As 2020 winds down, many of us are contemplating this question. For some, 2020 has been “the year that wasn’t”– budgets shrank, projects were canceled, and promotions didn’t happen. We lost valued clients and colleagues. I know it’s been personally disappointing to see some of the fantastic professionals I’ve placed in recent years lose their positions.
2020 has also been a year of intensity and change: grappling with major social justice questions, worrying about the health of loved ones, and navigating new work-from-home realities. As I look to the New Year, I’m feeling emotionally depleted, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m ready to start 2021 with a clean slate.
Before jumping ahead, it’s good to look back. After a professional setback, part of hitting the reset button is taking time to reflect on what happened and consider what can change moving forward. These are three lessons I’m taking from 2020 to help me come back even stronger next year.
Prioritize connection beyond a single client contact. It’s easy to get comfortable working with the same client contacts on every project. But when disruption occurs, your contact could be let go or change responsibilities– leaving you without a strong backup relationship. Think breadth and depth: proactively seek opportunities to build connections with multiple professionals on the same team and across the company. The same approach goes for companies within an industry. If you typically work with the same type of company within a single industry, consider how your experience can translate to companies in other industries.
Rethink PTO: it’s not just for summer vacation. When COVID hit, it felt like one fire drill after another. But after several months, it became clear we were running a marathon, not a sprint. Unfortunately, many of us had been moving at an unsustainable sprint pace, and it’s no surprise we’re now feeling exhausted and depleted. Even though we love giving our work 100%, it’s impossible to do so if we don’t take occasional breaks. But with vacations canceled and our work and personal lives blending together, we aren’t getting those needed reset moments. As hard as it is to admit this, I know my work quality began to suffer.
This year helped me appreciate the importance of requiring employee PTO usage, even if it’s just a short staycation. Managers can take the lead on this, creating a culture where employees who are “on break” are not hit with emails or pinged with questions, especially when they’re still at home. I’m also working on setting better boundaries. Nine times out of 10, I don’t need to race over to check email the moment I finish dinner, even when it’s tempting to do so.
Build stronger coworker relationships. What’s the number one thing I miss while working from home? My coworkers. I miss the camaraderie of our office – celebrating wins together, supporting one another through setbacks, and our casual conversations over coffee and lunch. I feel fortunate to have such strong relationships that have helped me navigate a challenging year. I’m also reminded how important it is to invest in these relationships and not take them for granted.
I’m grateful for our team’s efforts to stay in touch virtually and show appreciation for one another. It’s easy to take these relationships for granted, and 2020 has reminded me just how important it is to take the time for one another. Clients and big projects may come and go, but when we invest in strong relationships with our coworkers, these relationships will carry us far into the future.
A major professional setback can shake our confidence and sense of identity. Refocusing on key relationships and taking a mental break can help us come back even stronger.