During COVID-19, I’ve been holding down a full-time job from home while looking after small children. I am too stretched to focus properly on my work. The quality has certainly diminished. I feel this will hurt my promotion prospects. My husband or male colleagues aren’t in the same situation. What can I do about this? (DF, email).
A: I have heard a lot about this in the last few months. It was always on the radar to a certain extent but COVID-19 has really brought it to the forefront, writes Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
DF, could I ask you to consider your position dispassionately lest you get too down on yourself? You might find this an unusual angle for me to take. But, as a career coach, I always like to focus on helping my client to ‘diagnose’ their exact situation and then lead them to identify steps they can take to improve things.
Four questions to ask yourself now:
- Is your work definitely of low quality? Perhaps you are being hard on yourself. In my experience, people can be very self-critical, often unnecessarily so. Maybe you could get a colleague to give an honest appraisal – you might find that the quality of your work has not diminished as much as you think. Don’t write off your work just yet.
- You are almost assuming you won’t get a promotion – is this in your head or have you real proof or indicators? Again, when pessimism takes over, we can find it hard to see the wood from the trees. If you look around your company, perhaps you will see that women – maybe including you – have got promotion in the past. Maybe they have outperformed the men in the promotion stakes. Of course, you may find they haven’t progressed – in that case your pessimism may be well placed. My point is that you need to have more than just a hunch or a feeling.
- Are you sure your male colleagues aren’t struggling? I always find it dangerous to presume things about other people. People carry their burdens in different ways. Like swans, many are paddling furiously underneath. It is likely that many people in your company – male and female – are finding the whole COVID-19 scenario very difficult. Accepting this will ensure you don’t start feeling too sorry for yourself, thus hampering your capacity to get on top of this situation.
- What can you change now? Sometimes small tweaks go a long way. COVID-19 has challenged our time management skills like nothing we’ve ever seen, but we need to keep looking for ways to make things easier. A friend may be able to assess your situation and make suggestions. Creating times where you can’t be disturbed is just one workaround: it sounds like it might be time to get your husband to take some of the slack. I don’t know your situation intimately but apply some creative thinking to find a way of lightening the load.
I hope you don’t feel like I am batting away your question – to the contrary, I know exactly how you are feeling. I’ve been there. My aim is to help you navigate a pathway to a solution. Keep it real and stay at it until you make things better for yourself.
Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.
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