“Before Covid-19, I was on a career plan to move into a Vice President role in the next 18 months or so. I knew I had more to do to secure the position, but I was doing great work, growing the right relationships, and my last performance review confirmed I was on track. Now, everything has changed. Working remotely, I can’t just stop by someone’s desk or easily get a few minutes with senior leaders — who all seem to be in crisis mode, so I hate to bother them with career discussions. I know I’m lucky to just have a job. Should I accept that my career aspirations are on hold?”
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre
Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.
Let me start by saying, you’re not alone. So many of us are scratching our head and trying to figure out what to do next. And yes, you are fortunate to be employed, but it can still be frustrating to feel that your hard earned career momentum has been lost. The good news is, your aspirations don’t need to come to an end — you just have to adjust your strategy.
Demonstrate leadership through a crisis.
You’ve put in the work to show you can be a leader — now’s the time to prove that you can lead through a crisis. Think about this: in the future, when other leaders in your organization are trying to assess whether you are ready to be a VP, they are going to use their past experiences with you to determine if they can picture you being successful in this new and expanded role. So help them picture it. Stay open minded, stay innovative, and practice as much self-care as you can to help you stay sane (which I know is near impossible for those of us with kids at home, or those who are worried about the health and safety of our family and friends). None of this is easy; and that’s exactly the point — leading through a crisis is very challenging, which is why it’s such a critical opportunity to show your capability and dedication.
Create a communication plan.
In order to put the first point into action, you need to become thoughtful about your talking points. Think through how you will communicate to others about how you are leading through this challenging time. For example, when people ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are leading. Tell them about how you view the complexities of moving to a virtual environment overnight, how it has impacted the team, and how it has changed your business. And then share with them exactly what your approach has been to lead through this challenge to get the best outcomes possible. As people get to hear how you solve problems, it will build your personal brand even further.
Connect virtually, but with a purpose.
Although I can imagine that few of us really want one more virtual meeting on our calendar, don’t be afraid to reach out to sponsors and mentors and ask them for a few minutes of either coaching around a business issue or a discussion about leading during this crisis. Share stories, support each other with ideas, and most important, don’t be afraid to ask them for help. If you are going to a sponsor, start by explaining how you are approaching leading through this crisis, and then ask for their advice on what you should be considering. What are you missing? How are they approaching this challenge? This meeting approach not only gets you coaching on how to be a strong crisis leader, it also gives you a chance to show your strategic thinking capability.