"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
If nothing else, 2020 taught us how to creatively "go on holiday." Friends of mine pitched a tent in their yard, and although they used their home's "ablution facilities," they were disciplined enough to cook on a little camping stove for five days.
I'm bad like that. Camping isn't my thing. But going on holiday definitely is my thing. And if, like me, you're a pet owner, you'll know how much trouble we'll go to in order to find the perfect boarding kennels for our pets. Or the best house-cum-pet-sitter in town – possibly in the world.
Thanks to the pandemic, our carefully planned April holiday turned out to be a non-event. Our country, South Africa, was firmly in lockdown, with no internal or external travelling allowed. And as we weren't going anywhere, Kaiser (my late Rottweiler) wasn't going anywhere either.
And while I felt a little "hard done by" (by life, the universe and everything) because our safari had been postponed, someone I know (and appreciate) had a struggle of a different kind.
Tatjana manages the boarding kennels (or "dog cabanas" as she calls them) that Kaiser used to go to. She doesn't just manage a kennel. Tatjana has always made it her business to pay attention to the pet owners and to get to know them well. So she doesn't just take care of your pet – she loves it, spends time with it, and makes it feel "at home."
Not long before the lockdown started, the owner of the pet lodge purchased a second pet-boarding business. Tatjana was going to run that, too, but on a profit-share basis. This was a prospect that excited her.
But while some of us were in the fortunate position of being able to work remotely, Tatjana wasn't one of them. Pets can't "board" remotely. I saw her Facebook posts, "heard" the devastation in her "voice."
What would have been a good year, with great career prospects, turned into a year of little income and much uncertainty.
However, while in lockdown, Tatjana enrolled for two short courses in different animal training and psychology disciplines. The second course was specifically about helping dog owners to understand the underlying psychology of so-called "difficult" dogs – and how to cope with them.
Tatjana shared on Facebook that she had enrolled on the course and her post was instantly flooded with comments. Almost every person asked if they could book in advance, or said they'd be happy to pay her extra to do one-on-one sessions at home with them! Some even asked if they could pay a deposit to secure her services!
While the pet lodge has reopened, business is still extremely slow. The purchase of the second pet lodge fell through. So now that opportunity for Tatjana has disappeared.
But she is fully booked until mid-January, doing personal consultations to help people with their "difficult" dogs. What could have been a complete disaster has become an opportunity for Tatjana to explore a different side of a career she loves. Taking care of animals in one way or another.
Not all careers that go flat do so as the result of a major event such as the pandemic. A person's career can lose its "fizz" because it has become boring, they've lost interest, they're not advancing as fast as they expected, or their soft skills don't match their hard skills.
During our latest Twitter chat, we talked about careers going flat – and how to get them flying again. Here are the questions we asked, and some of your most insightful responses:
Q1. How do you feel when you think about your career: excited or anxious? Why?
@aamir9769 I am anxious about my career because of slow growth rate due to pandemic; this year's promotion is kept on hold and next year seems gloomy. But, yes, keep my fingers crossed.
@Midgie_MT Recently there has been a shift and I am excited. My experiences with virtual work and my openness to learn new things means that new doors are opening up!
Q2. What are the signs that a career has gone flat?
@Ganesh_Sabari When the "L" in learning has quit and only earning remains! Keeping the "L" alive is elementary to professional demand and professional independence.
@AnshuGupta15 When we start making excuses for our strengths. Behaviour becomes puzzling as a result of overconfidence – then our career lost its path.
Q3. How has the pandemic affected your career plans?
@GaryPDawson It's actually meant I've taken the time to really consider what's important to me from a professional and personal perspective. Whilst my career is important, supporting my family is more important to me at the moment.
@SizweMoyo I'd planned to reach out even more this year, get to know new people and build new branches to my network. But with the pandemic, meeting new people could be risking your life.
Q4. There's no point in planning anything now – it's just about surviving! Agree/disagree? Discuss!
@WonderPix Maybe more dreaming than actual planning these days... with so much uncertainty it might be a good time to imagine what might be.
@JusChas Absolutely disagree. Planning most things is one of the most powerful and effective ways to succeed at ANYTHING. Even a To-Do List.
Q5. In what ways do age, health, or other life situations affect your career aspirations/drive?
@MicheleDD_MT They do and have. And not negatively. A life-threatening illness created space to pause & identify who I want to be and how I want to live. It was a game changer.
@JKatzaman Age is fine, especially considering the alternative. The internet came along in time to give us more career options rather than to deal with being totally locked down in mind and body.
Q6. What have you done in the past to boost your career? How did it help you?
@PG_pmp I always keep learning and upgrade my skills to face any challenge.
@carriemaslen I got many of my jobs because I asked. What would you ask for if you had no fear?
Q7. What new skills have you gained as a result of the pandemic? How/why? Has anyone noticed?
@ColfaxInsurance I feel I've become more flexible, and I've learned to work around SM [social media] platforms better and how to interact with people on them a lot more professionally.
@WonderPix I imagine most of us have improved our resilience and adaptability, hopefully, some patience and grace, mixed with a dash of optimism.
Q8. What new skills do you need to gain as a result of the pandemic? Why?
@ZalkaB Resilience. Adaptability. Knowing where to find opportunities or create them. And as I say to all my students – start building your network, your community, from day one. When the proverbial hits the fan, you need to have a safety net and have built your personal brand on and offline.
@TheCraigKaye I think one is the skill of practicing self-care! Home working can result in not looking away from your laptop for 7 hours easily! Spend time on your lunch gaining fresh air, have a great relax with a brew or go for a walk!
Q9. How can you make your achievements more visible and valued?
@Yolande_MT I don't feel like I'm not valued or visible. I think I can do even more though... excellence means always looking for new and better ways of doing things.
@MicheleDD_MT Self-promotion at work and through networks. I've never been good at it. I am learning, though!
Q10. Which activity can you start now that would be most beneficial in achieving your career goals?
@lg217 The one activity I could start now is building my résumé. That is the foundation of getting your career or new career on the right track.
@GaryPDawson Keep taking the opportunities to try new things and network with new people. Being involved in Twitter chats like this is a great way to learn from others outside of the normal professional circle.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Because of lockdown, many of us have realized the importance of online communities. In next week's #MTtalk we're going to discuss what makes a great online community. In our poll this week, we'd like to know what you believe to be most important in an online community. You can see the poll and cast your vote here.
In the words of my grandmother, who was the most amazing cook and baker, "You can't prepare food to nurture you if the ingredients are stale, old or rotten. No amount of magic, spice and effort can change that."
Is paternity leave working? How do new fathers feel about it? I spoke to some parents at Mind Tools to find out.
See the best responses from our latest Twitter Talk on holiday highs and lows - discussing the best and worst of the winter holiday season!