We have heard about the “Great Resignation,” but it’s the “Great Contemplation” that has many of us on the edge of our seats, debating about what our next career step could, or should, be. Some 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in January 2022 and jobless claims for March 12, 2022 are at the lowest level since 1969, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more telling: this staggering number merely shows how many people actually left their jobs; it doesn’t account for the millions of others thinking about quitting.
With this contemplation comes the fear of the unknown. As someone who has endured rampant change, I want to offer women advice for their career journeys based on my own experiences. I am a team leader managing several dedicated professionals at Rasmussen University who guide alums in navigating the national employment landscape. I have also experienced my own change recently – as a co-owner of Cup N’ Saucer, a Sherburn, Minnesota-based restaurant that COVID forced to temporarily close and now has successfully reopened with a new business model.
COVID undoubtedly created a bigger burden for women in the workforce (vs. men) and wiped out many prior gains for us. For me personally, it enabled me to strike a better balance between serving the community and making valuable time for my family. Here are my six top tips which help ground me and you can use in navigating stressful times:
Don’t dismiss small goals.
Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. You don’t start training for a marathon by running 10 miles on day one. You need to set yourself up for success by setting and sticking to small, achievable goals. Whether it is personally or professionally, what starts as a small win or minor setback accumulates into something much more.
For example, if you want to start to explore new employment opportunities, consider blocking 10 minutes each morning to strategically apply to two new jobs. Rather than spending one afternoon submitting your resume to any open position from here to outer space, be thoughtful in setting small, realistic goals that will help you achieve your best end result. While it’s easy to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment, it is exactly those choices that will determine who you are and who you could be.
Make a plan.
I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get to my 5 a.m. CrossFit class. Am I a morning person? No. Am I motivated? Some might say so, but I believe I have clarity. We too often get caught up in ‘foggy notions’ about what we would like to do. I wish I could work out more. Or, I wish I could be more productive. What needs to happen is to take those general statements and turn them into concrete and actionable plans. We cannot leave our ambition to chance and just ‘hope’ to have the motivation to get it done. When you think through when, how and where you will execute your plan, you’re more likely to follow through.
Even though an unemployed person no longer has to log in at 9 a.m. for work, the most productive people will still maintain a daily schedule for job searching that might resemble your regular work hours. Creating as much structure as possible for your search will help you make the best decision when you do get that offer. For many, a routine helps avert stressful days, pessimistic thinking and uncertainty, even if the routine is a little lenient.
What is most important to you? Is it a flexible work schedule to accommodate a better work-life balance? Do you want to spend more time with your children and husband like I did? Have you been meaning to go visit your grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, but could never quite make enough time? Is there a place you want to go for vacation that you have been putting off? Now might be the time to seize these opportunities. Prioritizing family might help you gain new perspective and make a more informed decision on your next chapter professionally.
What fills your bucket?
Perhaps over the last two years you’ve lost touch with neighbors or friends that had been created through a community, non-profit or religious organization. Or maybe you’ve put off local social activities for too long, due to the pandemic or other dueling priorities? Identifying activities such as volunteering or being part of personal or professional association provides an outlet to refuel your tank and help you become more grounded. As an added bonus, you’ll likely end up doing some informal networking at the same time.
Reassess your skills/education.
For those who want to get into a new field, or need cross-skilling, consider going back to school to get your bachelor’s or master’s degree. Many professions like cyber and IT, AI and data analytics are growing fields where workers are in sharp demand. Taking a few courses might help you decide what’s a fit, as well as open new doors. If possible, you could consider attending a reputable, established online university, which enables you to spend more time with family while still getting the education you want for help with secure future opportunities.
Regardless of what path you take, it’s important to remember that no matter how you got to where you are today, you are the narrator of your own story. You control your own destiny. Determine what you want your next chapter to say; set small, achievable goals in a well-defined plan and embrace your journey.
This guest post was authored by Elizabeth Lintelman
Elizabeth Lintelman brings with her 20 years of experience in hiring, management and career development. She spent several years honing her skills in the retail, service and financial industries before launching her career in higher education with Rasmussen University 13 years ago, where she is now the Career Services Director of its parent company American Public Education Inc (APEI). Elizabeth holds her Bachelor degree in Marketing and Spanish from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management and her Masters of Business Administration from the University of Scranton. Elizabeth and her husband also own and operate a restaurant a southern Minnesota (which they won in an essay contest).