Gen X has left the building and Boomers are now working from home. Due to COVID-19, a generation of mentors are no longer in the office and that isn’t going to change, even in our post-vaccine world. Researchers revealed that 21% of Gen X and Baby Boomers say they want to continue working from home full-time after the pandemic. Executives at the beginning of their career are on the steepest part of their learning curve, meaning they benefit most from visibility and exposure to senior level work by shadowing their boss. So how can they keep their careers on track when that opportunity is less available? Executive coaches, psychologists, and business leaders are offering strategies for young leaders to take charge of their careers, and reach their full potential.
1. Find a new mentor
Post-pandemic, you might not be able to get the same amount of face time with your boss. While your traditional mentor is no longer around, you might be able to replace them with a new guiding hand. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, which means that it doesn’t need to be your line manager. Work psychologist Felicity Lee of Resident Coach says that a great mentor can inspire, share wisdom, be a sounding board and help fast track a career by providing access to other stakeholders. “Use your own company resources, your network and social media like LinkedIn to identify possible mentors,” says Lee. To choose a mentor, workers should look for a gap where they are missing experience and find an appropriate mentor who can guide them.
Executive Coach Ellie Eckhoff of ClearRock says new execs shouldn’t limit themselves to one mentor. They should instead create a mentor circle. “With today’s global, multi-cultural, and team-based work environments, no one mentor can provide the advice, exposure, and opportunities essential to support your growth,” says Eckhoff. "The value of a diverse mentor circle can help manage the challenges of your current role, while preparing yourself to take on more responsibility.” For a developmental network, Eckhoff suggests a Sponsor, who advocates you to others; a Coach, who helps push you forward; a Peer mentor; a Reverse mentor (a junior who can keep you connected to trends) and Trusted advisor who can simply be one of your friends.
2. Learn a new skill
If you want to take the next step up the career ladder, you should look at where you can upskill, says Michael Hammelburger, financial consultant and CEO of The Bottom Line Group. “This is critical to reflect how eager you are to pursue lifelong learning and how you used your time well during this [quarter],” he says. You could enroll in a master’s degree or look for other training courses that can create more opportunities for your career, such as coding if you work in the finance industry.
You don’t need to wait for your HR department to enroll you in a course. Forbes Communications Council member Amanda Ponzar says you can expand your knowledge for free. You can demonstrate how you want to learn by reading articles, watching Ivy League courses on YouTube or starting a blog. “If you need help creating goals, look at the skills needed for jobs you would like to apply for,” says Ponzar.
3. Manage your manager
When your boss was in the office, you always knew when it was the best time to approach him or her, whether after her first coffee or at the end of a staff meeting. In a virtual world, you need to understand your boss’s new work habits. Take the lead and find out whether they prefer to be contacted by email or WhatsApp before you ambush them with a Zoom call. You need to replicate what worked in the office in the virtual world, says Dave Collins, CEO of Californian interactive training company Oaks + Reeds. “If it is your monthly one-on-one where you set goals and talk about how to achieve them, you might find that doing them over video call is more fruitful than doing them over email,” says Collins.
4. Grow outside of your company
If you are not getting the experience you need in your company, you could volunteer for a nonprofit organization in order to build new skills, increase your network and help make a positive impact in your community. Contact a non-profit organization that inspires you, or visit websites such as Catchafire and All For Good that can help connect you to volunteer opportunities. You can often use the skills you already have such as public affairs, sales, and marketing through skills-based volunteering or pro bono work. “These experiences boost your resume and LinkedIn profile as well,” says Amanda Ponzar.
5. Take initiative
When you’re working alone in the office, it’s the perfect time to show initiative. But how do you do this without getting fired? Tamara Myles, author of The Secret To Peak Productivity says you should find out what is a priority. And if you are not sure what you should work on and why, ask. “Without role clarity, employees tend to work on projects they can only assume is correct and that can lead to misalignment and disconnection,” says Myles. However, you can also show you are ready to be stretched. “Start by adopting an attitude of curiosity, ask questions to improve insight, and challenge assumptions when appropriate,” she adds.
6. Boost your brand
Corporations may be known for brand building, but successful individuals do this too. If you don’t have the right brand you may find that you miss out on opportunities or get passed over for promotion. This is one area you can work on without the help of your boss. US leadership coach JimiBeth Meyers says you should do a gap analysis that looks at how you are seen by others and how you need to be viewed to get the job you want. Meyers had a client who was passed over for a regional role because it was thought they lacked an enterprise mindset, only focused on the needs of their own team and wasn’t a strategic thinker. Meyers helped her client rebrand himself through how he communicated. She highlighted three key areas that were holding him back (enterprise mindset, strategic thinking, and inclusive management) and made sure he referenced them when he communicated with senior members of staff. Within one quarter he was placed on the next promotion cycle. “Create three key terms that reflect what you need to get your dream job and then repeat those worlds in all of your communications – whether it’s meetings, emails or reports,” she says. While your boss can give you guidance, the best person to drive your career forward is you.