Maintaining Your Learning Edge is crucial during this Covid-19 slowdown
By Stephanie Legatos
Employers confirm that soft skills are critical for helping organizations run smoothly. And that having a learning mindset – being a lifelong learner – is a key soft skill.
That said, all soft skills are in demand, and they are the assets that employers say they can’t teach. So I think of them as the make-it or break-it skills – the ones that show your alignment with a manager’s style, the organizational culture, and the organizational values. In other words, the “fit” factor.
The job-search process is your opportunity to talk about your soft skills. You can communicate them in your cover letters, you can demonstrate their application in resumes, and you can include them in your LinkedIn profile. They also become apparent if you have networked your way to an employer introduction. Meanwhile, the references you choose should be aware of your special soft skills – such as your eagerness to learn.
I judge soft skills to be so important to highlight that during the past three months I have co-developed and co-presented workshops for people over 50 that have emphasized soft skills. Mature workers are known for such key soft skills as collaboration, as well as good judgment, decision-making, prioritization, and customer focus. In fact, there are 15 to 20 key soft skills that are important for everyone to have. One of these is a learning mindset.
In the midst of our current pandemic and social distancing, most of us are finding we have more time. You should ask yourself how you might invest time now in your learning. How can you build your learning mindset – and demonstrate this mindset as you continue to job search, network, and interview?
Of course most of us have learned how to use and navigate Zoom and other online ways to meet. But more is needed.
I’d like to share three activities I myself have done lately that have increased my capabilities both career-wise and life-wise.
- A rear light in my car needed to be replaced. A friend and I searched YouTube, found the right how-to video, purchased the light, and changed it! I’m not at all mechanically inclined so this boosted my confidence.
- I completed a five-week course online on The Science of Happiness.
- I completed a six-week online course, “Wise Speech, Wise Listening,” through the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.
Both courses have significantly helped me stay centered and build gratitude. And both taught me skills and expanded my knowledge, which I can apply to my career and job-search-coaching private practice.
Here are a few ideas for moving your career forward while you are job searching in the midst of a pandemic:
First, you can think about your industry, or the one(s) you’re interested in, e.g., biotech, sustainable agriculture, telehealth, IT security. How are you staying up-to-date? What are the current pain points? The emerging trends? How are demographics, social trends, technology, the global marketplace, and laws impacting the industry? Read online publications. Join industry-related groups on LinkedIn to read and contribute to discussions – which, by the way, also helps you gain social-media presence and visibility.
If you think about this from the perspective of your profession, what blogs and/or articles can you read to stay on top of things? Who is innovating in the field? How is technology impacting your role and what resources exist for learning it?
If you haven’t delved into online learning, try Coursera or EdX. Both are free, unless you want a Certificate of Completion – available at minimal cost. LinkedIn Learning is another resource. It’s free with a Boston Public Library card, which anyone can get by completing an online application.
Some additional ideas:
- Meet-up: join and “attend” meetings specific to your industry and/or profession.
- Create an industry-specific or role-specific networking group and host it via Zoom.
- Start a book club focused on recently published business books.
- Interview leaders in your field and write an article (and post it on LinkedIn and/or on your blog or website). One job seeker I coached did exactly this. This was noted at the top of his resume, garnered a lot of attention, and clearly showed that he was current with emerging technology in his field. Well, I can’t say only this resulted in a job offer. However it made a huge difference.
- Lastly, expand your networking and social media presence. We all need some R&R, time to reflect, take care of our health and well-being…but don’t isolate. Connections and community are needed more than ever, especially during a job search.
If you are engaged in innovative learning pursuits, please share them. They just might be that spark that inspires others!
Stephanie Legatos is a career coach providing services for career exploration and decision-making as well as the concrete aspects of a job search. She brings a holistic perspective to her work, and integrates mindfulness, journal writing, collage (a visual and writing process), and inner-critic transformational activities into her work. For the past 25 years Stephanie has worked with thousands of job seekers individually and through workshop and webinar presentations. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and qualified user of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). You can read more about her background and her services on the website for her company, Visible You: visibleyou.biz.