I know… an article about leadership AND puppies… you’re welcome. My tale starts in early March, as the new COVID-19 reality was slowly descending upon us. I had already made the mad dash for toilet paper, and there was now one more necessity for survival in isolation: a dog. I had never had one and had always wanted to foster. After several weeks of going through the application process, I was approved, and scooped up not one but two little Bichons, just as lockdown orders were issued in Colorado. In the end, the weeks of preparation and adjusting to life with these pups yielded some insights that I will definitely put to use when assessing future job options.
Pick Your Breed
When it comes to fostering a dog, we need to be honest about our interests and capabilities. As much as my Colorado brethren love energetic, outdoorsy dogs, I knew this cuddlebug needed a small lapdog. #worldclasssnugglers This same type of introspection is a must when choosing your next job/employer, or assessing your current work situation. It is critical to do some deep reflection on who you are and your career path to date, which includes both what has worked AND what hasn’t. Some great resources for this include: the DISC assessment, the Enneagram, Strength Finders, and the Emotional Intelligence Assessment.
Yes, humans are great at adapting to circumstances, and being flexible is a vital asset. However, having a solid assessment of who you are in your best and worst moments will help you determine what type of role and organization will help you thrive. Don’t just stumble into your next job. You are an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses, and your new job should fit that reality. With that in mind, please remember, neither outdoorsy nor cuddly is wrong, unless it’s a bad fit for you.
Learn New Tricks
Whether it’s knowing what tools and skills are needed to foster dogs, or laying the groundwork for your next job, research helps us to be adequately prepared. And we now have a world (wide web) of tools right at our fingertips. For example, Salesforce provides up to 50 hours of free administrative training. Or if you are needing to bulk up on your data science, Tableau is offering their training for free until the end of June. For sales and marketing, HubSpot offers great courses in Word Press and social media marketing, along with sales pipelines. Any of this training would be a beautiful addition to your resume.
Assess the Alpha
As I did my research, I found that dogs experience anxiety when there is a void in the alpha role, and it can in turn disrupt the fulfillment of their basic needs. The same is true for a business. We are also like pack animals looking to our managers and leaders to maintain stability. When our leadership isn’t strong, the course forward is unclear; or when rumors are swirling around the office unchecked, it can trigger a similar panic response. But when employees receive stability and support from the alpha, even in times of chaos, the team can move forward with calm, thoughtful responses.
To put this thought into practice, it can beneficial to ask your potential manager what trainings they have attended recently, what is their leadership style, or even how, as a leader, they handled a previous crisis at work. Additionally, it is important to do a little fact checking of your own. Reach out to others in the organization and get their insights on guidance and support received from management.
Too often we take a passive approach to those leading us, assuming managers have that role because they are qualified. That is not always the case, and you can save yourself stress, anxiety and a new job search if you ask the right questions up front.
Work Like a Dog
Wherever you are in your Covid-19/work process, keep putting in the work because this time is not wasted. Fostering dogs is, by nature, temporary. However, I knew it would be time well spent and an opportunity for growth. There was no rulebook for fostering dogs in a pandemic, so I forged my own way through it. I kept learning and working to make them feel secure. You, too, are being stretched right now. There is no dedicated trail to get you where you need to be either. It is all uncharted territory in this upside-down world in which we are living. Keep focused and keep pushing through. Even when dog droppings are everywhere, and after online meetings have been repeatedly interrupted by puppy yapping — proving the adage that the bark really is worse than the bite — keep moving, working and learning. You will find your path again.
Jacquelyn Adams is a career development enthusiast and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, delving into more effective employee training strategies… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Kayla Sterner is a creative marketing professional and an ambitious program manager with a track record in designing innovative branding campaigns and initiatives for strategic corporate growth. Aside from fostering puppies, she also spends her leisure time practicing yoga and cooking new recipes. Connect with Kayla on LinkedIn here.