50+ hours of conversations and 20+ pages of notes helped me realize two important lessons during the pandemic
“How did you spend your time during the pandemic?”
It’s a question we’ll be asking each other for many years to come—and one that will most definitely come up in your next job interview or when you return to the office. After speaking with dozens of recent and emerging graduates, newcomers, and many who have been affected by COVID-19 layoffs, one common theme seemed to always surface throughout the conversations:
“What should I be doing right now?”
Sure, there are hundreds of things you could be doing right now, but what can you be doing right now to help you kick-start or further advance your career? After 50+ hours of conversations and 20+ pages of scribbled notes, I distilled my findings down to two things that you should be focusing your time on:
Simply put, volunteering connects you to people, values, communities, and purpose. It bonds us with others by working together toward achieving a common goal. And when you jump in—I mean 100% in—you truly begin to learn a lot about yourself and what value you bring to an organization.
More than ever, charitable organizations and non-profits are in need of particular skill sets to help drive optimum marketing growth and innovate fundraising awareness and consideration. If you have not yet considered volunteering your time or expertise to a cause that is important to you, now is a great time to start. With more time to spare, volunteering can offer many benefits to your journey into advertising or any profession. Aside from looking great on your CV and giving you something interesting to talk about in any interview, volunteering can offer a multitude of personal and professional benefits. Whether it be connecting and socializing with others to build your network, putting your relevant skills to good use, or simply to keep your mind and body busy, volunteering will help you to become a better version of yourself in the most rewarding way possible.
- Learning Opportunities and Teachable Moments
A good rule of thumb to remember is to never stop learning and to be intentional about it, especially since there will be moments where you’ll struggle to find the time to invest in learning or working on perfecting a particular skill. As skills are acquired over time, it is best to make that time available rather than wait for the right time to start. Do this by simply scheduling blocks in your calendar devoted to exploring what skills you want to learn or improve upon and practice with tutorials, workshops, platform training, and online/offline courses. By dedicating more time to researching and practicing the things you find difficult or hard to understand, you will only help yourself with a repertoire of new and wonderful skills you can bring to the table.
When it comes to which skills should take priority, well, that is entirely up to you. Take into consideration the path you want to take and which skills will help and complement that roadmap. Whether you’re a creative, analytical, strategic, or operational type, be sure to take into consideration which skills will also help you to diversify your knowledge to ultimately become the contributor others turn to first to help spark an idea, improve a process, or solve a challenge.
I have always been a firm believer that being excellent at a couple things and being good at many other things can help to focus where the learning and growth opportunities are. Focus on two core skills you one day would want everyone asking for your advice on and then map out a few complementary skills that will help you gain a deeper understanding, or even help to perfect your craft.
So, how will you answer the question, “how did you spend your time during the pandemic?” Regardless, of when you start—whether that is after you finish this article or once we transition into our new normal—the important lesson is that you start. Before you know it, you might even find that others are turning to you for this exact advice. Once you get there, remember to pass the knowledge along because teachable moments are not only important to your own learning, but it is a sign you’ve truly mastered it.