The 4 Ways To Survive (+ thrive) In The Post Covid Work Environment - Melanie Schilling
The 4 Ways To Survive (+ thrive) In The Post Covid Work Environment

Written by Mel Schilling

Melanie Schilling is an Australian specialist in human behaviour and performance. She has built a 20 year career as a therapist, business consultant and leadership coach for high performing people. A thought leader in Courage and Confidence, Mel draws on her background in psychology, as well as stage and screen performance, to ensure her speaking and consulting engagements are highly informative, actionable (and always entertaining!)

August 13, 2020

“Stop being that nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood … There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Lois P. Frankel, Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office

Thanks to Frankel’s edgy work at the turn of the 21st Century, we learned to give our Nice Girl Within a good slap, to stand up, step out and stake claim on our careers.  We started to realise that the quiet, polite, little voice was rarely heard at the boardroom table and that being ‘seen and not heard’ was a sure-fire career killer.

We learned to Woman-Up if we wanted to get what we wanted from our careers.

A decade later, we began building on Frankel’s ideas with advice from the likes of Sheryl Sandberg who told us to Lean In, to create our own seat at the table (or build our own bloody table if we couldn’t find one to fit).  

“Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Since 2000, we have been gifted with 2 decades of wisdom from women who survived the Sexual Revolution and passed on their lessons to enable us to thrive in our careers.  We have had the privilege of standing on their shoulders and gratefully avoiding some of the mistakes they made, all in the name of progress.

But now, the rules have changed again.  In fact, thanks to Covid-19, the entire nature of the ‘workplace’ is changing.  And rapidly.

Structures, routines, norms and expectations are being replaced by a greater need for agility, resilience and a new brand of (virtual) visibility.

As the new workplace continues to evolve, we need to add a new layer of intelligence to our career armour.  Yes, we know we need courage and confidence, we need to ask for our needs to be met and we need to believe in our worth.  

But now, we need an additional set of career skills to take us through the next evolution and allow us to thrive in the new normal.

What Got You To This Point Will NOT Get You To The Next

You need to learn to ROAR!

Resilience

Outward focus

Adaptability

Re-learning

So, how do you awaken the lion within and nail the post-Covid work environment?

RESILIENCE

We are all experiencing knock-downs, disappointments, lost opportunities and career kicks-in-the-guts at the moment.  What will define our post-Covid career identity is how we deal with these challenges and importantly, how we bounce back.

As the ancient Japanese proverb says “Nana korobi, ya oki” which means “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”  It’s about choosing to never give up hope and to always strive for more. It means that your focus isn’t on the reality in front of you, but on a greater vision that may not be reality yet.

Research has shown that the best ways to cultivate resilience and ensure its sustainability is though positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback (psychologytoday.com)

Your most powerful resilience tool is your command over your thinking patterns.  Our lives are dictated by the stories we tell ourselves, and this is especially relevant during a crisis.  It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of ‘why me?’ or “it’s not fair’ but it’s your ability to check yourself and reframe your thinking that will lead you back toward optimism and give you the emotional strength to bounce back.

Imagine you are a rubber band that has been sitting in the sun for days.  Pretty dried out, rigid, fragile and not very flexible!  What would happen if I stretched you? SNAP.  This is what can happen during a crisis – our resilience muscle is under-used and becomes stagnant.  Now, imagine massaging a whole bottle of olive oil into that rubber band (in this case, you are the rubber band and optimism is the oil!).  STREEEEEETCH.

So, your first job is to listen to your thoughts.  Challenge your negative or unhelpful thinking patterns, reframe them with more optimistic ideas and beliefs, and better still, start thinking of yourself as a ‘Covid Survivor’.  MOODKIT is a great app to help you monitor and challenge your thinking patterns. 

OUTWARD FOCUS

Now, this one may make me unpopular with the introverts … but I’m going to suggest that now, more than ever, we need to be directing our attention outwards.  Given remote working practices and the upsurge of the virtual meeting, our visibility has taken a back seat.  One thing we know, as women in the workplace, is that our visibility is one of our keys to success.

The research has shown consistently over the decades that men are more comfortable (and therefore competent) at self promotion than women.  Men are more likely to put themselves forward for opportunities they perceive as outside their expertise and as the now famous Hewlett Packard research found, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them (hbr.org)

Now that Covid has thwarted our opportunities for chance meetings with power brokers in the lift or tea room at the office, we need to make proactive moves to stay visible, relevant and in-demand.  

How do we do this?  Through assertive, considered, confident communication.

  1. Speak up.  Don’t be a silent passenger in the next phase of your company’s future.  Sure, many of your meetings may be via video or phone call, but treat them exactly as you would an in-person meeting.  Attend to your grooming, your posture, your language and your energy.  Speak up early whenever possible and be sure to ask smart, relevant questions.  Be involved, show your enthusiasm and support the ideas of others.  And importantly, don’t just share information, find the courage to share opinions.  
  2. Constantly scan your environment for opportunities to stand out.  Is there a topical issue you know something about?  Write a blog or create a video about it.  Heard about a new project coming up?  Develop a business case about your unique skills and fit for the role – put yourself forward.  See an opportunity for collaboration?  Set up a working party and drive the change.
  3. Think strategically about what you want to achieve over the next 6-12 months.  Consider your current and prospective network and start (virtually) surrounding yourself with the right people.  Can you volunteer to contribute to a project that key people are working on?  What about offering your skills to support a mentor in the achievement of their goals?  Think about how you can make others look good and use this to leverage yourself into new, more visible opportunities.

ADAPTABILITY

Change is one of the few constants in our lives and during the Pandemic, it is rapid, unpredictable and ambiguous.  Uncertainty can be one of the key triggers for anxiety so it’s critical to have strategies in place to accept and adapt to change.

The first step is to reflect – are you clinging to the past?  Are you fighting against the way things are and wishing they were otherwise?  Are you getting caught up in your old goals that no longer have the opportunity to come to fruition?  Are you telling yourself “but … this is not how it is supposed to be”?

The longer you dwell in this mode of operating, the longer you will be battling with stress and anxiety.  This is no longer relevant and frankly, it’s a form of self sabotage.

Once you realise where you sit in relation to acceptance of the current reality, it’s time to adapt.  A great way to do this is by zoning in on the BENEFITS to you.  What is the up-side of the new way of working and living?  What new possibilities are presented now that traditional obstacles have been removed?  

You don’t have to look far to see some sensational examples of people and businesses pivoting their focus in reaction to Covid.  The fashion houses that now make face masks, the shampoo companies that try their hand at manufacturing hand sanitiser and the countless examples of bricks and mortar businesses that have transformed to online entities.  And of course, who can overlook the monumental growth of Zoom – from December of last year to Zoom’s peak usage in April 2020, daily users have increased from 10 million to 300 million.  In dollar terms, that translates to CEO and founder Eric Yuan adding an extra US$8 billion to his net worth over the same period – now enjoying a US$12.2 billion fortune.  (www.bosshunting.com.au)

So this is your opportunity to find your Zoom Moment.  What obstacles does the Pandemic remove from your career path?  What new possibilities are emerging?  What new career streams or directions can you now see?

RELEARNING

One of the trickiest parts of transformation is unlearning.  Changing habits, breaking patterns and undoing years of programming takes a good dose of self awareness, discipline and persistence.

Before you can relearn the new ways of your work life, you need to let go of ‘the way things have always been’.

At the simplest end of the scale, this may be about unlearning how meetings are conducted.  Perhaps your company has typically run meetings in a relaxed fashion with open discourse and organic discussion about the issues.  Due to the in-person nature of the meetings, this ran smoothly and got great results.  But now that meetings are conducted via video, things need to be more structured.  It’s now about being ‘muted’ during presentations and saving your questions until the end, it’s about showing your enthusiasm nonverbally and contributing to group chats.  To be an effective team member now, you need to unlearn the old ways of participating in meetings before you can grasp the new way.

Many organisations have had to completely restructure, rebrand or refocus their strategy in order to survive.  This has had a trickle-down effect on career opportunities and has meant redundancies, pay-cuts and enforced leave for many employees.  In this case, it may mean unlearning an entire career in order to make room for a new one, or at least letting go of aspects of a career skill-set in order to focus on something new.

So consider your job as it was 6 months ago.  What specific skills or habits do you need to unlearn in order to make room for your new career to emerge?

It’s Your Time To ROAR

It’s not about being Wonder Woman or pretending that everything is ok.  

Because it’s not.  

Our world is upside-down and it’s an unprecedented time for stress and personal hardship.  This is not the time to be a nice girl because nice girls are going to be left behind.

ROARing is about tackling the Pandemic, and its impact on your career, with intelligence, emotional fortitude and insight.  It’s about being smart and opportunistic, it’s about extracting the lessons and seeking out the opportunities.  

It’s about being you, only bolder.

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