Like millions of working Americans, I kissed my cubicle goodbye in 2020 and haven’t looked back since.
It became all too easy to stay inside my bubble at home, especially as an textbook introvert who found socializing both physically and mentally draining even on a good, pre-pandemic day.
Still, I worry about working women and moms like myself who have begun to feel so isolated in our home and work lives that it’s now interfering with our career prospects.
Here are some solid practices to adopt to keep your professional network fresh and to ensure you’re taking enough time to devote to your career, even in isolation:
Think outside the office
Through my work as a career coach, I often speak with women who are comfortable with their inner circle at the office but haven’t cultivated any professional relationships outside of work. If you’re feeling stuck in your current job, working on those external professional relationships could be the key to finding your next great opportunity.
Start small in a way that feels authentic to you. Invite one or two former colleagues out to lunch and catch up on their latest career moves. Let your friends be a matchmaker for you, too. One of my favorite pandemic-era friendships was formed when a friend set me up on a “blind date” with a woman he thought I’d gel with.
Stay authentic to your interests
Just because you work in a certain industry doesn’t mean you have to network there exclusively. Think about the hobbies or interests you have and find a way to form connections that way. One of my career coaching mentees moved from Florida to Washington, D.C., last year and made new friends through a local Facebook group dedicated to podcasters.
Never stop being a student
When a friend of mine found himself in a professional rut earlier last year, he enrolled in a six-week online course aimed at helping professionals align their work with their personal values and beliefs. As hippie-dippie as it sounds, it was $500 well spent, he said, and helped him develop a brand new business model for his nonprofit.
There’s a bevy of wonderful online courses and communities available today from individual creators to massive online course hubs like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. Your employer might even reimburse you for the expense if you classify it as professional development. In fact, consider asking your manager for an annual budget for ongoing education like this.
Keep your LinkedIn alerts on
Even if it’s just once a week, take the time to peek at your LinkedIn inbox and make sure you’re not missing any interesting job opportunities. I’ll never forget coming back from maternity leave only to find several juicy job inquiries languishing in my LinkedIn messages.
One of my favorite tips for professionals is to master the art of passively job searching — making sure your LinkedIn profile is polished and updated and that your “open to work” signal is turned on, so that it’s easier for recruiters to spot you.
Remember, you are worthy of your time
If you’re a working mom reading this wondering when you are supposed to find time to devote to networking and investing in your professional development, I hope you keep this in mind:
One of the greatest epiphanies I had early in the pandemic was that my son didn’t need *me* to personally fulfill every single one of his needs. Of course, he needs to be fed, cuddled, diaper-changed, bathed and played with. But I ran myself into the ground when I tried to do every single thing for him throughout the day as well as work. When I started to ask for help and lean on others, I suddenly found the time I needed to invest in my own personal needs. Now, when I spend quality time with my kid, I am giving him the best version of myself, fully recharged and energized.
Mandi Woodruff is an inclusive wealth-building and career expert, cohost of the Brown Ambition Podcast and founder of the MandiMoney Makers community.
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