As the global workforce retreats to work from home, hitting refresh on Twitter feeds and news channels, the only certainty at this stage is real change. How this will manifest for countries or companies is too early to predict. The scale of events is unsettling for everyone, but particularly for people who have entered the workforce in the last ten years. Many in the advertising industry have only experienced working in periods of economic growth. These same people are now at home feeling fearful and vulnerable on how they should approach this situation. Is this you?
Is it possible to stay grounded, even positive, in such uncertain times? My answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. I say this based on my own experiences, having been at the same stage as many of my colleagues back in 2008 when the Global Financial Crisis struck. Your mind defaults to a worst-case scenario – “is my job safe, how will I hit budget, will our company survive?” I was lucky to have a mentor in these formative stages, who taught me the importance of staying calm, keeping your bearings and preparing for the future.
The important counter to remaining calm, is to remember that you are human. The bonds you make in tough times are ones that can last for a lifetime. A simple check in with people to see how they are going, rather than trying to get a business outcome that may not be possible shows the value of the relationship. If you can have honest and ongoing discussions with clients, colleagues, peers and friends, these will hold you in good stead over the long-term and will probably be part of very important senior relationship in the future.
It is vital to use your time wisely. You probably won’t make your target for the quarter. Don’t go hustling for sales that you don’t think are there. Put any spare time that you have to building connections learning something new or search for insights that are going to be useful or instructive over the longer term. It might not help Q2, but it will add value for 2022.
Each of us needs to respond to change. It is not business as normal. This means we have to operate as stewards of our company. Have another think whether it is wise to do the type (and expense) of networking that you were doing before. Think differently and treat the place you work like you own it.
If we stay overly focused on news headlines, we can find times of genuine disruption to be personally upsetting. Change is happening, but some semblance of normality will return. It won’t be as things were, and you need to view this as opportunity – for you to focus your growth and that of your company. Being a younger generation, you are going to be native to the new forms of technology that will emerge as the new normal, you are in the driving seat. It’s hard to look to the future, however this is exactly the time when new ideas, approaches and demonstration of your creativity can make a difference.
This may sound aloof or calculated, but it is actually the opposite. It is a reminder that you’re human: there are going to be tough moments, but it will pass. You can invest time and energy in yourself so that you are well-placed for what comes next. Likewise, you build the relationships that will define the rest of your career.
Thinking back to 2008 though, I am reminded how I felt. I was able to adapt and learn, but that confidence came from knowing I wasn’t alone. I had a network that I could learn from and I was building a larger one I could lean on. These things don’t happen automatically – you have to be open and to ask for help when you feel uncertain or vulnerable. It is a sign of maturity, not weakness, when you can confide with others. I’d encourage anyone who has started work in the last decade to raise their hand or type that email and think about who they can learn from – and with – to prepare them for the next phase of their life and career.
You are and will continue to be the future of our industry, stay focused and positive - the actions you do over the next few months could define the rest of your career.
How to manage your career in a crisis
1. Stay calm and lead the change
2. Learn from mentors, lean on your network
3. Be a steward for your company and career – act like you own it
4. Think about the skills and insights you will need for 2022, not Q2
5. Invest in others as you invest in yourself