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Reclaim Your Career Energy in a Post-Pandemic Workplace

Reclaim Your Career Energy in a Post-Pandemic Workplace

Seasoned HR expert Kevin Salcido exhorts business leaders to shake off the malaise of the past few years and reinvigorate their professional lives

Photo by Danya Gutan from Pexels
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There’s a scene in every disaster movie where the survivors of a hurricane, tornado, nuclear attack, asteroid collision, or alien invasion cautiously emerge from the wreckage to a new reality. There has been a physical reordering of things—their garage is a half mile down the highway, and their neighbor’s SUV is wedged into the upper reaches of an oak tree. There is also psychic damage, and the characters wear a stricken look on their faces as they attempt to come to terms with a new and shattering uncertainty.

I see a version of that look on many people today.

The numerous problems we’ve been facing—the pandemic, ongoing uncertainty about the future of work, supply chain problems, social strife, political polarization, increased cost of living, and the threat of war—have nudged us all off our stride in our personal and professional lives. 

But like the characters in a film, we can only wander aimlessly for so long before we must move to the next act of our lives. Things will settle sooner or later—or not. In the meantime, it’s time to get back to some career management basics.

Recommit to Your Physical and Emotional Well-Being

Our average weight, alcohol consumption, anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation have trended up in the past few years. Quality of sleep, a sense of optimism, and purpose and life expectancy have trended down. These trends need to be reversed.

Stress impacts us all—even the most resilient—both physically and emotionally. You are not going to perform your best at work if you don’t feel well. Your days will be long, and bereft of innovation and enthusiasm. When you feel flat, your level of engagement, motivation, and commitment drops and you start to blame work for your ennui. Maybe you change jobs in the hope of a reinvigoration only to find yourself bored again when the adrenaline evoked by the change wanes.

It’s time to start looking inward to ignite the passion that carried you so well in the past. Get back to the gym you once went to religiously and now go to sporadically. Take a month off from the beer or wine you have at 5:00 p.m. instead of at 7:00 p.m. because you now work from home. Stop binging Netflix and start seeing the friends you got used to not seeing during the pandemic. Dust off dormant hobbies or start new ones. And do your soul a favor by cutting back your daily intake of news and social media.

Refresh Your Professional Persona

About a third of the way into the disaster movie, an average Joe or Jane emerges to set things right. They emit a mix of calm confidence and savvy decision-making that inherently draws others. Though the challenges seem insurmountable, the protagonist persists through the chaos. Ultimately, a new and better world is created.

There is no reason this person can’t be you in your organization. Start with a commitment to an attitude of optimism. Yes, things are tough—but wallowing in it doesn’t set you apart from those around you.

Now is the time to ideate and create. Now is the time to set aside your old biases and seek clarity in the muck.

If you are in leadership—formally or otherwise—people will take their cues from you. If you‘ve been slumping and dragging your chin over the past few years, it’s time to literally straighten up. Your non-verbals come through loud and clear and signal your commitment level—as do your word choices. People are hardwired to respond positively to the confident and self-assured. Remember the vanishing art of listening. Make bold, crisp decisions.

Ask yourself every day whether your attitude is making you a net-positive or a net-negative to your organization and colleagues.

Finally, revisit your physical appearance. We’ve all become a little lazy with dress and the way we present ourselves physically—easy to do when you can wear anything below your waist on Zoom. But it has been proven that if we take the time to put ourselves together well when we go out into the world, we feel more vigorous and productive—and receive deference from others.

In short, your opportunity at work is to come off as a person who cares about making things better, to live in the moment, and to bring others along into a brighter future.

Reestablish Relationships with Your Circle of Influencers

If you worked remotely, changed jobs, or left the workplace in the past few years, your usual professional community was probably upset.

You may have become disconnected from your sponsors. If you changed jobs, you might not have had time or the opportunity to establish this critical mentorship in your new gig.

Sit down and decide what you want to do professionally in the next three years. Then list three people who can influence your goals. Then list off three or four things you want these people to know about where you are in your career reboot. Then set up lunch, coffee, or happy hour with them to refresh the relationship. If you’re in a good place professionally, I‘m sure they will want to know. If you are thinking of a change, I’m sure they can help you.

There is a river of opportunity right now for those who want to make a move or renew themselves in their current place. You just have to work to identify what may be holding you back or frustrating you and get back into the flow.

Things have certainly been weird—but investing now in your well-being, your personal brand, and your relationships will help you recapture your professional momentum.

At least until the man-eating spiders show up.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Hispanic Executive or Guerrero Media.

Kevin Salcido is the vice president and chief human resources officer at Arizona State University. He has been a human resources leader for over thirty years. Early in his career, Salcido had a senior personnel role with a major retail chain in Phoenix and spent time as the Southwest region HR manager for the Pepsi-Cola Company, a division of PepsiCo. Salcido then became the vice president of human resources at Central Newspapers Inc., a media and information company that operated seven daily newspapers including The Arizona Republic and The Indianapolis Star.  Salcido was then senior director of labor and employee relations and leadership and workforce development at Arizona Public Service before joining ASU in 2007.

Salcido’s major areas of interest include employee and labor relations, organizational development, building performance-based cultures, creating inclusive work environments, and leadership coaching. Salcido is also the author of the book Your Afternoon Mentor. He holds a BS in justice studies and an MBA from Arizona State University.

Salcido’s nonprofessional interests include travel, hiking, rafting, golfing, and anything else outdoor-related. Salcido is also a licensed private pilot. He lives in his native Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife, Toni.

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