When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

I’m not a mixologist or a barista. The only two ingredients I can combine easily are a bottled beverage and ice. But there are people who have innate talent or by training have the ability to create brews that are pleasing to the taste.

Lemons by their nature are sour and for many not so pleasing to the taste, unless sweetened with sugar, as is done with lemonade. The expression making lemons into lemonade suggests the skill to take a bad a situation and improve it, make it a redeeming one, or at least learn from it. As a parent, I’ve reminded my children that even bad circumstances can offer something to teach us.

We might agree then that 2020 has been a big year for lemons. But have we been able to make lemonade?

Upping Your Tech Skills

Did you ever expect to be a Zoom expert? Maybe you are still not quite comfortable with the new means for meeting, be it Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, or Google Hangouts. It has been a steep learning curve for some. But we have learned to chat, raise our hand, and clap virtually. If you are thinking that after the pandemic we will go back to the old ways, think again. Because so many now enjoy and see the benefits of working from home, virtual meetings are here to stay. And how about interviewing virtually? Have you done that in 2020? If so, you’ve probably also learned to create a virtual background and set up your room lighting correctly.

Networking in Virtual Ways

For those of us who enjoy getting out and about making new friends and meeting colleagues, this has been a challenging and unsatisfying year. But, if you are an introvert, maybe the year has been a bit better for you? If you are not the glad-handing type, meeting (virtually), and just basic connecting has been easier and maybe is now within your comfort zone. LinkedIn now has some 700 million active users. Also, the ease in attending conferences and conventions has never been better (and in most cases, cheaper).

Allowing for More Introspection and Visioning

This past year has more certainly allowed us more time to ourselves. Even if you have “bubbled up” with your family or with friends, you still have had more time to yourself. Between Netflix and learning to bake, there has been more time to reflect on your professional life. Have you taken advantage of this time? Has the reflection allowed you to evaluate the type of meaning and purpose you are seeking in work and in your personal life? Has this led to a vision of what you might be doing the future? And what is necessary for you to accomplish that dream?

Planning for a post-COVID World

More introspection might lead to more planning. There have been many things that one could do to advance a career this year: applying online, taking virtual courses, and networking through LinkedIn. But this also has given us a chance to think about what we might do when the pandemic ends. With vaccine distribution starting soon, thinking about how to get back into the game come next summer is important. If you haven’t had a chance to plan, use the colder winter months when you will be inside because of the weather, but also because of the increased concern for COVID spreading, to develop a strategic plan for yourself that includes physical networking.

Taking Care of Yourself and Others

Taking care of yourself and others is important right now. We have been given a chance (if we took it) to focus on our physical and mental health. Have you made an effort to get more exercise? Eat better? Meditate? Have you made more efforts to stay connected with family and friends? There has been much isolation as a result of the pandemic. If you feel isolated, rather than wait for someone to reach out to you, you reach out! The psychological benefits are often immediate and powerful. And if reaching out can support your career networking, then you have the added benefit of creating a connection to someone to help advance your career.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful end of a year like no other! Hopefully, you were able to make some lemonade (or at least a nice lemon meringue pie) with your lemons. Keep baking and looking forward to 2021.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

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