A Look Back On This Year—And 3 Powerful Career Lessons For 2021

Forbes.com

Posted December 19, 2020 by Mark Perna

2021 is a fresh start—but we have to be realistic about where we’re starting from. Mark’s article, “A Look Back On This Year—And 3 Powerful Career Lessons For 2021,” published at Forbes.com on December 14, 2020.

2020 was the year no one was expecting. Healthy or sick, employed or unemployed, we’ve all felt our share of uncertainty this year. Between the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, societal unrest around racial justice and a contentious presidential election, we’re all ready for a fresh start.

But we have to be realistic about where we’re starting from.

2020 has tested us all in different ways. For many, the usual office routine changed overnight into an indefinite work-from-home arrangement. Employers pivoted, and then pivoted again to support their newly remote workforce. Educators completely reinvented school in a matter of weeks. Parents juggled their work obligations with the needs of their children, many of whom still aren’t back in the classroom yet. Business owners faced grim decisions around furloughs, layoffs and closures.

We’re all hoping that 2021 is better—and deep down, maybe we’re subconsciously assuming that the difficulties of this past year will magically evaporate when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. But unfortunately, the end of the year won’t mark the end of our societal and personal challenges.

In our lives and careers, we may never go back to “business as usual,” but 2020 has given us three powerful career lessons we can all take into the future.

1. Adapting is everything

The ability to adapt and pivot during tough times is a critical attribute for success. Change is the only constant, not just in 2020 but in life. 2020 just highlighted that fact for us, underscoring the value of adaptability. Adaptability is demonstrated in your critical thinking skills, grit and ability to stay focused amid distractions.

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To become more adaptable, examine how you think. When something throws off your groove, do you instantly panic—or plan? Do you look for the bright side, or are you focused on the difficulty? Do you accept change as a natural part of life, or are you resentful that so little seems to be within your control? Honest evaluation and a commitment to change your thinking can help you become more adaptable, both at work and in every other area of life.

2. Communication matters more than ever

Communication is a highly prized skill, with countless books, articles and even courses on how to do it well. But with the advent of remote work on a mass scale, it has become even more crucial to articulate your ideas, strategies, questions, concerns and leadership clearly. Being able to communicate effectively via a screen can be the difference between thriving in your career and just getting by.

To communicate more effectively, focus on listening in order to hear, not simply in order to formulate your own response. Brevity, honesty and clarity are—and will always be—three important components of effective communication, both in person and on screen.

3. Empathy empowers everyone

In a year like this has been, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with our own challenges. But taking the time and energy to enter into another person’s struggles is an empowering act, both for ourselves and those with whom we are engaging.

Everyone is struggling with something. We all have a story and set of circumstances that drive us each day. For many of us, the crises of 2020 have strained those circumstances, throwing us off balance and frustrating our attempts to make things better.

Everyone is struggling with something. We all have a story and set of circumstances that drive us each day. Click To Tweet

Understanding these realities in the lives of those within your sphere of influence can help you support their issues, needs and challenges while still accomplishing the desired goals and objectives. Empathy and communication go hand in hand—and again, a commitment to listen is a cornerstone of meaningful connection. We empower ourselves and others when we choose to be empathetic.

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Taking 2020’s lessons into 2021

Whatever strides you have taken during this past year, be proud of them. However painful in the moment, personal and professional growth is tremendously valuable.

2021 can be a fresh start, but we have to be realistic about where we’re starting from. The difficulties we’ve experienced over the past twelve months won’t disappear with the old year. When we wake up on January 1, 2021, the same challenges, in one form or another, will have traveled with us into the New Year. But so can the insights that this past year has given us.

Even when we’ve left 2020 behind, its lessons of adaptability, communication and empathy will serve us well into the future. What career lessons will you take into the challenges of 2021? You get to decide.

What career lessons will you take into the challenges of 2021? You get to decide. Click To Tweet

Read at Forbes.com


About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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