Podcast: Career planning in the time of coronavirus
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How to turn a career crisis into a career opportunity.
Right now many of us are experiencing a lot of change, whole industries are on ice right now, while others have had to pivot fast. We are fast on track to record unemployment and with a recession nipping at our heels, plenty of career plans and dreams might be feeling a little crushed right now.
But are there opportunities in the ashes of the first half of 2020? And what might "work" look like in the future?
Kate Richardson was a high flying marketing executive who has worked in high profile organisations including the Sydney Opera House, Network TEN, NAKED communications before hitting her very own career crisis a few years ago. Kate then pulled the plug on both her career trajectory and her home town when she decided to move cities and pursue a completely different career as an executive career coach and career mentor.
Kate shares her tips on how to take a career crisis and turn it into a career opportunity.
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Read the transcript of this episode
Sally McMullen 0:13
Hey, everyone, welcome back to Pocket Money. It's Sally here and I've got my lovely co host Kate with me. Right now many of us are experiencing a lot of change. Whole industries are on ice right now, while others have had to pivot fast. We're also fast on track to record unemployment numbers, and with a recession nipping at our heels, plenty of career plans and dreams might be feeling a little crushed right now.
Kate Browne 0:41
So how can you plan a career during a global crisis? Our guest today Kate Richardson used to be a high flying marketing executive who worked at Sydney Opera House network 10 and agency Naked Communications as well as a suite of other places before she hit her own career crisis and pivot a few years ago. Kate pulled plug on both her career trajectory and her hometown of Sydney when she decided to move to Melbourne and pursue a completely different career as an executive career coach and career mentor. Kate is joining us today to talk about what she's learned about the career pivot from her own experience and what she's learned from others and helping them grow to. Kate, thanks for joining us today. The world of work seems extremely different to the way it looks in February. Would that be fair?
Kate Richardson 1:30
It is, Kate. We've seen a lot of industries up ended a lot of people losing their jobs and I think people generally just rethinking their and companies rethinking their relationship to work and how they actually run their workforce.
Kate Browne 1:41
Yeah. What are you seeing out there at the moment, obviously, as you said, there's people losing their jobs, there's underemployment, a lot of lack of stability, but also like trends that are emerging.
Kate Richardson 1:52
Well, that's the thing Kate COVID has really just added fuel to the fire. There's a lot of changes that we've already been seeing in the world of work in what I call the 21st century career. So 21st century career is really defined by two things. And the first one is meaning. So we're all looking for a little bit more purpose in our work. There's a great quote that says we've traded up from money to meaning. So once upon a time work was something that you just did and there was a kind of grin and bear it attitude. But increasingly, we don't want to go and spend all day in a job that makes us miserable, or doesn't really bring us that much joy. So I think also COVID has prompted people to reflect on what work means and what they really want to do with their career, even if they feel a little bit too scared at this point to do something different. And the other trend is mobility. So we're all moving around a lot more. We're all much more likely to have more jobs, multiple careers and spend less time in all of them. And that's not just because of COVID. But you know, there's a real trend over time towards companies cutting costs and looking to more outsourcing arrangements. And so tech is a really big part of that story. And that's really enabling a more on demand work. Culture and it's also giving rise to trends we're seeing, like the gig economy or the portfolio career, and I'm expecting to see a lot more people shift into a portfolio career as a result of COVID. Because that's what we saw after the GFC. Obviously, people were stood down from their jobs or forced to think about work a little bit differently. The research says, while they may have started out doing that, out of necessity, what's happened is it's become something that people actually aspire to and want to maintain. So, in the UK, for example, a lot of people working in the gig economy are professional workers. They're not just Uber drivers, or, you know, delivery cyclists. So there really is quite a shift towards professionals and a range of industries moving into more flexible work and running a portfolio career.
Kate Browne 3:46
You mentioned the gig economy. So that's things like Uber driving stuff you can pick up and drop as you like, is that right?
Kate Richardson 3:53
Well, I think it's broader than that. You know, I can start a business now which I've done from my own lounge room because you know, the internet and the fact that we're all a lot more connected, the tools are more widely available, you know, doing that kind of thing is a lot more accessible. And as I mentioned, because companies are looking to more outsourcing solutions, or they're looking to employ contractors or more casual workers is a greater opportunity for more of us to combine a number of different jobs. And there's a great saying that says, we've gone from one job for life through to five jobs over a career and now five jobs all at once.
Kate Browne 4:25
I'm seeing a lot of people doing that these days.
Kate Richardson 4:28
That's right. And that's how I actually started my business. So I started out as a marketing consultant, which which builds on my background and gave me a secure income and a runway from which to launch my business. And at the same time, I've been developing my career development and training practice. So I've definitely living the 21st century career and enjoying having a portfolio of different roles.
Sally McMullen 4:48
So okay, 2020 almost feels like a bit of a limbo year or like we're on pause right now. And I know in a few conversations I've had with friends who were maybe planning to switch jobs or ask for a raise this year - they're a little bit scared to do that. Because you know, a lot of places are doing phrases on hiring or you know, giving raises and stuff like that. So what are your thoughts on that? Can you still plan a career path during a crisis like Coronavirus?
Kate Richardson 5:18
Absolutely. And that's because making changes in your career, whether it's moving to a new job or doing something different altogether, always take longer than you anticipate. So career change, on average takes about two years now you can do it more quickly. But by the time you identify what you want to do, and you design your path, we're actually getting to that point, time really does get away. So at the moment, I'm working with someone who is making a shift from working in operations in advertising, into change management in the corporate sector, and she's a real go getter, and she's upskilling and she's building lots of new relationships and expanding her network. So I'm thinking that she's going to make that shift within six months, but that's not always the case.
Kate Browne 6:00
What are some of the things people could do right now if they wanted to plan their career and start plotting that next move?
Kate Richardson 6:06
Whenever you're thinking about your version of a happy, satisfying career and what your next move is, the first thing you need to do is get into the explorers mindset. Because what happens is we get very attached to the plan, we get very attached to figuring out trying to figure out what the answer is. And that's actually what ends up holding us back. Because it's really hard, isn't it to imagine what a new job or different career might actually entail. And often we know that we want to do something different. We know that we don't like what we're doing, but we're not really sure how to get started or where to begin. So sort of letting go of the plan. And leaning into the idea of different possibilities is really important in 21st century career because it is more uncertain, it is more unpredictable, and not just because of COVID. So this idea of long term planning isn't so relevant anymore. And the first place to start really is thinking about what are my values because values define and drive a lot of the ways that you think about your career and a lot of the ways that you make decisions. So when you understand what your values are, you can actually think more about what you aspire to do, you can think about the kind of work that is meaningful for you. And you can also make better decisions along the way, if you're presented with a job a company A that really fits well with what matters to you, then that's going to be more appealing, and maybe a company that doesn't quite have a culture that matches up to your values. So like two sides of a coin. So the other side of that coin is strengths, really getting to know what am i great at and what you want to do is work out not just what you're really good at, because we can all be good at things and be really capable, but not necessarily enjoy them. So true strength is something that you feel really energised by, you know, that you're really excited by and that you're brilliant at. And when you understand your values and strengths. That's a great starting point for uncovering or discovering the kind of work that you're going to find really satisfying and the other thing it does It helps you build your confidence. And it helps you build language around how to talk about yourself. Let me give you an example. We've all been in that job interview when someone has said, So okay, Sally, tell me about yourself. And what are we doing? Well, I was working at this company, and then I was working that company. And then I was doing this. And then I was doing that we'll kind of get into the ramble, we start rattling off a catalogue of our jobs, when what we really want to do is talk about what we bring, you know, the value that we deliver because of the strength that we have, and the impact that we're able to make. So I've got a little technique, which I like to teach people, it's very simple, but it's called the three things. So when someone says, No, Kate, tell me about yourself. Instead of going on the ramble, you say, well, the three themes that really define my career are, for example, transforming teams, driving innovation, designing experiences that people love. So you're basically encapsulating the story of your career, the things that you're really great at and the impact that you've made over, you know your recent path into three punchy points. And you learn to talk about each one for about 30 to 40 seconds. And it helps you walk into a career conversation, whether it's an interview or a chat with someone in your network in a more confident way. So you can start that conversation from a point of authority and feel really good about yourself about how you're showing up and what you actually have to offer.
Kate Browne 9:23
That's a really cool tip and something and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I get the sense now a lot of organisations are recruiting people they think are a good fit without being overly prescriptive about the role. Is that something you're seeing out there as well these days?
Kate Richardson 9:37
Look, there is definitely a trend towards finding people that fit with the culture or the team and recognising that skills are something you can teach but attitude is hard to cultivate. I think it's still really important for organisations to focus on competencies and the skills that people bring because sometimes when we interview people and we do go straight to that idea of the fit, we can bring our own unconscious biases to the table. No, we can look for people who are kind of like us, that we feel really comfortable with when actually what we know works in teams and organisations is diversity, diversity of thinking and diversity of people.
Sally McMullen 10:14
So Kate, we've seen the numbers of unemployment rise massively in Australia as a result to Coronavirus. And it will probably continue to do so now that we're in a recession. So how competitive is the job market right now?
Kate Richardson 10:28
Look, it is super competitive. We know that that's been the case over the last sort of four or five years anyway. But an employer may receive say 250 resumes for one position through your typical online job site like LinkedIn or a seek, and I expect to see that increase. Also, if you're going for a job at a company that's highly coveted or a role that's really appealing then you might even see more applicants than that. So as an example, Google received 50,000 resumes a week. So that's obviously a lot of people who want to work at Google because it's sexy, and it's well paid and all the rest. But what it means, Sally is that the whole process of applying for jobs online, you know, uploading a resume to one of the big job sites, you know, it really just doesn't get you very far, only 2% of people get their job by applying online. So in this climate where it's super competitive, if that's why you're doing your job search, then you need to do something different. And there's a couple of things I'd recommend. And the first one is, you've got to build relationships with people, you've got to expand your network, you know, just talked about the importance of building rapport and looking for fit in an interview, you need to get yourself to the point where you can actually get into the interview. And you need to think about networking, building relationships as a long term game, you need to think of it as hey, I've got to put a few dollars in the bank now and maybe I'll be able to make some withdrawals down down the track. So you need to look at the types of companies that you want to work for, or people that you admire. You know, industries, you might be able to open doors for you and start building those relationships, build your profile, build your presence. The truth is that networking is simply people helping people. And when you can shift your mindset around that, that can make a big difference, because that's usually what stops people working on expanding their network in the first place. Find people who can help you learn more about the path that you want to travel on, people who can open doors and help you. But also, you need to see people who are doing what you might aspire to do so that you can see it's actually possible. And the truth is, you know, there's that great saying that you are the average of the five people closest to you. And I think that's relevant here. Because if you can find people who are doing what you want to do, and if you can spend time with them, there's more chance that you'll end up doing that as well.
Sally McMullen 12:46
Do you have any tips on how to find people like that say, like you said, maybe you are pivoting your career and you don't have those connections already? Do you have any tips on how to do that, especially in like maybe this social distancing climate that we're in right now,
Kate Richardson 13:01
You can start with your own network in the sense that often your network might know people who know people. Have a conversation with the network and at the end of that conversation, always ask, Is there anyone that you'd recommend that I can speak to and often conversations will come out of that. The other way is quite simply to you know, do some research on LinkedIn, find people who are thought leaders, or have the kind of career that you're aspiring to have in a particular industry or profession, start following them, start engaging with their content on LinkedIn, start building that relationship and start learning from them. Say, for example, you wanted to move into product management for additional perspective. Maybe you work in marketing or a completely different area and you're interested in product management, then what you want to do is make a list of maybe the top 10 or 15 companies that you would be interested in or love to work at. And spend time on LinkedIn, really understanding who are the people in that company which might influence hiring decisions which might work in the area of product management or Might interface with that, and start building a relationship with them. So reach out, connect with them find a common point of interest that allows you to just smooth over that connection. Be helpful. You know, maybe there's an article that you've seen, that was really interesting on some of the trends around product management that you could share with that person. And there's lots of little ways that you can start to reach out to people build those relationships. And LinkedIn is an amazing tool for that. The other thing is, you should think about your networking in the context of the kind of person that you are. So if you're more extroverted than yeah, maybe group meetups, even online are a place where you might really thrive and enjoy being around a lot of people. If you're more introverted, then maybe one on one catch ups or smaller groups or smaller settings might be more suitable for you.
Kate Browne 14:45
Tech has really given well even introverts, I guess that that opportunity to connect without it being too scary or intimidating. I think, you know, I think a lot of people turn to stone at the idea of having to walk into a room and network. When to allows you to have you know it's quite intimate isn't it without being - you don't have to have amazing social skills. We'll take a little well it's not really a break because we're gonna make you work even harder, Kate. But it is it is game, which often makes people feel even more terrified but Sally and I like to play. It's called overrated and underrated so we'll throw a topic, you can tell us whether you think it's overrated or underrated and you can riff on why
Sally McMullen 15:26
Okay working from home - overrated or underrated?
Kate Richardson 15:30
For me, it's underrated. I mean, I did corporate training the other day in my Ugg boots and I thought wow, this is this is pretty good but I do think it can easily go to overrated if you don't create those boundaries between work and home if you don't put rules in place around when to shut the laptop at night and when to switch off.
Kate Browne 15:46
Next one you've mentioned quite a lot but I'm keen to get your overrated or underrated. LinkedIn. Some people hate linked to him and say terrible things about it. You've mentioned a lot of positive things. Is it overrated or underrated?
Kate Richardson 15:58
I'll look I think it's definitely out. Right for anyone who's looking to develop their career or find a job, you know, it's a really, really important tool. The other thing is that only 1% of people who are on LinkedIn post content there. So it's very different to other platforms like Instagram or Facebook where you know, everybody's posting. So there's a real opportunity for you to have a voice, build your brand, create content that supports you know, what you want to be known for, and build your presence on LinkedIn. It's a huge opportunity.
Kate Browne 16:30
I've really enjoyed your content, Kate. And that's partly how we found you today. I've also started posting stuff and you do get quite a bit of engagement, surprisingly, considering how few people are doing it, but the people that do it are often quite senior in roles I've noticed and also are quite engaged. So yeah, it's a plus one for me as well. I used to make fun of it, but I got my last job through LinkedIn. So there you go. Kate, getting a degree, overrated or underrated.
Kate Richardson 16:56
I'm probably on the fence in this one case, in the sense that in the old days in inverted commas, we did leave school, get out, you know, education, whether it was a degree or some kind of tertiary education, go and start the job and stick with it. But now we need to be lifelong learners. So, you know, a degree can be a really important part of education at the start of our career. But we need to keep learning throughout we need to keep developing skills. You know, Kevin Kelly, who is the founder of Wired talks about the fact that we all need to think of ourselves as endless newbies because things are changing all the time. And we need to stay in this mindset of lifelong learning. The other thing is that universities themselves are recognising that, you know, a lot of the ways that they construct their degrees are becoming outdated, and they're not actually, you know, serving the 21st-century career. So, as an example, they're looking at creating degrees that run over a longer period of time and that you almost bite off in smaller chunks. So a degree might go for six years, but it might be something you do at the same time that you work and it might be desired might evolve in change over time.
Kate Browne 18:01
Alright, thank you for playing again. It's been very enlightening. Okay, flipping to money and you know, Pocket Money is a money show. What role should money play in career decisions?
Kate Richardson 18:14
And this is a really interesting one, Kate, I think first off, you know, decisions need to start with with your values and something money can be connected to that. So for example, if one of your values is security or stability, and that's really important to you in your life, then maybe having that paycheck, hit the bank account every month is going to be critical to you, which might mean that freelancing is a bit more of a challenging option for you because it is a little more insecure. Or it might mean if you were to start your own business, it might have to be a side business that you can combine with a more secure, part time paid job because it's going to give you that security that you need. The other thing to mention is that if you make a decision that's purely based on money and not the job itself, it's unlikely to make you happy. We know that the things that intrinsically motivated at work are things like purpose, and we touched on this earlier. So finding some kind of meaning in the work that you do. The second one is autonomy. So having a level of control over the way that you work and the kind of work that you do, and the third one is mastery. So being able to do work that helps you be your best, you know, and that goes back to that conversation we had earlier about strengths, you know, when you are in a role that plays to your strengths, that's when you perform at your best, you know, you learn faster, you are more engaged, and you're generally more more satisfied. There was some interesting research done by Princeton University A few years ago, and what it showed was that money only makes you happy to a point so they found that the more a person's annual income falls below and in this case, it was the US so it was us $75,000 the unhappier the person felt bad once they reach that threshold of $75,000, they ey really didn't get any happier. So if it went up to 100 or 110, the gains in happiness that came with that salary increase, were really minimal or non existent. So it's a good lesson for us all. We think that money is the answer, but it's not necessarily the case.
Sally McMullen 20:16
I love that. That's such an important thing to remember because I think so many of us, like when we're talking about Korea, we're not talking about the skills or you know, the types of jobs, we're talking about the pay bracket that we want to hit. And, yeah, that can be really problematic, obviously. And Kate, you've had some personal experience of making a huge career pivot. What did you learn? And do you have any advice for people who are thinking of doing the same
Kate Richardson 20:42
thing that I learned is that you've really got to let go of the plan and lean into this idea of possibilities and I touched on the explorers mindset early, and that's what really helped me make my pivot. So once I've done that worked around values and strengths. Once I had a sense of what do I want my working life to be like? I identify It's impossibilities that aligned with that. So one of them was a marketing consultant. And as I mentioned earlier, I've been doing some of that work. One of them was this work that I do around coaching, training. And essentially, that's all I knew. But what I set out to do was explore and test those possibilities. So I started doing independent marketing consulting. And on the coaching side, I did some training and coaching. I did some pro bono coaching. I ran some workshops for friends of friends around career change, I borrowed a room, I got people in, I figured out my workshop. And it was really through that process of exploring and testing that I discovered that yes, this is something that I really want to do. So I encourage everybody to let go of the plan. Think about some possibilities that align with those things that I mentioned. And then figure out how can you start experimenting? How can you start exploring testing and typically we do this in two ways. One is we run experiments as I mentioned, so whether that's upskilling, during the short course, it might be doing a side project, which is really how I started, it could be volunteering, doing some work experience somewhere, joining a board, whatever it is anything that gives you a great insight and helps you learn more about that path. Because often a career or job is, it's just a vague idea in our mind, and we don't really know what it's actually like, or whether we enjoy it. And what happens is when you're thinking about changing careers is it feels very daunting. You know, it feels like oh, it's a big leap. I'm not exactly sure what's on the other side. But by going through this process of experimenting and having conversations with new people who are really doing that, that's ultimately what gives you the confidence to take that next step.
Kate Browne 22:39
That's awesome. Kate, to finish, what would be the three things you'd say to someone who's maybe struggling with their career or wanting to make a change? What would be your three key pieces of advice for right now?
Kate Richardson 22:48
The first one would be to get in that explorers mindset. So forget about committing to change, forget about the long term plan. Just think how can I explore this possibility or this career path a little bit further. through conversations, or a little bit of upskilling, whatever it might be. And when it comes to upskilling. The other thing I'd say is don't do it from a place of insecurity, do it because you're interested in it or do it because you think it would add something to your skill set. But often, when we're in a place of transition, or we've been stripped down from our job, we might be feeling a bit vulnerable in a particular area. So make sure you you're doing it from the right place. The second thing is shift your mindset around networking. So as we touched on earlier, sometimes people think that networking is, you know, it's a little bit sleazy, or they don't feel comfortable. Remember, it's just people helping people. And if only 2% of online job applications are actually successful, there's got to be a better way. And networking is a big part of that better way. And the third point is doing that work. I mentioned around values and strengths. And there's lots of tools online that can help with that and then getting clear on how you talk about yourself. So using that technique that I mentioned earlier around the three themes.
Sally McMullen 23:57
I love that and I'm sure all of those tips will be so helpful for so many people listening right now who are thinking of maybe making a change or who are looking for, for a new job. It's definitely a tough time right now. But those tips definitely help.
Kate Richardson 24:11
It is a tough time. And I think part of navigating uncertainty is just continuing to take small steps. You know, it's one small step after another, forget about the grand plan. Just take another step, because action is what actually feels confidence. And there's a lovely virtual circle that happens where confidence in pushes you forward to take another action. So the more small steps you can take, the more likely you are to get to where you want to go.
Kate Browne 24:35
Great advice. Thank you so much for joining us today, Kate. It's given me lots to think about. I love the idea of the explorers mindset. Particularly I think that's something all of us even if we're in a role at the moment, should have and keep developing.
Kate Richardson 24:49
That's great. Thanks, Kate. And thanks, Sally.
Kate Browne 24:53
Wow, that's left me really inspired. I think I've had some really great points I've never really thought about in terms of planning your career Oh, networking and keeping your eye on the ball about where you want to go, going forward.
Sally McMullen 25:05
Yeah, I totally agree, especially, you know, some of the stuff that she was saying about how just taking those little steps can really help boost your confidence. I feel like so many people have been hit again and again and again by 2020. But also probably just like life in general. And it's really hard not to like fall into that slump. And you know, pick yourself up because it's just like, a bit daunting, isn't it?
Kate Browne 25:30
It is. And something that we tend to do is we remember our negative experiences and our knockbacks. But we don't often remember our wins. And in fact, Kate was talking about with us offline, how it's really important to track all your wins so you can actually review them and remind yourself that you are making progress because yeah, your own mind can be a little deceptive and you can get into a real funk when things are going tough. So I think Yeah, that was great advice. Whether you're in a job, whether you're planning for new job or you you're looking for new opportunity. It's really really good advice.
Sally McMullen 26:01
Yes. It's like that awkward thing that I said in an interview six years ago is what keeps me up at 3am. Not like the wins that I've had since then.
Kate Browne 26:09
Yeah, why are our minds so cruel? look great advice in there. We'll have plenty of stuff in the show notes as well. Kate's sending I wrote some of her top tips. We'll have links to her stuff. And also check out LinkedIn if you haven't Kate's a big fan and I've become one of late so I'll be posting this conversation on LinkedIn too so check me out if you're there. But for today, that's a wrap. Everything mentioned as I said is in the shownotes today. It's finder.com.au/podcast.
Sally McMullen 26:41
And if you like the show, feel free to leave us a review on Apple podcasts and tell a friend and join us on Instagram at Pocket Money podcast for all of the behind the scenes, extra money tips, and feel free to slide into our DMS and let us know if there's anything that you want us to to cover on the show
Kate Browne 27:01
Thanks again to Kate Richardson for joining us her partner Claire, who sorted out some of the audio stuff before we came online. Pocket Money is hosted by Sally and Kate produced by Ankita Shetty and editing is by Brianna Ansoldo from Bamby Media. That's it from us this week. I'll see you on LinkedIn Sally
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