You may have had some of your plans fall through this year because of COVID and, for those whose livelihood depended on crowds and large-scale events, work was reimagined. That said, when the world throws you a curveball, we don’t have to put our ambitions or career aspirations on the backburner.

I was catching up with one of my mentors this past weekend and we talked about how some of the plans we had this year fell through because of the pandemic.

Yes, it’s true, things like travel went on pause yet, I’m still making plans for next year and, local trips will have to do for now. Other than that, we were both full steam ahead with other interests and priorities we had, including our growth!

We don’t know what life will look like next year as far as having the freedom and flexibility we once had pre-COVID but, it doesn’t stop me from making plans or considering what they may look like.

What about your personal and professional development goals? Have they taken a backseat because of the pandemic? Have your fears gotten in the way and kept you from realizing your dreams? I know, I know, you might be thinking, a reality check is in order.

I’m not suggesting you should be looking through rosy-eyed glasses and pretending the world isn’t unravelling. Just because the world is, doesn’t mean you have to. 

Where lay-offs have taken place, businesses have downsized or experienced other losses, understandably when it comes to your development, it may not be top of mind.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunities to continue to grow, stretch and develop even under unique circumstances. Do you see possibilities or limitations?

The latter will likely cause you to make excuses that your mind is fully agreeing with, but your heart may be saying, “What are you thinking?”

As a leader, conversations around growth and development should be ongoing. Not just during a performance review and not when it makes sense for you and the organization.

Times may be challenging, yet there are endless opportunities to support your employee’s growth.

The most challenging times are often the times that challenge us the most! How? By challenging the way you lead, how you manage your relationships (both with your employees and yourself), how you respond to stressful situations and so on.

I may be stating the obvious yet I’m amazed at how many leaders are still not spending enough time having more meaningful conversations with their employees.

Time seems to be the culprit I hear time and time again. Too busy to schedule an extra 30 min. on the calendar with their team. Too busy to prioritize and invest in themselves.

There’s always going to be an excuse until there isn’t anymore. You either prioritize the important things, i.e. your people or you don’t. 

Conversations around career aspirations should follow a regular cadence. Don’t wait for the performance review to learn about career interests or touch base with your employee “once in a while” to discuss their next move doesn’t cut it either.

Schedule time exclusively to discuss career interests, ambitions and the like. Pairing it with scheduled meetings covering other topics dilutes the meaning around this and likely doesn’t offer the time and attention it deserves.

This time is just as much for your employee as it is for you as their leader, to better understand what their career aspirations look like. Make sure they understand to come prepared to contribute to the conversation.

Be prepared to cover all options. Including those outside the organization if learning opportunities aren’t internally available.

Here are some questions to consider asking your employee when preparing for these conversations:

  • As you reflect on the next steps in your career, what are some specific areas you’re interested in further developing?
  • When you think about the responsibilities in your current role that energize you the most, what comes to mind and why?
  • What are some things you’ve done outside of work to invest in your personal or professional development?
  • When considering some of the career moves or decisions you’ve made to get you to where you are today, what contributed to those decisions?
  • What do you need from me to support you in the pursuit of your career aspirations?

These are questions that are not necessarily specific to what you can offer within your organization. The idea is you’re trying to learn what’s important to your employee with the end goal of helping them advance and/or uncover their interests and career aspirations.

The pandemic may have impacted what you had hoped to achieve this year yet your ambition and career aspirations aren’t dead.

You still have every opportunity to support your employees to go after their dreams, career aspirations and support their growth. Whatever that looks like for them.

I’d love to hear from you!

What are some ways you’ve invested in your personal or professional growth during the pandemic? Nothing is too big or small and it all matters! Let me know below and you may just be the inspiration someone might be looking for.

With so much appreciation,

Lisa 💞

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