The past year has been difficult, leaving many of us feeling unmotivated, bored, unfulfilled, overworked, and underappreciated. Those of us lucky enough to have stayed employed have been asked to blur the lines between home and work. We have been asked to pivot without notice and figure out ways to deliver on commitments without the normal tools in our kit. We have been asked to pause work that is just about complete in order to allow others to pivot appropriately. We have been asked to see our colleagues only through video calls. And we have been asked to brace for the worst. The past year of our lives has been filled with anxiety and a series of unexpected challenges.
A type of high comes with conquering those challenges, and many of us have made it through the pandemic by relishing those wins – the accomplishments, the realization that we were able to make such significant changes to the way we do our jobs and still achieve success, and the knowledge that with focus and effort, we can do those jobs just as well as we did before. We figured it out. And we high-fived (virtually, of course) along the way.
Now we appear to be entering a new phase: “COVID-19 career rut.” A path forward is in view – where things are starting to return to a new normal. Business is moving closer to the way it was done in early 2020. And while this return was expected to create joy and happiness and motivation, it sometimes is actually having the opposite effect. We are starting to feel the letdown from the high, and it has us asking ourselves what’s next.
To fight the feelings of dejectedness, it can be helpful to identify and write down a list of things that cause good and not-so-good feelings and then separate list items into things that are related to COVID-19 and things that are ongoing. Even the COVID-19 list might include some good things. This exercise should enable you to do three things:
- Identify those items on the list that are temporary and likely will be eliminated from the list in due time.
- Identify those good things that can be kept on the list, even if they are due to COVID-19 (for some, an example might be less travel).
- Focus closely on the list items that bring joy.
Once you identify the causes of both negative and joyful feelings, they can be discussed and addressed. Perhaps the list will reveal a desire for in-person interaction with clients and co-workers. If so, it can help to schedule some meetings, go into the office, have lunch with colleagues, or have dinner with team members. Having these interactions – or even getting them on the calendar for when everyone is able to meet – could help you feel refreshed, recharged, and motivated.
While this exercise is a great first step, some people might make a leap to drastic change. Much of the advice about getting out of a COVID-19 career rut comes from articles and guidance on how to get out of the rut by seeking a new job at a new company, doing a new thing, or seeking a new passion. As the job market opens back up, people might be looking to make a move. But there are other ways to get out of the rut without making career decisions that might be catastrophic for those who think they can only look outward instead of inward to get back on track. People could make life-changing decisions with all of the fog of COVID-19 clouding their decision-making about their career. It is like going grocery shopping when you are hungry – if you do, you are left with the consequences of making bad, unhealthy decisions.