Monday, April 12, 2021

Why Virtual Teams Fight -- and What to Do About It




My last post was on communications, and I wanted to address the topic again because there are some unique challenges with communicating virtually.

One of the biggest issues is that team members are often communicating for the first time with someone they've never met in person. While they may believe a virtual conversation goes well, they are often taken aback when an email later arrives from this person that seems less-that-friendly or judgmental.

Lindred Greer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that communicating through video calls or emails can escalate conflicts quickly as colleagues take disagreements personally. 

That's because colleagues "can’t see the context or the nuance or even the facial expressions of the person who is engaging in this task conflict,” she says.

As a result, one colleague may start to think negatively about the other person, become more aggressive and escalate the conflict -- something that wouldn't happen if working face-to-face.

In addition, as if often evident on social media, people are more uninhibited in their opinions when they aren't face-to-face, and that can lead to some ugly emails or texts that make the situation worse.

She suggests that one critical way to avoid problems among virtual team members is for managers to have a face-to-face "kickoff" meeting with the members. After spending a few days together, relationships will grow so that in the future, they will be better able to assess interactions and not jump to conclusions.

If your manager doesn't facilitate such contacts, then take it upon yourself to try and meet as many team members as possible in person. It might be a bit more challenging while we're still in lockdown, but it will be well worth the effort.


Monday, April 5, 2021

5 Communications Lessons to Learn Today



I've been covering the workplace for a long, long (long) time, and the one thing I have learned is that 99 percent of the problems in the workplace occur because  of poor communication.

Poor communication between managers and employees and poor communication between co-workers is usually at the heart of every snafu, dispute and poor job performance.

That's why I think a recent podcast with management guru Robert Sutton is valuable. You can find the full transcript here, but let me highlight some of his points about how to communicate better:

 1.  "A lot of what a leader’s job is is to be clear about where people should focus attention and where they should not focus attention."

2. "There are people who suffer from collaboration overload. There’s all sorts of evidence...that essentially you’ve got 3 to 5 percent of the people who do 35 percent of the work on many teams. They get beleaguered. They get burned out. They quit. They get cynical." 

3. "When there’s hand-offs between people, between silos, those are the places where the conflict, where the misunderstanding happens. And as a leader, what your job is is to have everybody, for example, in every silo and in every shift understand what it feels like to be the giver and the receiver in the hand-off situation."

4. In meetings, "if a CEO talks the whole time, that's a bad sign. If you’re a boss, shut up and ask more questions. What good leaders do is that they make it safe and encourage the people who talk less to sort of add something, too."

5. "There’s all sorts of evidence that when people argue in an atmosphere of mutual trust, that they’re more likely to bring different perspectives. They’re more likely to develop the best ideas."

No matter what your job, these are the things you need to think about and try to implement in your daily communications. Do you ask questions? Do you cut off someone who annoys you or do you let him/her voice an opinion? Do others trust you enough to give their honest opinions? 

Working on these issues will not only make you a better communicator, but a more valued member of any team.

Monday, March 29, 2021

How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"

 



"Tell me about yourself" is the most common interview question asked of job candidates, which is why it's a good idea that you come up with a great answer.

First, know that many interviewers use this as an ice breaker, a chance to establish rapport, whether it's for an in-person interview or over the phone.

Second, don't try and wing it. Since you know there's a really good chance you're going to be asked this question, you need to think about what you want to convey to this employer in a few sentences.

Here's what you need to know:

1. Be positive about yourself. "Well, there's really not much to tell...." isn't a good way to start. Instead, think about something you've recently accomplished in your latest role. Or, if you've been unemployed, you can talk about a previous role and the skills you used that are relevant the job and what you've been doing lately to keep up your skills: "I'm really proud of the fact that I completed certification in XYZ or will be completing my online classes this spring."

2.  Don't include unnecessary details. Since you want these comments to be concise and engaging, don't add things that don't advance your story or aren't related to the job you're seeking. 

3. Be engaging. Employers are also looking for soft skills, which  means you need to be able to communicate in a professional but friendly way. They want to see you make eye contact, show some enthusiasm when talking about your skills and smile. 

4. Work on verbal tics. You never know the kind of things that might bug an interviewer, but it's a good idea to work on eliminating bad habits such as saying "like" too much ("It's like, I've always, like, wanted to work in, like, the music industry.") That's also goes for "you know," "uh" and beginning every sentence with "so."

Finally, remember that you don't want to begin reciting your resume when you're asked this question. Keep your answer between 30 seconds and about 1.5 minutes -- try to see what feels comfortable to you. This is just an opening for your interview, and you'll have more opportunities to talk about specifics.

If you can, ask a friend or colleague to listen to your statement. Don't memorize it, just feel comfortable with it so that you're focused more on engaging the interviewer rather than rattling off an answer.




Monday, March 22, 2021

Are You Falling for Job Scams?



There are millions of people searching for jobs right now, which can be a stressful time. But to add to that stress: scammers.

These scammers know that people are desperate, and that gives them lots of targets. Recently, FlexJobs identified 14 common job search scams. Among them:

  • Data entry. These sound like promising jobs because they offer a lot of money for not a lot of required skill. While there are legitimate jobs out there, they're not going to offer really high pay. In addition, legit jobs don't ask you to pay a "fee" or "initiation payment."
  • Pyramid marketing. This is illegal, period. Don't fall for a plan that offers no product, just the exchange of money. Remember chain letters? That's how pyramid schemes operate: they believe that they will benefit when other people follow them into the program and pay money. The key to remember is that in order for someone to make money in a pyramid scheme, someone has to lose.
  • Stuffing envelopes. Never sign up to pay a "fee" to stuff envelopes or do anything else like simply craft projects. The plan is to get you to enroll other people, and then you get a small commission. Run from these jobs.
  • Unsolicited job offers. When you're hunting for a job, to get an unsolicited recruitment email can be sort of exciting. Be careful, however, because scammers use LinkedIn to reach targets. While a legitimate recruiter might be reaching out, do your homework before responding to check out whether the recruiter or his/her company is well known.
FlexJobs offers other job scams to avoid on their site and in the link I've posted above. Always make sure that in your rush to get a job you don't expose your personal information (Social Security number, bank account number, etc.) on a job application. Once you get the job, then a legitimate employer will offer you the proper documentation to sign.


Monday, March 15, 2021

You Got a Warning at Work -- Now What?



If you've ever been reprimanded at work -- either a written warning or a verbal dressing down -- what did you do?

This may not be pleasant to think about because perhaps you were stunned by the rebuke and didn't respond at all. Or, perhaps you got mad or cried or did a quick retreat to your desk afterwards.

The problem with a warning is that you often feel unprepared for it and so react from your gut when it happens. This isn't a good idea because it often means you react poorly or inappropriately, further adding to your problem.

It's not unusual if you don't really have anything to say when you receive a warning. If that happens, don't worry about it. It's OK to get your thoughts together and address it later through another discussion or email.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Ask questions. If you were warned about being "uncooperative" or "having a bad attitude," ask the boss if he or she can give you a specific example. This gives you a better idea of how this problem occurred. Make sure you're not combative: "Can you be more specific so I make sure I fully understand the issue?"

2.  A rebuttal. If you believe that you've unfairly reprimanded for something, then it's OK to speak up. But be careful -- you can't really say "I don't have a bad attitude," when your boss believes that you do. However, if you're warned for being late on projects, you can provide proof from emails that you did turn your work in on time. (It may turn out that the boss has the wrong culprit -- it's your colleague who is late, not you.)

3. Own it. It can be difficult admitting that you screwed up, but owning up to it will be seen as a good first step.

4. Make a plan. Once you realize that you need to make improvements, ask for input from the boss or human resources. If you're reprimanded because you're always late, then that's something you need to figure out on your own. Can you set more than one alarm? Can you take a different route to work that will be faster? Can you have someone else take your son to school so you won't be late?

5. Follow up. Managers don't like to fire people. It's unpleasant and it's a hassle. They have to go through a lot of paperwork and then they have to find someone new and train that person. So, use that to your advantage. Check in with the boss and tell him how you're working to improve. Get his input so you can make adjustments as necessary to meet expectations. If the boss sees you making an effort, that will be a plus in your favor.

6. Dust off the resume. In some companies, once the "paper trail" of reprimands begins, it means that the boss has already made her mind up to fire you and she's just jumping through the hoops to satisfy HR. That's why it's always a good idea when you get a warning in writing to start looking at what else is available in the job market. That way, if you do get fired, you've gotten a jump on your job search.



Monday, March 8, 2021

Why "No" is Important to Your Success



One of the features of social media that people seem to appreciate is the ability to block or unfollow or mute people who annoy them or disagree with them. This creates a much more tranquil online experience as it means that you're only interacting with people who you consider "nice" or who agree with you.

Unfortunately, that's not the best strategy for your career, says Adam Grant, author of "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know."

In his book, Grant provides examples of people finding success because they surrounded themselves not with "yes" -- but with "no."

Grant, a Wharton management professor, says that people who always agree with you aren't likely to point out flaws in your plans or express skepticism. They don't challenge you to think differently, to look at the world in a different way or help you overcome weaknesses.

That's why he advocates having a "challenge network." These are people who are "disagreeable -- critical and skeptical.

"They're fearless about questioning the way things have always been done and holding us accountable for thinking again," he says.

Too often, Grant says, people protect themselves from dissent as they gain power. "They tune out boat rockers and listen to bootlickers," he says.

The key for finding the right people for your network is knowing that these people dissent because they care, not simply because they delight in shaking things up. You want people who are moving toward excellence -- they look for better solutions because they have integrity and a commitment to looking for successful outcomes.

Who could be part of your challenge network?


Monday, March 1, 2021

When Was the Last Time You Invested in Your Career?



Just because you can't travel or meet with a lot of people right now does not mean it's OK to stop investing in your career.

In fact, it's more important than ever that you be proactive in making sure that you're growing your network, keeping your skills up-to-date and understand the trends in your industry and how they will affect you.

It's understandable that you may have grown a bit lax in some of these areas, but you need to change that starting now. With more vaccinations and more businesses ramping up their plans for the future, you can't afford to still be lounging in your pajamas with your laptop.

It's time to start investing in your future. Here's how:

1. Set a career goal. Most career goals went out the window when the pandemic started, but now it's time to reassess. Where do you want to be in one year? In three years? Are you on track to make that goal happen? What do you need to alter to make it a reality? Who do you need to contact? Will it require training or additional education? 

2. Reverse engineer. Once you've identified that goal, then start working backward on how you can make it happen. For example, let's say you want to be a registered nurse. You need to set a target date for when you'd like to graduate. Now, start working backward on how much schooling you will need. When will you need to be admitted for classes? When will you begin pulling together necessary records to meet that admittance deadline? When will you select the school you want to attend? When will you begin your research on schools? You will probably discover along the way that  you need to get moving now to make your dream a reality.

3. Check in with mentors. As the world begins to return to some sort of normalcy this year, you need to be ready to go. Talk to a mentor about where you are in your career, and new goals. Are past goals still realistic? Does your mentor think you need to turn in a new direction? 

4. Shift into a new gear. For many of us, just getting through the last year has been a great achievement. But now it's time to take it up a notch. Are you taking time to brainstorm creative ideas? Are you finding ways to challenge your thinking with new podcasts or books? Are you proposing new ideas to your boss or your team -- or to a job interviewer?

5. Attend industry events. Many professional organizations are doing a great job of moving their events online. This is the time to jump in -- attend seminars, go to training events and meet new people and reconnect with others. This will not only ensure that you're keeping up with industry trends, but that you're investing in your network and your career.

A lot of people have taken a career hit over the last year through no fault of their own. It's been a helpless feeling. But now that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, it's time to be proactive and set your own course for what lies ahead in your career.

Monday, February 22, 2021

This is Why Meetings are Such a Hot Mess -- and What You Can Do About It




It often seems that many meetings go off the rails right away. Someone shows up late. Another person won't stop texting. Still another participant stares into space and seems to be in another world entirely.

Collaboration expert Dick Axelrod says in a recent interview that the trouble with meetings often occurs even before participants show up, because people "arrive at meetings prepared to be disengaged."

He explains they may still be thinking about their last phone call or interaction, or be distracted by many other things such as an upcoming deadline.

The key is grabbing the attention of folks right away, he contends, before they have a chance to mentally drift away. That can be done by:

1. Doing a warm up. There's a reason that musical acts or other entertainers often have a warm-up act: It gets attention and prepares people to be engaged. One way to do this is the spend a few minutes letting people speak freely and greeting people individually.

2. State the purpose. Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered what it's about and why the heck you're there? If you feel that way, it means that the facilitator hasn't done a good job of clearly stating the purpose and how it's linked to a larger problem that needs to be solved by the group's collective creativity or expertise.

3. Provide a roadmap. This should be a quick explanation about what the group needs to do during the meeting. This can be done by going through the agenda briefly and addressing any questions.

While this may sound like a simple formula, I'll bet we've all been in plenty of meetings that seem disorganized, rambling, too broad or very, very dull. With a few tweaks, it seems that we can all make better use of our meeting time.

Monday, February 15, 2021

3 Tips for Writing an Appreciation Letter




When you're in a job search -- or land a new job -- one of the key ingredients for your career is to make sure you write letters of appreciation.

These letters should be written to those who have given you recommendations -- either in writing or via phone calls to potential employers -- and to anyone else who has helped you along the way. (This may also include a mentor who has offers advice, a former co-worker who provides a contact or even a supportive colleague.)

The reason you want to write these missives is because it is more meaningful to someone rather than a "thx" text from you. The time you spend writing and sending the note will stick with the receiver, boosting your professional and personal connection. In addition, the person is much more likely to want to help you in the future when it's clear you appreciate efforts made on your behalf.

Here's how to write the letter:

1. Be prompt. Don't wait six weeks or six months to write a letter. Try to get it done within days of the person helping you. If it takes you a while to write the letter, don't let that be an excuse to not send it. A late note is better than none at all.

2. Be clear. "I'm writing you because I want to express my appreciation for ...." 

3. Include a few details. You don't need to offer a long explanation, but a couple of details about why the person's help was so valuable will help personalize the message and make it more sincere. "By providing a recommendation letter, you helped open doors for me and make my dream of becoming a sales manager that much closer."

The appreciation letter is often forgotten in other ways -- did you send an appreciation letter to the boss who gave you a raise or promotion? Did you send an appreciation note after a colleague covered for you without complaint?

Sending such notes doesn't take but a few minutes of your time. Instead of scrolling through Instagram for 5 minutes (or more), use the time send a thank-you note. 

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Why You Need a Letter of Recommendation Now




Since the pandemic began, many people have been laid off, or taken positions that "underemploy" them. In other words, they haven't been in their "real" job for some time.

As the job market starts to improve this year, many people will want to return to their "real" jobs. The competition will be keen, of course, so that means those who are well-prepared, focused in their search efforts and finding ways to stand out will have a better chance of landing a new job sooner rather than later.

One way to get an edge on the competition is through a recommendation. While some employers don't ask for a recommendation until a job candidate is in the final stages of consideration, you can also offer a letter of recommendation when you apply for a job.

Even if the application is made online, there's no reason you can't send a letter of recommendation to the hiring manager or even the company's human resources department as a way to open the door a little wider. 

Some may feel a little reticent about asking for a letter of recommendation, but that's negative thinking. First, managers tell me they get such requests all the time, even from employees that they may have supervised decades ago. Second, the only thing that can happen is the person ignores you or declines to write the letter. If that happens, you're no worse off than before.

Still, there is a proper way of asking for a recommendation. Do it well, and the person may come through for you. Do it poorly, and you're likely to not get a letter.

Here's how to ask:

1. Choose your targets. A former boss makes sense -- especially from your last job -- as this person can speak directly to your work ethic, talents, soft and hard skills, etc. But also think about those who have watched you work, such as someone at a volunteer organization or colleagues that worked closely with you. Family and friends aren't good choices as employers will see these as biased.

2. Make contact. Send an email or make a phone call to the person to make your request. Tell them that you're applying for jobs and you are trying to be proactive by also supplying employers with a recommendation letter.  

3. Prepare. Don't just expect someone to write a letter of recommendation about you without some context. If you do, you're risking a very generic, uninspiring letter. Instead, you want to supply key information so the letter is targeted and favorable. Send the person your current resume and remind them of your key skills that also match the job you're seeking. For example, you may want to remind the person of how you're detail-oriented, have the right technical skills, are a team player and have a great work ethic. You might want to even mention one or two examples of these skills to jog the person's memory. (You can even attach examples of recommendation letters.)

4. Deadline. Mention the deadline in your initial call and then post it in bold in your email.

5. Send a thank-you note. Always follow up with an appreciative email -- a handwritten note is even better -- once you receive the recommendation.

Start getting prepared now to be proactive once jobs start to become available in your chosen field. Make sure your resume is polished, your interview suit still fits and letter(s) of recommendation are ready to go.

Monday, February 1, 2021

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Career Thrives While Working from Home


Working for home has become the norm for many workers since the pandemic began, but would you like to continue to do so once it's safe to return to the office?

For some employees, the question is moot since their companies will require them to return to the office. But other employers like Twitter say their employees may continue to work from home forever.

If you are given the choice to continue to work from home, however, you need to keep in mind that there could be some downsides to your career.

One of the most obvious is that you're going to miss out on a lot of watercooler conversations or chance meetings that can help you make critical connections or grab new opportunities. These things can still happen when you work from home, of course, but it's going to be more difficult.

Another issue is that when you work from home, your boss or your colleagues may not believe you're working as hard as them. This is strange considering they will all claim they worked really hard when they were at home, but there you have it. It will be hinted by some that since you're still at home, you're not as committed to the job or the company, or that you're taking five naps a day and watching "Gilligan's Island."

So how do you ensure your career continues to thrive if you choose to continue working from home?

1. Attend meetings. Don't just call in to participate -- use Zoom to show that you're really attending. Dress like your colleagues in the office and don't multitask while on the call (no painting your bedroom or doing the dishes).

 2. Make phone calls. While using Slack or emails is fine, when you're working from home you want to make sure that those in the office are hearing from you personally. Instead of sending five emails to settle an issue or discuss an idea, for example, phone your colleague. This gives you a chance to have a more personal connection, and also catch up on some of the watercooler talk you may have missed.

3. Keep track of your work. Even if your boss doesn't require it, record when you're working, what you're getting accomplished, new contacts you may have made, ideas that have been developed, etc. This will be critical when it comes to an informal or formal performance evaluation. You want to offer concrete proof of your contributions, and if you don't record them, you'll forget them -- and so will your boss.

4. Be helpful. One thing you may notice while working from home (if you don't have too many distractions), is that you get a lot done in a shorter amount of time. You can think more deeply about problems or issues and you have more time to develop innovative ideas. Let your boss know this is a bonus -- send her some of your fully developed ideas or notify her of an emerging trend you've spotted.


Monday, January 25, 2021

What Job Hunters Need to Know Now

 



As the job market opens up, the competition for jobs is going to be pretty tough. Those who are unemployed or underemployed are going to be vying for positions with millions of others.

So how can you stand out to employers and beat the competition? It's not difficult -- but it will take some preparation and effort. Here are some ideas:

1. Clean up your social media. Do a search on yourself. What turns up? Working at a local soup kitchen, posting industry think pieces or drinking games with your friends and curse-word laden posts on favorite movies or celebrities? Employers will conduct due diligence on employees before they hire them because it can save them a lot of headaches down the road. Your profile needs to be squeaky clean.

2. Update your resume. You may feel that you don't have anything new to add to your resume if you've been unemployed during the pandemic. But if you've volunteered at a local food bank, gotten a relevant online certification or even launched a new blog on industry trends, then that's worth mentioning.

3. Make a good first impression. After being in lockdown, you may need to dust off some of your professional skills. Whether you're interviewed via Zoom or in person once vaccines are widely available, you've only got seconds to make a good impression. First, you need to smile. Put your shoulders back, hold your head up and look the employer in the eye (or camera). It may sound simple, but be nice. Remember your manners and say please and thank you. Surveys show that the most desirable traits in a candidate are sincerity, kindness and patience. So, no peeking at your phone, letting your eyes and mind wander during the interview and sighing because you're bored.

4. Know your skill set. While you'll be asked about specific skills depending on your industry, employers are going to zero in on certain abilities no matter what your job. They include being detail-oriented, being a fast learner, being a self starter, being a team player, having initiative and being dependable. Try to think of specific instances where you've displayed such abilities -- these are the examples you can work into your interview.

Predictions are that the job market will start to really heat up in late spring or early summer, but don't wait until then to prepare for interviewing. Look for gaps in your resume or skills set and seek to fill them with online training or education. Record yourself on a Zoom interview with a friend to see how you can improve your video presence and background and start keeping a list of ways you've shown teamwork, initiative and dependability in past jobs.

Monday, January 18, 2021

3 Tips for Dealing with a Perfectionist Colleague

 


For most of us, we have great days at work when we're really on top of our game. Then, there are other days when we don't do our best work, and we know it. 

But a perfectionist can never let anything slide. He or she believes that everything has to be perfect, every single time. They cannot walk away until they feel something is just right.

When you work with someone like this, it can be a blessing and a curse. A perfectionist often catches mistakes or ensures quality control, making everyone's work shine brighter. So, that's a blessing.

But when this same perfectionist co-worker makes everyone stay late on a Friday night because he's obsessing over every detail for a presentation to be delivered Monday, then it's a curse.

So how do you best deal with a perfectionist colleague?

1. Know there is good and bad. It's unfair and unprofessional for you to trash talk this person when you know that he adds value to any project with his attention to detail and quality of work delivered. But it's OK to also feel exasperated when this colleague holds up work or puts more pressure on others with perfectionist tendencies. Remind yourself that while this person may believe in perfectionism, you know that doesn't exist. In other words, the perfectionist isn't perfect and neither are you.

2. Pick your battles. It will make for an increasingly stressful work environment if you constantly fight with a perfectionist, who feels there is nothing wrong with offering unsolicited advice on what you do wrong. Here is where you can choose to control your reaction: 1) thank him for his comments and go on with your day; 2) tell him that you don't agree and walk away; or 3) try to see some merit in what the perfectionist offers, but don't let it undermine your self-esteem. How you respond will depend on the situation, but try role playing with a trusted colleague or friend to see how you feel reacting in various situations and are prepared so that you respond appropriately and not in anger.

3. Have excuses ready. If the perfectionist seems to corner you with his advice, always have something ready to move yourself away from the situation. "I've got a meeting/call soon. I'm going to have to go." Or, "I can't chat now. Maybe later. I've got to go." Even, "I just remembered I forgot to give Brad an important message. I'm going to have to cut this short."

How do you deal with perfectionists?

Monday, January 11, 2021

3 Trends That Could Define Your Career in 2021



When you're making career plans for 2021, it's a smart idea to imagine where you think future economic growth will be, the industries that will still continue to suffer from the pandemic and whether this might be the right time to start your own business.

McKinsey recently published their list of 2021 trends based on their research, and here's some of the things you also might want to consider:

1. Consumer rebound. If you've been in an industry hard hit by the pandemic, things are expected to improve as the COVID-19 vaccine looses restrictions. It's predicted that "revenge shopping" will take place as consumers go crazy with shopping, eating in restaurants and going to concerts. How fast spending may recover depends on whether people in individual areas feel confident, so make sure you factor that into any future job decisions.

2. Business travel lags. While leisure travel will rebound, it's not going to be an immediate rebound for business trips. Business travel is expensive: in 2018, business-travel spending hit $1.4 trillion. But companies are expected -- after using Zoom and collaboration tools during the pandemic -- to reassess if travel is always necessary. Could your career plans be adversely affected if business travel drops off? Or, would you benefit if businesses continued to turn to technology to collaborate or meet? 

3. Entrepreneurs will blossom. From online medical appointments to shopping online for groceries, digital transformation has been sped up and now dominates the marketplace. It also opens the door to a flood of entrepreneurs who have seized on the pandemic disruption to market new ideas and start new businesses. Even McKinsey admits they didn't see this coming: More than 1.5 million new-business applications in the U.S., which is nearly double from the previous year. If you are afraid you can't go it alone, think again. Those new business applications show that people are figuring out ways to thrive with their own ideas and not be dependent on someone else.

While most of us could never have predicted what 2020 would become, monitoring market trends, reassessing our career paths and seizing on new opportunities may be the best way to weather whatever 2021 has up its sleeve.



Monday, January 4, 2021

Why It's a Great Time to Explore New Career Paths




The pandemic has forced many people to take a hard look at their careers. Some like what they see -- they realize how much they love their jobs and feel fortunate to be doing it for a company that appreciates them.

Others have discovered that they're really not happy with their career choices, or that their employer isn't a good fit.

But what can someone in such a position do about it now? With millions unemployed, it can be difficult to think about leaving a current job and the pandemic makes it difficult to "get out there" and start looking for something new.

The solution may be to begin exploring other roads to career happiness. Are there companies that have always intrigued you? Do you have people in your network who seem to be energized and happy in their jobs and you would like to feel the same? Would you like to better understand other fields that could use your skills?

Now is the time. Instead of baking another load of bread or doing another puzzle during your downtime at home, try becoming an explorer of the career universe and seeing what you can discover. Here's some things to try:

1.  Look for enthusiasm. Do you get a little thrill when you think of yourself working for a certain employer? Do you see rave reviews about an employer on Glassdoor from its employees? If you're going to explore new opportunities, make sure you're headed in a direction that holds promise and not one where the employer is considered a dead-end career choice. Read current news stories or industry trend articles to see how others view the industry or company.

2. Snoop. Don't do anything illegal, of course. But it never hurts to roam the Internet and check out the social media feeds for those who have jobs that you covet or are in fields that intrigue you. Employees often post about their workday, so look for experiences that interest you -- or completely turn you off. Company websites are only going to offer the most glowing view of an organization -- you're more likely to get a clearer picture by looking at different sources.

3. Reach out. With so many people working from home, it can be easier to get them to commit to a short phone call or answer a brief email. You can ask about what a typical day looks like for them, what they love/don't love about their jobs, where they see their industry going, etc. Most people are willing to have a brief conversation (no more than 20-30 minutes) and provide some insight. Even if you only get one or two people to talk to you, you will get a much more realistic picture of what is available.

During this long quarantine, many people have felt trapped. But you don't have to feel that way in your career. As long as you keep exploring, listening and learning about what's happening in areas that interest you, there will always be new roads to explore and new opportunities available.