I know how you feel right now. It’s the end of 2021 — at last! If you work in retail, you probably want to be anywhere but here and are reading this while you’re on a lunch break, stuck in traffic or zoning out on yet another video call.
So I might be asking a lot from you now, but take a minute to think about where you’ll be this time next year.
These last two years have been a slog. Everybody has been talking about digital transformation this, fluidity that, agility here, pivoting there, and we’re all just trying to get the next campaign out the door and make our numbers for the year.
And then on top of all that let’s pile on another year of COVID craziness, of relentless news cycles that make one half of the world wonder if the other half has lost its damn mind.
Is it any wonder that we’re also experiencing the Great Resignation, where millions of workers have either walked away from their jobs or got laid off and then didn’t come back when businesses opened up again?
I want to end 2021 talking about the Great Resignation, and my comments are intended for two audiences: marketers and other workers who are wondering what will come at them next in 2022, and their bosses to make sure they understand that this is what their employees are thinking about now.
3 ways to prep your career in 2022
1. Find a balance between work lives and personal lives
The Great Resignation resonated for many marketers. The way we balance our work lives and personal lives got shaken up in 2020, and now we’re looking for new ways to balance the two.
“Work-life balance” could rapidly become a cliché because everybody’s talking about it. But it matters because people have realized over the last two years that their lives are out of balance, and they want to fix that.
Employers have been talking for years about how their companies offer workers a great work-life balance, but the people who work there say it’s absolute chaos. Working five days (if you’re lucky) and having two days off is not a sustainable balance if you have to work 20 hours a day and then answer calls and emails on your days off.
People have reached their breaking points, and they are looking for a better balance. Their jobs are no longer everything. The prevailing attitude is “If my company doesn’t respect me, why should I respect the company?” They’re asking their employers to demonstrate what work-life balance means.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming we all have the same expectations. Work-life balance needs to be defined in concrete terms. It should be as important, and as easy to understand, as your salary, vacation pay and benefits.
For employers: Define what “work-life balance” means to you and work at creating conditions that help your employees achieve it. And ask your own bosses the same questions your employees are asking you.
The Great Resignation is happening not because of what you have done. It’s what you haven’t done. Too many companies have not given their employees a collective break or the value they’ve earned. They laid off many valuable employees in 2020 and overloaded the survivors with work beyond their skill-sets. They have not assessed how their corporate changes affect the people who have the least authority to deal with the after-effects.
Employees are telling their bosses, either in person or by leaving, that they have had enough. A friend told me recently they quit so they could have a life and be able to enjoy it.
They don’t want work to define them anymore.
A year from now, will you have made changes that give you a better life?
2. Make yourself attractive to other offers
One trend fueling the Great Resignation is people who are just looking to see what else is out there. They’re asking, “What will get me excited to get out of bed?” It’s easy to fall into a rut with our jobs, the day-to-day struggle to make sense of a changing world, to cope with schedules, meetings, politics and anything else stressing us now.
But being open to new opportunities can be refreshing. The best career advice I ever got came from when I was early in my career: Always take the interview. Maybe you weren’t really looking. Maybe it’s not for a job you ever thought you would want. It doesn’t matter.
Meeting with someone who’s interested in you keeps you fresh. It helps you practice your interview skills for the day when you are serious about finding a new job. And it’s good to understand what companies are looking for these days and how your skill set would fit in with that.
I have taken interviews even when I’ve been happy in my job, working with a good team and nothing is going wrong. But a compelling offer would be enough to turn my head.
Plus, it’s an ego boost to be sought out. Those calls reinforce my decisions about my career and where it has gone. It can boost your value at your present job if word gets around that people are checking you out.
A good friend recently did that. Took the interview with no expectations. Turned out, the company really wanted him and gave him almost double his salary among other things.
As the saying goes, “Look for a job while you have a job.” Take the interview. Talk to a headhunter, or to the HR person calling you because one of your colleagues or clients recommended you.
Before you sign out for the day, go to your LinkedIn profile and update it. (I do this regularly. Check it out.) When you have time, update your formal resume, the one you upload on Indeed or The Ladders.
A year from now, will you have been more open to new opportunities?
3. Boast a little
This is hard for marketers. We’re so project-driven that when one job is done we move on to the next without stopping to talk about the goals we achieved, the work we shepherded from concept to completion, and all the ways our companies have prospered because we did more than just send another email campaign.
That’s not right. If you’re an an email marketer, you drive the leading channel in the digital space. You should shout all the time about the great things you accomplish every day.
Besides updating your work profiles and resume, start a list. Call it “Cool Stuff I Did.” Update it every time you score a win. Add it to your resume. Share it with your boss when you ask for more money and remind your team members to create and update their own lists.
When I work with clients to help them get more funding for their programs, I help them talk about all the great things they’re doing and the value they bring to their organizations.
In most companies the attitude outside the marketing team toward email is just “Send another email.” But if you boast about it enough, if you highlight your accomplishments and the revenue and return on investment that you achieve with it, you can persuade the powers that be that email is a valuable channel to invest in.
Your executive team is looking for investable strategies. Sell your channel as vigorously as you sell your company’s products, and ask for the pat on the back because you are doing some frickin’ cool stuff.
A year from now, will more people know about the great things you’re doing in email?
For employers: Pretend your employees are reading this advice. How does that change your management style? I’ll wait…
I’m not encouraging everybody to walk off the job right now. But when it’s late December 2022, I hope you have been able to make changes that put you in a better place.
Me? I want COVID to be manageable at last. I don’t want to feel weird when I go to conferences. I want to continue the career of my dreams.
I have been blessed with an amazing career and to work with some spectacularly brilliant people. But I have done the slog, too, felt the blood, sweat, tears and frustrations. Seven years ago, I made a conscious decision to not just accept what was given to me. I stuck up for myself and determined that I deserved a better work-life balance, pay that reflects my worth and contributions, and the opportunities and positions that came along with it.
This major mindset change put me in control of my career and life.
What I wish for you over the next 12 months is that you can say the same thing. Stand up for yourself. Demand a better work-life balance because you aren’t a robot.
Happy holidays. See you in 2022, and as always, don’t let the zombies win.