“Recalculating,” as the GPS often tells us when we are driving, may be our best career strategy after a year of uncertainty.
Roadblocks or jams may lie ahead, but the route could be more scenic with twists and turns. Maybe another destination would even be better than the one we had planned.
Lindsey Pollak, author of “Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work,” discussed with Reuters how to adapt and thrive when life is unpredictable.
Q: Why did this image of a “recalculating” GPS resonate so much with you?
A: This image popped into my head last March. We were all on a path, and suddenly we weren’t on that path anymore. So I started to think about how we were all in our cars, with the GPS saying “recalculating.” That actually made me optimistic, because I realized there are always different ways to get to where you’re headed.
Q: What are the key strategies for tackling this new path?
A: There are five rules. Embrace creativity. Prioritize action. Control what you can. Know your non-negotiables. And ask for help, because you don’t have to go it alone.
Q: Why is mindset so important?
A: We are all inundated with negative information right now, because of the pandemic and social media. But that doesn’t really serve your goals. You have to focus on your life and your job search.
It’s really important to take care of yourself and tune out negativity. You have to believe a goal is possible, in order to move forward.
Q: The traditional career image is that of a “ladder,” but does that not really apply anymore?
A: Most people are tied to the idea that they have to move up or forward, but I wanted to bust that myth. Think of other images, like a “Ferris wheel,” which is always rotating; or a “portfolio” career, which includes a lot of different elements; or a “lattice” career, which can go in many directions.
Q: Why is defining one’s “personal story” so critical for job seekers?
A: You have your resume, but that only tells part of the story. Hiring managers might make their own assumptions. So you have to tell people how you want to be seen, and pull that together for them.
In terms of a LinkedIn profile, for instance, you need to write your own “headline,” or a statement at the top. That’s where you put your stake in the ground, and make sure it’s how you want to be seen.
In terms of a photo, dress as you would for the most important job interview of your life.
In terms of networking, many people are reluctant to reach out. But that’s why people are on LinkedIn. It doesn’t mean they’ll say yes to everything, but it’s an open invitation, and am amazing opportunity to connect with people who could support you.
Q: In this isolated era, has effective networking become a lot harder?
A: People don’t like to network because they think it’s asking for help. So offer help instead. “Is there anything I can do for you?” Network with other job seekers, too, because you can all help each other.
In a remote environment, networking is easier and harder at the same time. It’s harder because you can’t see people in person and meet up for coffee. But it’s easier because some people have more time and availability to make connections. I like to ask for short amounts of time. Many people will say no, but some will say yes, and it’s so helpful that it’s always worth the effort.
Q: How has the interviewing process been altered?
A. That’s probably the biggest change of all. Interviews are taking place remotely now, and a lot of that is going to stay. You have to get good at that; there’s just no way around it.
Get comfortable looking into the camera, practice with the technology, and make sure the background looks appropriate. These are absolutely learnable skills.
Q: What is your take on the job market?
A: I am hopeful about what lies ahead. But the burden is on the job seeker to do the work. You have to pivot, and reskill, and figure out how to manage your time and stress levels. None of this is easy, but the opportunities will come for people who want them.