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Find ways to create opportunities during pandemic

The word opportunity spelled out in colorful tiles

I recently heard a story about a florist whose small shop has been forced to close due to the pandemic. Needing to use her flowers, the florist created small bouquets, which she delivered to her neighbors’ doorsteps. Along with the flowers, she left a note wishing them well and letting them know she was there to meet their future flower-related needs.

I love this story because even though this florist is out of work, she is using her professional expertise to help brighten her neighbors’ day. She repurposed her talents in a different way — and probably gained some future customers in the process.

Most of us are in some sort of professional flux at the moment, whether it’s a job loss, working from home while balancing family needs or something in between. Fortunately, no matter the situation, there are actions we can take to create opportunities in our careers.

Take care of the basics. If you’ve been laid off, visit the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for unemployment benefits and other resources. Unemployment can have serious consequences for some. For others, it may be viewed as an opportunity to try out a new direction. Securing unemployment benefits can help you meet your basic needs while you consider what’s next.

April McHugh UW-Madison career counselor
McHugh: Adopting a growth mindset and taking some action — even if it’s small — can help you uncover career opportunities.

Reflect on your career path. Some of us have more time on our hands these days. Take this moment to think about your  career and where it’s going. Do you like where you are? How does  your career contribute to your overall life satisfaction? Is it time to make a change?

Adopt a growth mindset, then act. Think about what you do have control over and how you can gain from it. Think about what you can learn, do or become during this time. Then, take some action, even if it’s small. For example, research what it might take to shift to a different position or  career.

Update your materials. Now is a great time to update your resume or LinkedIn profile with the new technologies and strategies you’re learning to connect with clients and customers. Don’t forget to include other examples of your professional work. All of this is attractive to employers.

Build a robust network. Go through your professional contacts and reach out via email, chat or LinkedIn to those you haven’t connected with in a while. At a moment when some of us have more time and less connection, a personal note is likely to get a welcome response and help rekindle a professional relationship.

Attend to your professional development. If we have to be in quarantine, it may well be the best time to work on a project that takes a little more dedication. Online classes, workshops and professional publications can help boost your knowledge and help you stay plugged in to your field.

Embrace conferencing technology. In recent weeks I’ve been introduced to at least four web conferencing platforms (and the growing pains that come along with them). Becoming proficient in conferencing software is an asset in an increasingly global workforce, and it can help you create job opportunities that reach far beyond your own backyard.

It might be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but remember that times of challenge are  our best growth opportunities. We’re all being pushed to learn and do things differently now. Creating professional opportunities — even very small ones — can go a long way toward helping us move ourselves, and our careers, forward.

April McHugh is a career and education counselor at UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. She can be reached at april.mchugh@wisc.edu. This article first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on May 10, 2020.