for others, the flexibility of working from home is striking the right work-life balance.

As we transition through this period and the situation begins to normalise, think about whether you would like to keep some of this flexibility into your working life. Agile working comes in different forms, such as:

  • Job sharing (where two people do one job and split the hours)
  • Working remotely (which many of us are experiencing currently)
  • Part time (working fewer hours per week)
  • Compressed hours (working full-time but over fewer days)
  • Flexitime (having flexibility around the hours you work, usually around ‘core’ working hours)

Consider speaking to your boss about one or a combination of these agile working arrangements, or think about prioritising this in your next role.

6. Does your job play to your strengths?
Many people’s roles are shifting scope at the moment and you might have found yourself temporarily taking on new tasks and responsibilities. If this is the case for you, has it led you to realise that your skillset is wider than you thought? Ask yourself:

  • What am I naturally good at and do I get to demonstrate this in my current role?
  • Do I get the opportunity to upskill in my job and improve my work?
  • How well have I handled new tasks and responsibilities?

Asking these questions should illuminate whether there’s scope to take your current role in a direction that builds on your natural skillset or what you need to look for in your next role to ensure that you’re a better match.

7. Are your career goals still relevant?
The change that Covid-19 has brought to the world of work and continues to bring is likely to be lasting, as ways of working have shifted so dramatically. With this and your other career reflection in mind, you might have come to realise that your career goals have also, in fact, shifted.

Take this time to reassess where you want to take your career, starting by setting some short-term goals to achieve over the next 3 months. Some examples might include:

“In three months, I want to have learned how to use [a particular computer system] and use it day-to-day without needing support.”

“In three months, I want to have been to three different networking events and built my contact base on LinkedIn by [x] people.”

“In three months, I want to have started a new job which gives me more flexibility than my current job.”

More regular and short-term career planning will help you keep these goals in sight, ensure they are relevant to who and where you are in your life, and motivate you to achieve them.

Maintain self-reflection throughout your career

Make the most of having more time on your hands by addressing your professional life and where your career is now. Things will begin to normalise, but that doesn’t mean that every aspect of your working life has to go back to how it was before once this lockdown period is over. Mapping out the big picture of your career by asking yourself these questions above will help you maintain sight of what you want to be doing in your life and how you can stay satisfied and successful in your job for the long term.

If you’re considering your next step, get in contact with one of our expert recruitment consultants for a confidential chat about the career options available to you, or to access a host of resources for helping you adapt to the new way of working, visit our Inspire Me in the New Era of Work Hub. As your lifelong career partner, we are with you every step of the way and will be updating this site regularly with new guides, blogs and information to support you.

About this author

Roddy joined Hays in 1999 as a Recruitment Consultant. In 2012 he took over operational responsibility for Hays in Scotland, managing dedicated teams providing expert temporary and permanent recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions. From 2017, he has been the lead for Hays Personal & Executive Assistants business across the UK, providing strategic leadership to over 200 consultants.

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