With the ongoing COVID-19-led pandemic, the professional landscape has changed tremendously. Roles have been automated overnight, most people are working remotely, and several industries have been wiped out. Many have lost their jobs, and others are worrying if they are next. As the crisis continues to unfold, the new normal means an unprecedented economic downturn and an uncertain future. How does one make sense of this reality and protect one’s career?
“What most of us have faced earlier was related to specific sectors like the dotcom crash in 2000, or the financial crisis in 2008. But, this is a shock across all sectors,” says Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and vice-chairman of InfoEdge. His advice to young people on how to deal with this period is: “This is an unfortunate time but first you must accept that you really can’t help it.”
The ability to embrace uncertainty has become critical. We also have to learn to navigate an evolving landscape by building resilience. This will help us bounce back from personal and professional setbacks. Anyone can learn to embrace uncertain, live with change, and be resilient. This is where cognitive skilling can help. You can strengthen your ‘change muscle’ by developing skills such as flexibility, emotional self-regulation, and creative problem-solving.
Interestingly, long before the pandemic, the world had started to realise the importance of building cognitive skills to stay relevant in the modern workplace. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, the top skills required in the workplace by this year were going to be cognitive and social-emotional skills such as critical thinking, complex problem-solving, people management, emotional intelligence, judgement, and decision-making. The pandemic has made these non-negotiable.
You may not know what lies ahead, but you can make a concerted effort to build skills that prepare you for it. Make an effort to understand what drives you, how you react to change, and what your contribution to the workplace is. Intentional problem-solving is cited by employers as one of the most valuable skills at the workplace. Work at learning problem-solving skills. Volunteer for a project or intern somewhere to challenge yourself. Moreover, learning to manage, motivate, and mingle with teams virtually and remotely requires self-awareness and emotional reservoirs to deal with the on-going stress. This will require building of communication skills. Managers who build collaboration and communication skills will be sought after. To enhance employability, especially as a young professional, not staying a generalist in this period will help.