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Pandemics: When Transitioning Executives Can Only Follow

How COVID-19 Has Impacted My Search Process

Hello, my name is Heidi and I have control issues. Like all of my fellow Type A personalities, our willingness to step up, take charge and drive forward has helped us achieve successful careers. Last fall, when I moved from a job that did not serve me to seek a new opportunity, that Type A make-a-plan-and-work-it approach drove me forward through the uncertainty. The economy was strong, companies were hiring and recruiters were searching for qualified candidates. (Read about that experience here.) But COVID-19 has changed the landscape for the time being, so how does one transition in the midst of a global pandemic?

Time

Like you, I’ve spent decades rising before the sun and working long into the evening. I’ve planned my life around work functions and travel, stepped away from the table during meals, responded to emails in the bathroom (hey, I dare you to admit you have never done the same!), canceled personal plans, worked on vacation, and checked emails on my phone first thing in the morning and just before I rested my head on the pillow at night. My friends are the same way. The great thing about that is never having to explain the need to “take this call really quick” or justify asking for “two seconds to finish this email.” The downside, however, is that we enable each other’s unhealthy behavior. My time in Charlotte was difficult and very isolating (in many ways it prepared me to shelter-in-place) and since returning to Atlanta in January, my personal and professional outlook had been far more positive. Lunches and drinks with former colleagues and professional contacts, networking events, coffee with recruiters – so much activity brought a feeling of progress to my job search.

All of my networking landed me a few consulting clients and offers of jobs (still searching for the right fit, however).  And then the pandemic hit the States. Clients put projects on hold. Many companies have suspended hiring. I now find myself (like you) trying to navigate a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis during transition.

Surrender?

My instinct was to dig into my current plan and hold on for dear life. However, I quickly recognized that there is no way to call the shots in this situation. This virus has the entire world locked down, sidelined and wondering when we can go back to normal. The verdict is, no one knows. Not the leaders of nations, the CEOs of companies, the heads of the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. We are all at the mercy of an invisible enemy and that enemy is not sharing its timetable. While ordinary life may be replaced by sheltering-in-place, that doesn’t mean we need to surrender and throw-in-the-towel until it’s all over. Quite the opposite, actually.

Action

So what’s an executive in transition to do during this crisis? Let go of all the things we cannot control – and right now, that’s almost everything. There’s no way to know how long our world will be shut down or what life will look like when it reopens for business. The toll to the economy – global, national and local – and the job market are unknowns. How much additional time will our transition take given the pandemic’s impact? It’s anyone’s guess right now. What I do know is that opportunities still exist and will continue to exist because there will ALWAYS be a need for leaders, no matter the industry. I’m preparing myself for the future by controlling what I can, taking advantage of the time at home and staying positive about life post-pandemic. Wondering how you navigate transitioning while sheltering-at-home?

  • Review your financials. Even if you audited them after your transition began, do it again. How much money do you have to live off of and how long will that last? Talk with your financial advisor so they are aware of your situation and can help you understand what other assets you can access if needed. Are there any additional expenses you can reduce or eliminate?
  • Speak with recruiters. Get their perspective on hiring within your industry. Many companies are still hiring, so keep watch for position openings that match your criteria.
  • Network – virtually. Reach out to former colleagues, contacts working for employers you are interested in and industry friends and schedule virtual coffee or happy hour meetings to say hello, see how they are faring and ask them to keep you in mind if they learn of open positions.
  •  Focus on yourself and your family. This rare time where everyone is forced to slow down (unless you are one of the amazing first responders, healthcare workers and government officials working tirelessly on the front lines of this pandemic) gives you permission to focus on caring for your children, teaching them their school lessons, reading a book, taking long walks (while practicing social distancing) and living at a slower pace. Take advantage of this time and find ways to truly enjoy it.
  •  Stay active. Even if you are under a shelter-at-home order, you can remain active. Many fitness studios are offering virtual classes, go for a walk or run in your neighborhood or chase the kids around the yard. Focusing on fitness will make you feel better and help keep your mental outlook positive.
  •  Find ways to laugh. In a 24/7 news society, we can absorb more trauma inducing stories in a day than most generations did in a lifetime. I pulled the plug on sensational journalism and limited myself to trustworthy sources like the CDC, WHO and Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
  • I steer clear of political rants. I scroll past 90% of the posts in my social media feeds and only stop if something is funny. Honestly, the creative ways people are keeping themselves entertained during lock-down can be hysterical.
  • Volunteer. So many organizations are short-handed and need volunteer resources to fulfill their mission. If you are healthy, reach out to local food banks, schools and animal shelters to find out how you can help.
  • Make a to do list. You know all those home tasks you never had time for before? Guess what? You have time now! Tackle those projects to give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Together

No matter where we live in this big, amazing world, we are all fighting the same enemy and experiencing similar challenges. Those of us that were in transition prior to the pandemic can be of help to those newly transitioning as a result of this global crisis. We can share our experiences, give helpful advice and serve as a sounding board when others are frightened, frustrated or disheartened. While transition in itself can be emotionally isolating, the majority of us are physically isolated as well, so it’s more important than ever that we reach out to, and lean on, others. Control what you can and let go of the rest. Look to the future with hope. Our job right now is to keep putting one foot in front of the other until we come out on the other side. We are in this together and will get through this together.  We’ve got this.

Stay well.

Heidi can be found in GatedTalent, or on Linkedin.  You’ll find other recent blogs by Heidi here.  To learn how GatedTalent is helping executives and recruiters during this period, read our blog here.

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