COVID-19 pandemic has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, including work. Millions have been laid off due to the economic downturn, and many companies have had to tighten their budgets in other areas, freezing pay, promotions, and hiring, meaning the competition for new opportunities is fierce—when those opportunities exist at all. No matter your situation, you may feel like your career growth has stalled out.
Maybe your company delayed the promotion you had your eye on or isn’t giving out raises, or you fear you won’t be able to land that new job that would have been the next step on your career path. But career growth doesn’t always mean a promotion or a new job. It also means building new skills, gaining new experiences, and building up and strengthening your network.
Here are some tips for professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic and surrounding economic downturn. They can all be done remotely, and they’ll all set you up for success once the job market rebounds and company budgets recover.
Related: How to Overcome Burnout and Stay Motivated
Identify How You’d Like to Grow
The first step toward professional development is figuring out what you’re working toward. Take some time to consider where you want to go in your career. What’s your next step once the economy improves? Do you want to move up within your current company? Or is a role at another company a better next step for you? If you’re unemployed, what do you want your next job to be? Is there an aspect of your current or previous roles that you want to focus more prominently on?
Once you’ve clarified your goals, figure out what skills you’ll need to develop or strengthen, what types of experience you need to gain, and what connections will be helpful to cultivate before you make your next move.
Get Innovative and Pitch New Ideas
If there are no stretch assignments on the horizon, you might try to create your own by thinking about ways to improve your current company. You might propose a new program that will help fill a gap (but keep in mind that because of the economic downturn, companies may be hesitant to say yes to large, expensive new projects) or share your ideas for streamlining a current process. Identifying problems and proposing solutions is an essential skill that not everyone has—but leaders embody this regularly.
Grow and Maintain Your Network
Having strong connections with the people you work with is a must for career growth. It can help position you for future promotion or get you in on that new project in another department. Your colleagues might also know people hiring elsewhere or have insight that can aid your professional development.
You can build new relationships by taking advantage of programs or tech tools, such as Donut, that some companies have in place to make it easier to connect with other employees even if you’re all working remotely. Otherwise, do some research to see which coworkers you’d like to connect with—maybe you have a common professional or personal interest—and reach out yourself.
Attend Virtual Networking Events
If you previously frequented happy hour networking events or professional conferences—or even if you didn’t—go virtual. Most organizations that sponsored networking events have moved to virtual events. And some use Zoom’s breakout feature to help attendees interact, which means they can still be a great way to meet people.
Even if the event only features one speaker with no interaction, it can help you grow your skills or understanding of an industry trend. You can find these networking events through professional groups or sites such as Eventbrite, Facebook, Linked In, or Meetup.