×

Status message

COVID-19 Update: Read CCAPS's operational updates or visit the Safe Campus website for the University's operational updates.

How Can Workers Thrive in the New World of Work?

Young male professional working on laptop on black leather couch, surrounding by windows looking out on a cityscape. Photo by Austin Distel, Unsplash

Four tips to upgrade your career
and get noticed 


It’s been nearly three months since the world hung up “closed” signs and retreated to home offices or kitchen tables to conduct their personal and professional business. We’re still in the early days of the global pandemic and still wondering what our work situations will look like on the other side.

Chances are pretty good that many of us will continue to work virtually. Luckily, surveys find that people are happily working remotely, and it’s fair to say that even those who weren’t comfortable with it before have settled into it by now, says Karin Goettsch, PhD, an expert on global remote teams. 

“Although some companies have been working virtually all along, stay-at-home orders are shaping more people’s experiences of remote work. It was quite sudden and there wasn’t time to plan,” says Goettsch, a consultant and coach who teaches professional development courses at the University of Minnesota.“We’re now living in an unpredictable situation, so it’s hard to put a finger on what it will look like when it’s over. Some workplace changes might continue to be welcomed.” 

Still, as someone who has helped professionals collaborate virtually for over 10 years, Goettsch can make some educated guesses on how we can set ourselves up for success as online collaborators. Read on for her tips and more, whether you’ve got a job or you’re looking for the next one.

Step Up as a Leader

“Organizations are always looking for strong leaders, and now they need them to lead successful virtual teams,” says Goettsch. “If you’re currently employed, actively seek out opportunities to raise your profile, such as volunteering to lead team meetings. With so many distractions, whatever value you can add will be noticed and appreciated.” She recommends looking for ways to show up and collaboratively engage others on the team. You should also seek out learning opportunities that can kick-start a path to a new role or dust off competencies you may have neglected. 

“People leading project teams may not have the ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’ title, but they still need to refresh essential management and leadership skills such as influence, cultural and emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution, now more than ever. These can set you apart in a remote working environment. There are so many resources available for gaining leadership skills, including the U of M.” For more information on online collaboration, see Goettsch’s webinar on virtual teams called “Strategies for Working Remotely.” 

Learn In-Demand Technical Skills

It will come as no surprise that jobs that can be done via the internet can be done from anywhere. For example, with schools shuttered, the need for people skilled at designing online learning is huge. A three-second search on Indeed.com turns up nearly 9,000 job postings across the United States. Inside Higher Ed reports that due to “the black swan event that is COVID-19, this new field of academic labor has received a boost previously unimaginable. While universities institute hiring freezes and dangle the threat of layoffs, those same universities are posting new advertisements for instructional designers, learning designers and instructional technologists. The titles cover overlapping aspects of the same process of online course design that schools know will be essential to their future success.” 

Other digital jobs, such as web coding, data analysis, UX/UI, and cybersecurity, that were in demand before the pandemic are even more so now, according to Forbes magazine. “People who can keep the digital business running—and thriving—during economic downturns or pandemics that make in-person business impossible or less efficient are going to be on the must-hire list. And, basically, ALL companies are now digitally based in some way, so the opportunities to put digital skills to work are countless.”

You can get practical training in the above professions and more through courses, certificates, and boot camps at the University of Minnesota: get all the details on the College of Continuing and Professionals Studies website. If you want to discuss any of the U’s professional development opportunities and how they align with your career goals, drop a line to our enrollment advisor, Lisa Beckham, at ccapslisa@umn.edu.

Career changers should show potential employers their ability to manage ambiguity, resilience, and courage.

Get Free Professional Guidance and Paid Skills Training

CareerForce (formerly Minnesota Workforce Center) is a rich resource for job seekers and employers alike. Lynette Rollins, an employment guidance counselor for Ramsey County Career Force, says that now is the time to get involved. 

“There’s federal and state money available through the Dislocated Worker Program for training and support services. If you’re out of work, you should apply.” Rollins says the center can help cover the cost of skills training—including professional development courses and certificates—as well as job-search-related expenses such as cellular service, gas, and car repairs. There are eligibility requirements (you need to be on unemployment, for example) and there are other support programs as well. “Once you apply, a guidance counselor can discuss the appropriate options for you.”

Another resource unemployed workers can tap into at CareerForce is the job club program, where you can network with other professionals, “get advice, and develop new strategies” for job seeking, according to their website. The center also holds interviewing and resume-writing workshops as well as career fairs, all available virtually during the shutdown. 

Stacy Turos has benefitted from her involvement with the Dislocated Worker Program, which she’s been participating in since last winter, after her long-time employer dismantled her service unit. She says it’s a great service. 

“I met with a guidance counselor and we talked about my work experience and my hopes and dreams,” Turos said. “I’m part of a job club, which has a different theme every week, like ‘You’re laid off, now what?’ It’s definitely worth your time, you’re always going to get something out of it.”

“My guidance counselor suggested I take professional development classes to enhance my marketable skills, which could be paid for through the Program’s funds. I decided on the U’s Leadership Essentials Certificate because of the in-depth curriculum and strong, positive feedback their programs receive. So far, the classes have been outstanding and the instructors share such depth of knowledge.”

Spiff Up Your Resume and Reach Out to Your Network

During this uncertain time, it’s more important than ever to maintain connections and forge new ones, say U of M Engagement Director Courtney Barrett and Career Advisor Liz Hruska. “As we recalibrate to this new normal, job postings, interviews, and onboarding will look different. One thing recruiters and hiring managers have emphasized is their interest in staying in touch with the talent pool—that’s you,” they said.

Advice from global organization consulting firm Korn Ferry is for career changers to show potential employers their ability to manage ambiguity, resilience, and courage. “If you are an aspiring industry switcher, experts recommend looking back at your career and reformatting your experiences to showcase these in-demand traits.Then you can showcase those traits not only on your resume (by showcasing accomplishments rather than promotions) but also in interviews. These in-demand skills can trump industry experience,” says Mary Elizabeth Sadd, a Korn Ferry senior client partner.

With unemployment numbers rising, it’s a tough market for job seekers, so you’ll need to find a way to get noticed. Polish your LinkedIn page and resume, and consider using video and other creative ways to introduce yourself and leave a memorable impression, as was suggested in a recent Forbes magazine article. “Record a short, professional video of yourself for introductory or thank you messages. It takes more effort, but if done well, helps you stand out.”

There’s no shortage of advice on how to succeed in what will likely be a very different workplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it’s still too early to predict, the common theme running throughout is this: those who are able to adapt and learn new skills are the most likely to thrive.