Evon Wood shares how working from home allowed her to re-evaluate her career development to utilize her strengths
The Wake-Up Call
As the pandemic spread across the country and I transitioned to a work from home status, I began to operate in a work world that I never would have chosen previously. Yes, I was one of those employees who could not imagine not going into an office five days a week, making sure that my executive saw me working hard every day (thus, proving how valuable I was to the organization).
A few months into my new work situation, however, and I realized that not only was I more productive than I have ever been in my career, I was also gaining a clarity I never knew about my strengths and where I truly excel. Being able to minimize distractions gave me more control over my workday and allowed me to focus on priorities and projects in a way that I would not have been able to in the past.
And just as critical, I took advantage of the flood of online training suddenly available from myriad resources, either playing the broadcasts while I completed my daily tasks or actually taking breaks and lunches (which I rarely did while working in-office) to fully engage in the sessions. With each passing day, I began to realize that I was not utilizing my strengths as I should be, and that that was a disservice to myself and a waste of my professional and intellectual skills and talents.
“Talent x Investment = Strength” ~ Tom Rath
Redeveloping My Career Plan
Each year, I evaluate my career roadmap and revise it as I have grown, developed, and attained past goals over the previous year. In fact, I had just completed this yearly review at the beginning of 2020. However, following insights gained throughout my time working during a global pandemic, I decided that another revision was most definitely in order. I have always found joy in taking a raw concept, breaking it up into its various parts, and crafting a path to successful completion – all while managing the critical flows of information along the way. This is my wheelhouse, where I am most fully able to utilize my core talents of organization, planning, and communication.
Observing and experiencing the waves of chaos that my organization and many others faced as the country (and the world) tackled an unprecedented pandemic event served as an unexpected catalyst for me to clarify how I could connect my strengths to a career path that would allow me to fully utilize them. Yes, before this revelation I had had opportunities to operate within my strengths (to varying degrees), but nothing with a consistent scope of execution that would propel me and my work to the next level of professional excellence. And that is the point where I was in my career. The point we all eventually reach, where the need to be “stretched” is a constant companion, driving us to look inward and prepare to move onward and upward.
“Keep moving forward. Looking backward is only for time travelers.” ~ Rachel O. Washington
Time to Move Forward
My career path is now focused on developing and growing in change management proficiency, which encompasses preparing, supporting, and helping individuals, teams, and organizations through the stages of organizational change. This is a perfect path for utilizing my strengths in the areas of project management, organizational initiatives, and internal communications, as well as allowing me to operate as an inspirational leader for employee engagement/development and workplace culture.
Benchmarks of my revised career roadmap for the next two years include goals of attaining two change management certifications (one has already been completed in June 2021), participating in an intensive, multi-day strategic internal communications workshop, applying to an executive leadership academy, and completing an internationally recognized mini-MBA program for senior administrators.
Undertaking this extreme redesign of my career path involved considerable thought and introspection over many months, with significant focus given to how I wanted to utilize my strengths and what that would look like for the near-term, as well as in the next 3-5 years of my career. I did not take the process lightly. Many steps involved a drastic rethinking of where I was currently and where I wanted to eventually be, including preparing to transition employers and envisioning what true professional happiness would look like for me.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
Life is Change. It Always Will Be.
Everyone’s experience during the pandemic (and, as much as we can say, post-pandemic) was unique to their situation, their career, and their stage of life. Some people were in a constant state of unease and could only focus on when things would “return to normal.” They eventually had to accept that in the strictest sense, there really is no normal, only life and how you choose to navigate it.
Others had a similar experience to mine – one where they learned more about themselves, what they want out of their careers, and how to operate at a higher, more fulfilling level going forward. If your pandemic journey led you to a similar crossroads as mine, I wholeheartedly encourage you as you take difficult steps to envision a different path for your career success.
I hope these tips from my own journey will aid you on yours.
1. Create and maintain a dynamic career roadmap
Review and update your career roadmap each year. Share it with your executive and ensure that they are aware of your career aspirations. Seek their buy-in via mentorship/coaching activities and company financial support for your professional development.
2. Invest in your ongoing development, whether your employer contributes or not
Do not let lack of company financial support stop your career progress. If they will not initially pay for courses/training/memberships, begin by negotiating for paid time off for professional development activities. Don’t let one “no” derail your career plans. Keep asking and keep moving forward!
3. Seek out opportunities to attain certifications for your competencies
Attaining a degree is great, but an accredited certification is industrywide proof that you can operate within your area(s) of expertise at an advanced (and often leadership) level. This is career gold. Spend it liberally!
4. Always nurture and grow your professional network
The pandemic removed all global boundaries, so do not let those old geographic restrictions hold for your network going forward. My own international connections have been invaluable to me over the past few years – and I have seen no diminishing of their importance or impact. Maintaining an international understanding of the world is a key component of a well-rounded professional.
5. Be open to change in all its forms
After all, change is the only “constant” in life. Embrace it. Learn from it. It is not your adversary; it is your teacher. Grow from it.
“Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
It Wasn’t the Pandemic, Not Really
I began this article by saying that the pandemic helped me to discover the best way to utilize my strengths. That is both true and not true at the same time. Yes, the pandemic created a situation that enabled (or possibly forced) me to see areas of career dissatisfaction, and where I could redesign my career path to better focus my talents on activities I am truly passionate about.
However, I believe the real catalyst for change was always there inside of me. I had simply reached a point where the status quo was no longer enough, and even if it meant a complete overhaul of a long-held vision, I was finally ready to make that change. No one has a crystal ball that will definitively forecast the future, but today, I feel secure in the knowledge that I am now on the right path for this particular time in my career.
Can you say the same? If the answer is no, the question then becomes… what are you going to do about it?
Clifton Strengths: Try the StrengthsFinder assessment to help you uncover your inherent and developed strengths.
7-step Career Roadmap: Make sure you are on the right path for your career success.
Career Roadmap Template: Map out your career progress and update your path each year.