Change of Plans: Tips for Adjusting Your Career Development Plan in the Wake of COVID

Career Development Plan

As a professional, a career development plan is an essential tool for mapping your goals, tasks, and strengths in the workplace. It can help you look ahead to new roles, and can be an effective guide to staying on top of your current responsibilities. However, like virtually everything else, both professionally and personally, the effects of COVID-19 have disrupted plans both day-to-day and long-term. Here’s how to maintain your core professional goals in the midst of pandemics and quarantines, even though so much uncertainty looms.

What Is a Career Development Plan?

A career development plan is a detailed list of what you want out of your professional life, a combination of short-term and long-term goals. The plan can include timelines if you’re new to the professional world, or, if you’re established, it can be a helpful tool to make sure you’re on the right track. The plan can encompass a variety of outlooks, or stepping stones to the level where you’d prefer to be. Do you want to move up? Are your goals being met in your current position? Is your company growing in the ways you expected when you took on your role? Rather than a simple five-year plan, this type of goal-setting forces you to examine yourself as an executive or as an employee, and takes a honest look at the good and the bad as your career develops.

You Haven’t Changed; The World Has Changed

You may be working from home, or in a socially-distanced office. The workload might be less, or it might be much more, with limited resources, depending on your career. Or, you’re hunting for a new career within the confines of COVID-19. However, even with those challenges, it’s important to know that you’re still employed, or that you’re still a valuable candidate. The road to where you want to be might have blocks or detours, but you’re still working within professional environments, and having a career development plan gives out an outline and frame of reference for the work you want to do. While we all have to adapt to this still-unfamiliar world, your core values can remain intact. Is your career growing, even when everything else is stalled? Your plan should be flexible and account for changes, like the current pandemic, or unforeseen circumstances that could appear in the future.

How to Deal With Unexpected Career Roadblocks

While your goals are still prevalent, you do have to adapt to these outside changes. For example, if your goals include a reliance on face-to-face meetings with clients, you’ll have to maintain the goal with email or video conferencing. If your career is in an industry that’s more negatively affected by COVID-19, your goals may have to be modified, if not altogether changed. Let’s say your career is in advertising. Your clients may be advertising less or cutting costs due to their business being harmed by the outbreak. Therefore, if your goal is providing advertising ideas to a variety of companies, you’ll have to focus your energy on the clients who are still looking for your services. The plan hasn’t changed, but the reality means you have to be flexible.

Add new skills to your plan.

In the face of a stagnant economy and limited mobility, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. However, especially if your workload is minimized during this time, it’s an opportunity to reassess your career development plan, and possibly add new goals and skills to your list. Can you use downtime to strengthen the existing skills you have? Are you able to use online resources to learn more about your industry, and potentially find new avenues you’d like to discover? Your plan should be open to potential changes, even in the best times. During a pandemic, it can be helpful to reflect and revise on your skill set whenever possible. For example, is your company going more digital since the onset of the pandemic? How are similar companies managing? Your assessment of these changes could lead you to new areas you’d like to explore, and therefore, your career development plan will change accordingly.

Assess how your role has changed/could change.

Are you doing more work during the pandemic? Is there a possibility your role will change once the situation improves? A good career development plan should leave room for both positive and negative outcomes. Have you had to develop new skills to cope with a company’s limited income? Is your career goal equipped to handle having to look for a new position if the situation goes further south? Confronting these realities might not be pleasant, and seeing them written out alongside rewarding goals and plans might appear antithetical to the idea of development. But being wary enough to look at highs and lows on a personal level can help you withstand very real negative changes that could be part of an ongoing COVID-19 lifestyle.

Manage short-term goals.

Your short-term goals are very likely more affected than your long-term goals. As grim as it is, your company’s short-term goals might be just staying afloat during an unprecedented pandemic. Therefore, keeping on top your own goals might be in the same vein: keeping yourself as valuable and as hard-working as you can be, to weather the storms along with your company. This isn’t meant to be pessimistic, or suggest that you do the bare minimum to stay viable. Your short-term goals might have to be completely redrawn, depending on how many changes your industry is going through.

Look ahead to long-term goals.

However, even with no end to the pandemic in sight, your long-term goals might oddly be more optimistic. If you want to move up with your company, or want to develop better skills for future opportunities, planning your long-term career goals can nicely coincide with the eventual end of this pandemic. If you’re looking for a new career path, you might have to settle for a temporary job on your way to your ultimate goal; or if a promotion was in sight, you may have to accept your current role as your company manages through this rough economy. When COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, more opportunities will appear as life gets back to normal. Maintaining optimism will help you focus in the now, and give you hope for a better future.

What if I Need to Completely Overhaul My Plan?

Worst-case scenarios are possible; it’s the reality of our world. If you’re laid off, or if you sense your company might not weather the storms, you’ll have to completely reassess your plan. This sounds troubling and scary, but it’s a necessity. Where do you want to go? What careers are still viable when yours is stalled? Have your wants and values changed since you first wrote your plan? A complete overhaul may seem daunting, but it will help you take your plan detail by detail, and work toward either new needs, or a new plan that is much more fluid in challenging times. Take a deep breath, and focus on what you want to accomplish. It’s always a good idea to not rest on a preconceived set of goals; being forced to revise them isn’t easy, but you’ll get in the habit of doing so when times are better, in anticipation of problems and changes in the future.

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