Joanne Mallon is an experienced media career coach who has been coaching journalists and other media professionals for almost 20 years.
It is tempting to think that we should all be spending this time in lockdown writing novels, learning a new language, reorganising the house and perfecting our yoga routines. The pressure is on to emerge from 'cornonatime' as supercharged versions of ourselves. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the rest of us are just about getting by.
As a career coach working with people in media, it has been interesting to see how clients are dealing with their time in lockdown. Some have been furloughed, many are freelancers on the eternal truffle hunt, and others are digging an escape tunnel away from journalism entirely. Some have been very proactive in managing their careers, whilst others are taking a gentler approach and embracing the time to recharge.
There is no correct or incorrect way to behave right now. Whilst many people in media are finding this time to be incredibly challenging, there are still plenty of small things you can do to give your career a push when it comes to life beyond lockdown.
These small actions are what will give your future career a bigger push. For example, you could:
Brush up your LinkedIn profile
Look, I know everyone hates filling out LinkedIn profiles but think of it like going to the dentist - you do not have to enjoy it, but it is probably a good idea to do it at least once a year. In particular, fill out the skills section because this feeds into the LinkedIn search engine and increases your chance of being found for jobs. While you are there, ask for recommendations from previous clients, and check if you can also use these references on your website. No website? OK, there is your next move.
Create a website to showcase your skills
A simple portfolio website does not have to be expensive or difficult to create. Wordpress is a good choice for journalists because it is used by many professional sites, therefore by using it you are also building your marketable skills. Or, there are lots of other simple-to-use portfolio and publishing platforms.
Scrub up your CV
Keep your CV to a page and a half maximum, a page if you can. Drop the personal interests and GCSE results and devote most space to whatever you have done in the last five years. Think of it like a press release where nobody ever reads beyond the first paragraph and make it punchy from the top.
Write a book proposal
Remember that article you wrote that you always thought would make a good book? Now is an ideal time to develop that idea and see if it really will make the bestseller you always suspected it might. For non-fiction you will need to write a book proposal including a sample chapter. If fiction is more your thing then there is an excellent free online creative writing course run by the Open University to get you started.
Polish your digital presence
Get to grips with any social media platforms that have so far eluded you. On the platforms you do use, check that your bio is a good reflection of who you are and why people should connect with you, and your profile photo is accurate to within a couple of years.
Do a skills audit
What are you strong on and what needs work? If your digital skills are lacking, Google Digital Garage offers 126 free online courses, including SEO and content marketing. Or there is Google Analytics Academy where you can learn about website traffic and earn a certificate to show off on LinkedIn.
All in all, it is a good time for those 'meant to do' type of jobs. And if you do nothing, that is fine too. Take care of yourself, that is the main thing. Especially if you are self-employed and are juggling roles as boss, worker and office cleaner. Look after yourself both mentally and physically. Keep an eye on your alcohol and food consumption, and how much sleep you are getting. It is okay to go offline - for a long time if that is what you need. These pressurised months are not what all of your life and career consists of, even though it may feel like that at times.
And if you need a helping hand and an objective eye to help you navigate, you could always talk to a career coach. I am currently offering career coaching to people in media on a pay whatever you like basis. But also, do check in with your colleagues and support each other. Do not take it personally if someone else seems to be achieving more than you - you never know what is going on behind someone else's locked-down door.
Looking for further training? Journalism.co.uk offers a range of online courses here to sharpen your skills while working from home.
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