When businesses were forced to shutter this year due to COVID-19, many workers suddenly found themselves out of a job. Overnight, tens of millions of Americans were forced out of the office and into their homes where they remained with their families throughout the spring.
Months later, many families continue to face uncertainty. While both men and women have been affected, women have no doubt faced the greatest career inequity during this time—particularly in dual-income homes. As a result, many mothers who would have otherwise remained in the workforce have found themselves thrust into an unexpected career break.
While navigating a career break under normal circumstances is tough, navigating the intricacies of one during a global health crisis can feel downright impossible. However, in this digital age, there are small steps you can take—even while a virus continues to surge worldwide, and your kids demand a million snacks each day.
Here are six ways to stay active during a career break (even during a pandemic).
Maintain your professional memberships.
One way to stay involved in your career even from afar is to remain a dues-paying member of your professional organizations and trade associations. Not only are these associations good for networking, but they are also a great way to stay up to date on the latest industry news. You can also remain informed about your colleagues and changes in your professional community.
Many trade organizations have recognized the financial hardship unemployed workers are currently facing and have offered reduced rate memberships or have even waived initiation or renewal fees—so be sure to inquire if you are up for renewal with yours!
Take a class.
As unpleasant as being out of work is, it can free up time for other things like taking professional development courses and catching up on your industry’s continuing education credits. Again, be sure to take advantage of free and reduced rate classes while you are out of work. There is no shame in submitting a financial hardship waiver and building your industry knowledge will aid your subsequent job search or re-entry into your old job.
Getting freelance work can be a great way to stay professionally active while also generating income during your career break. There are many places online where you can find work in your area of expertise. Your freelance work may not look exactly like your normal job. However, finding freelance and remote flex work can be a great way to transfer your skills, build a new skill set, or strengthen the skills you already have. Even working on a very part-time or per diem basis can help keep your talents and professional contacts current.
Start a blog.
Starting a blog is another good way to remain current as a leader in your field and keep others educated and informed. Additionally, a blog can be a helpful way to generate income—a plus if you’re out of work.
Attend virtual conferences.
Attending annual professional conferences can help you keep a toe in the water of your professional life, refresh your knowledge base, keep you abreast of industry changes, and provide current or future career opportunities. Right now, many traditionally in-person conferences are going virtual and are being offered at reduced rates or even free of charge. You can learn about these opportunities through your trade association memberships, which is another important reason to keep those active.
Keep in touch with your network.
Finally, be sure to maintain your professional contacts. Join that Zoom Happy Hour with your colleagues. Check-in with friends by text and email. Even if your kids are also zooming through the background, you can still embrace the chaos and make time for your professional relationships.
By following these tips, you can stay healthy, stay safe, and stay active in your career.
Good luck out there!