10 ways to improve your career in 10 minutes or less during the quarantine
Take advantage of being stuck at home by planning your next career move.
It can feel like life is on pause as we wait for states and shuttered storefronts to reopen. Still, there are things that you can do to proactively move your career forward, whether you are at a job you enjoy or you are job searching. There are likely to be some days that you are feeling productive, motivated, and determined...and some days that you just want to text your friends. Use pockets of productivity to focus on things to improve on at work—these activities will take 10 minutes or less. That’s less time than it takes to make another loaf of bread or find something new to binge-watch on Netflix.
Plan your day
If you're currently at home due to a shelter in place ordinance or because your employer has temporarily implemented work from home policies, you still need to have a structure to your day just like you did when you were going to work each day. When you're working remotely, it’s important to overcommunicate—you could send an email to your manager each day or each week with updates on what you’re working on, your status on projects, and your accomplishments.
Don’t just rely on email though, have a 10-minute phone call or video meeting to discuss your goals, make sure you’re are aligned on what success looks like for your role, and to ask for feedback. It is a good idea to set these meetings at least once a quarter so you can stay on track and improve year-round instead of waiting until your annual review.
Many employers are being flexible about work from home policies during the pandemic and yours may be open to working with you on developing a clear schedule that you both can stick to. In the current situation, you may not be commuting and gained some time in the morning and evening. You should take advantage of that by doing something you may have struggled to fit into your normal work day—a yoga class, catching up on social media or the news, reading a book. Fitting more personal time into your day will help create a stronger work/life balance and prevent burnout.
When your workload seems overwhelming or if you’re faced with a block, don’t try to power through. Take a minute (or 10) to relax. “If you are getting frustrated, stopping for even a moment can help put the situation in perspective,” says Lori Scherwin founder of the New York-based career coaching company Strategize That. “You'll feel better directed and will work more effectively as a result thereafter.”
Set goals and key performance indicators
Have a check-in meeting once a month to come up with your goals for the month, success metrics, and ways you can exceed expectations and take on new responsibilities. Turn your goals into SMART goals to make them more concrete and measurable. Write down a few bullet points for steps you’ll take to achieve each goal. Break bigger goals into smaller, more manageable steps so you stay on track and have something to celebrate along the way.
Read industry news
“Too often, professionals do their jobs in a vacuum and fail to regularly see how they fit into the big picture,” says Scherwin.
“You'll be better informed and geared up if you have an understanding of the factors driving your industry or what challenges may be on your bosses’ (or their bosses’) minds,” she says.
She recommends reading trade publications, industry-specific articles, and articles relevant to your role. To make it super-easy, set Google alerts for the ones you think are most useful, or create a Twitter list so you can quickly scan the most relevant headlines in a flash.
Email someone in your network
If you only reach out to people when you need something from them, the relationship could start to feel transactional and forced. Try to build better professional relationships by staying in regular contact with those contacts so you’re not just reaching out when you need a favor.
“It takes less than five minutes to send an email saying hello and ask how they are doing,” says Scherwin. “This way, you'll be more connected and more comfortable reaching out again in the future if you do need something—it'll feel more natural,” she says.
Share your accomplishments
Keep track of your wins by creating a brag sheet—and updating it often. The purpose of this is so you don’t forget all the good you’re doing at work, and can easily mention it to higher-ups. And don’t wait until your annual review to share your wins.
“It is very likely that your boss has little more than a vague idea as to how busy you really are and what you are either working on or have accomplished,” says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach.
“If you wait till your annual performance review, he or she may have already formed an impression that is reflected in both your salary increase and bonus. And the numbers may not match what you believe you deserve.”
Create your elevator pitch
“Your elevator pitch is what you will say to describe yourself and your background to networking contacts and employers,” says Cheryl Palmer, founder of the D.C.-based career-coaching firm Call to Career.
Your elevator pitch should be concise, persuasive and something that you can repeat with ease.
Once you’ve honed it, Palmer recommends recording yourself so you can hear how you come across, and make changes so you sound genuine and conversational instead of rehearsed and robotic.
Connect with a mentor
“Speaking with a mentor can help you identify your blind spots, get candid feedback on how you can accelerate your career progress, and give you an opportunity to get a fresh point of view on your career trajectory,” says Joseph Liu, a London-based career and personal-branding consultant.
And just like you want to keep this career-boosting task to 10 minutes or less, your mentor will appreciate you being as brief as possible too. Come prepared with detailed questions so you use the time as efficiently as possible.
Learn new skills
If you have a list of things to improve on at work, look for ways to learn skills that are relevant to your industry. Listen to podcasts, read business books, watch YouTube tutorials, sign up for online classes—there are plenty of ways you can learn and improve your skills without leaving your couch.
Another way to learn new skills is to start something of your own like a blog, newsletter, or writing a business plan for a company. Think of ways you can get the skills you want on your own. A passion project can make you stand out during your job search and it could even become your full-time job.
Brainstorm your dream job
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re in a career slump, “What do you want to do with your life?” is a question that’s often asked and hard to answer.
If you’re looking for a job, you need to be looking at job ads, but even if you’re not in active job-search mode, job descriptions can serve as useful intel about the requirements and qualifications you’ll need to advance your career or change industries.
Check job posting boards for examples of jobs you envision for yourself and the key qualifications and experience you need. The information you gather will serve as a baseline for what companies are looking for and where you currently stand.
Brenda Hoehn, a Missouri-based life coach, recommends a 10-minute exercise for discovering your dream job: Write down the qualities of your ideal job, such as company culture, compensation, work-life balance and stress level. Don’t limit yourself to a particular title or company—think about what would make you happy. If it’s working with people, put that down. If it’s flexible hours, write that. Then, do some online searching for jobs that fit those descriptions.
“A position that you may not have originally thought was something that you wanted may appear and have everything that you would have ever asked for and more! Be open to possibilities,” says Hoehn.
Get feedback on your resume
Another great addition to your list of things to improve on at work? Your resume. It's your first point of contact with a company. You want it to make a great first impression to help you land a job interview. Easier said than done. Could you use some help? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. “It's very difficult to be objective about yourself and your experience,” says Palmer. “You may not be presenting yourself in the best possible light on paper, but it's hard to know that without objective feedback.”