One Upside to a Pandemic? Informational Interview Time

Our COVID times remain challenging, and frankly, bleak. But believe it or not, there are some upsides, and that's what I'm focusing on this week. I'll be sharing the career upsides, the silver linings, that come from COVID this week to help you keep your career inching along. My first piece of advice is to use the time to schedule and do some informational interviews. Networking is always key to your career, and we have all missed out this year. Conferences that were cancelled, meetups that have been postponed until...well, who knows. But that doesn't mean you can't find and schedule some informational interviews. You (probably) have less oversight than ever from your employer, right? Maybe you're entirely working from home. Maybe you're setting your own hours for the first time in your career. Maybe your boss and their leaders are completely pre-occupied with pandemic planning. That is a good thing. It means less scrutiny on your schedule, on where you 'went' when you went to have coffee with someone. The ability to meet virtually with anyone in your targeted field or dream job, anywhere. The freedom to chat openly, in the privacy of your own space, without fear of cubicle neighbors overhearing you. The ability to ask more candid questions than ever. The opportunity to share more openly your long-term career aims. It also is a low ask of you. All you have to do is find the person, ask them, and think of some good questions. I know many of us are beyond stressed and overwhelmed, so this is one the most low-effort ways we can at least take some baby steps towards planning our short-term or long-term career moves. What's holding you back from scheduling at least one informational interview this month? Let me know how I can help you make that happen.  

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Hey Higher Ed: What's the Plan Here?

Asking higher ed employees to ever pivot and remain flexible is fine up to a point. My clients are well beyond that point. They have flexed so hard they have snapped.

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The Worst Merry Go Round

Well, here we go. We have found the worst policy to come out of higher ed during a pandemic. (Although, this working mom points out it would have also been awful during The Before.) Behold: Florida State University bans parenting during remote working. Now, before I tear this apart: I've seen a couple of different explanations of how this unfolded (none of which is anything but outrage- & what-the-hell-worthy!). But one explanation was that it's just a reminder of their regular telecommuting policy that requires parents who are working from home to have childcare. My employer actually has that exact same policy; they just haven't taken the cruel step to remind us of it during a bleeping pandemic, when already stressed-to-the-max parents have no alternative. The other explanation I've seen is that the story is misunderstood. That this policy applies only to staff...and only to staff who cannot do their jobs remotely. No matter how many explanations FSU offers, outrage and condemnation remain the lasting impression of this news. And that's no surprise, and in fact, deserved. But here's the thing. Now, while we can all agree that nobody can get safe childcare right now and that this announcement couldn't have been handled or timed worse....what I don't see anyone talking about is how do we expect higher ed employers to handle this as the pandemic continues unabated, long-term? Before you think I have any answer: I don't. And neither does anyone else. In fact, a viral New York Times story from yesterday did a good job of summing up the issue: In the Covid economy, you can have a job or be a parent. Pick one. Parents like me can advocate. And we should, and loudly. And often. Especially those of us with sufficient career capital to push back on behalf of younger and less experienced peers and colleagues. And employers can continue to operate with grace and patience and tolerance. But for how long do we expect them to do that, as higher eds hemorrhage money and incur increasing costs? My employer has from the beginning made all kinds of flexibility available to parents. The work week is now all inclusive - any shift, whatever works. Told managers to look only for outputs, not hours at desk. Operate with empathy. Accommodate missed deadlines, slipping productivity. And worst case scenario - your tasks cannot be done from home? Can you do these other kinds of tasks? Then do those instead. Then they came up with a new timesheet entry and I started to get…

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The Best Laid Plans

One parent shares her struggles with planning for fall 2020 amidst COVID-19, as she has to commit to a proposed on-campus schedule, but has kids.

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Uncertainty amid Coronavirus

To say things are hard right now is an understatement. Amidst a global pandemic, we're all struggling to adjust. To protect our health. To working offsite. To teaching online. To parenting while working at home. To schooling children and caregiving for others amidst all of that, too. But higher ed, too, is uncertain. Things are about to get bad. Very, very bad, I think. Worse than the great recession. Moody's has downgraded the higher ed sector to a "negative" outlook for 2020. At the most severe end of the spectrum, analysts are predicting a 30% drop in enrollment. International students will fall off in droves as this goes on, and uncertainty over travel bans continue. Out of state students may well opt to stay put closer to home after being sent off campus for the duration of this semester. And, of course, even in-state students whose families have become unemployed will no longer be able to afford school. In many recessions, higher ed enrollment goes up, as people scrape together ideas on re-skilling and re-credentialing for new opportunities. And there's need based aid. Both true. But this time, it's different. Admissions officers are warning of a huge drop in enrollment. This is a new and never-before-seen level of volatility. Colleges have had to scrape together emergency funds for N-95 masks, tons more cleaning and sanitization, buy thousands more licenses to eLearning software, and hire additional medical personnel. None of which was budgeted for. So they have to dip into reserves to provide laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to students in need, HIPAA-compliant Zoom channels for counseling, additional security expenses to release otherwise-locked down external network access to data so that offsite researchers and employees can access it...higher ed is hemorrhaging money. And that hemorrhaging of money is already hurting higher ed. Now. This year. Right this second. What it will do in the near future has yet to be seen, as higher ed tries to overcome the crisis we're faced with today. Public higher ed has been funding-starved for years, thanks to austerity measures, so it will face greater challenges in climbing out of a money hole. So far, I haven't seen any bailout proposals that address the scale of what's to come. But even private higher ed is hurting. Maybe not to the same degree, but endowments dropped 20-30% as the market dropped. And, as families lose their incomes, they are going to be increasingly resistant to tuition increases to offset any losses. Right now, before the brunt of it has set in, parents are…

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Networking during a Career Change

Here are 5 good conversation openers that are industry- and event-agnostic to help you get conversations going, rather than waiting for them to come up to you for your next networking event.

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