So, you have a little time on your hands?
Maybe you’re quarantined at home (as most of us are during the unprecedented, wild spring of 2020 while the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic) and you’ve earned a few hours back from commuting and other times usually spent in an office.
Maybe you’re in between work, or appropriate work, and are wondering how to get back on your feet.
Maybe you’re employed but bored or anxious for the next thing.
Let’s use the time well.
Often, I start clients who are in pursuit of meaningful work with a flexible working equation.
“Start by thinking of the time you have available to devote to career development in three segments.
The first segment should be spent intelligently applying for appropriate work. (more on this another time)
The second segment should be spent networking intelligently. (more on this another time, too)
The third segment should be spent MAKING WORK. “
Over time, this equation will bend and flex in service of the individual, their search and their results. We might spend more time in one segment in a given week, and less the following week. Still I think the last piece — making work — fits in everyone’s equation.
The concept of Making Work comes from years of researching and coaching people in need of better work. What I found, and what I find, is that the ability to direct and create one’s own work accelerates the experience of ‘career renewal’, which I define as the state where we:
- make active choices about our career
- have a deeper certainty in our professional identity and value
- are confident in expressing it to others, and
- can weather the inevitable storms of the workplace with a sense of resilience
Making Work takes many forms. For some of us, it’s pure creation, for others it’s an independent professional project that we exchange for revenue, or it’s a personal project that’s intended to clarify our thinking and advance our own learning.
You can use the time that circumstances have offered (or might I suggest you even MAKE time) for this. Here are few forms I’ve seen Making Work take:
- Do something classically creative.
- An ed tech leader I interviewed used time between jobs to work on the manuscript of a book about his first love, video gaming. By the time he went back to work full-time, he’d found a publisher.
- A client who worked as an art and creative director picked up the brushes and rented her own studio to fulfill her desire and need to paint.
- If there’s something you know how to do, teach it. Turn your skills and knowledge into a curriculum for others.
- I’ve interviewed and coached people who became consultants, spin instructors, art teachers, fiction-writing coaches, foreign language instructors, chemistry tutors, admissions essay reviewers, business advisors and more, turning something they’re great at into viable, paying work.
- Design a potential first-draft prototype of how you might help a leader or organization you know tackle a problem they are facing. Offer your services as a consultant or advisor.
- A candidate I once interviewed for a full-time job came back to me after the position was put on hold, and offered me a short-term solution for a challenge my team was facing. This turned into a 6-month consulting arrangement. It gave him experience he needed and helped us bridge our staffing gap in a way we could afford.
- Reflect on your many years of experience and distill your findings or best practices into a knowledge capture:
- In period where she needed a boost of professional energy, a colleague of mine wrote her own 10 rules for creating great executive-level learning teams and published it on LinkedIn.
- A former student took key learnings about setting up his own consulting practice and created a community of practice among other independent consultants which led to a membership-based model, a podcast and an annual conference.
- Study your own accomplishments and thoughts to look for patterns that may inform your next move. I ask my clients to write their Highlight Reel of major accomplishments. These are the stories you are the proudest of, that your network and potential interviewers should know. In order to be ready to share these stories, we have to research (internally) and write them.
- Write down the experience you’re having now, even if it seems disappointing or not worth capturing. Writing is a practice I believe in deeply and advocate relentlessly. During difficult times, I often pull up my journals of the big challenges I’ve faced — even if the outcomes aren’t always ‘positive’. These entries remind me that I have faced difficult things before, and offer inspiration for how I might face what’s ahead.
Making work doesn’t have to public, and it doesn’t have to be brilliant.
It has to exercise the part of you that creates. You can put that part of you back to work with or without the ‘ideal’ job. Give it a try, let me know how it goes.