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Ask a Recruiter: I've Changed So Much During the Pandemic. Is My Job Still Right for Me?

When values don’t align, is it time to leave?

Woman thinking
Photo courtesy of Kevin Turcios

This article is part of InHerSight's Working During Coronavirus series. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, find helpful advice here on working remotely, job hunting remotely, dealing with anxiety and stress, and staying safe at work if you have to be on-site.

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

We’ve discussed before how pre-pandemic career goals don’t work because so many people have changed significantly during this unpredictable and traumatic time. With our workforce entering a new phase of the pandemic, we asked Dana Hundley and Jenna Richardson to share how their own clients have evolved in the past year and a half and how women might use that knowledge to their advantage in their current or future roles. The biggest questions of all: How do you know if your job or company is still right for you, and when is it time to leave

What’s your elevator pitch?

We are Dana Hundley and Jenna Richardson, the cofounders of Career Cooperative, an Oakland, California–based boutique consulting firm that empowers clients to face career transitions, professional growth, and recruiting with confidence through 1:1 career coaching, resume and toolkit writing, and community programming. We consult with companies to attract diverse talent through impactful recruiting and interview strategies, build internal talent programs, and support employees through career development. We started working together at a recruiting agency, and through our combined 15-plus years in full-cycle recruiting and career development, we’ve worked with hundreds of candidates and companies and learned a lot in the process. When you have a focus, understand your value, master the magic of your story, and build a supportive and diverse community, the realm of possibilities is endless.

Talk a little bit about what you’re seeing with your clients and even yourself in terms of values and work during the pandemic. Any trends?

Redefining, and sometimes defining for the first time, values and their relationship to “work” is at the center of a lot of work we’re doing right now with individual clients—and frankly ourselves. It feels like we're on the other side of something, things are absolutely shifting, but by no means are we going back to what was "normal" before the pandemic, so the big question is: What's next, and how do we navigate what's next while living our values? How do we retain the important lessons we learned during the past 18+ months (which, for me, has centered on what is actually important/what I want to prioritize and what my true “capacity” is/how I want to navigate/balance work and life)?

The trauma of the pandemic experience is showing up in different ways for different people, but one thing that is omnipresent is that this has been a transformative experience for everyone in some way or another. In terms of career priorities, I’ve noticed a big shift to lower risk tolerance and indexing highly on stability as a driving factor in assessing opportunities. I’ve also encountered a lot of clients who are interested in having more detailed conversations with organizations about how mental health is supported, community impact and responsibility, how company values show up at work, and how companies are addressing diversity, equity, belonging, inclusion both internally and externally. 

Some of the other trends we’re seeing are around:

  • prioritizing short-term versus long-term goals (focusing on what is needed in this moment);

  • careers taking a backseat to personal and family needs; 

  • work-life balance and what “flexibility” in the workplace actually means and looks like, including how “flexibility” can sometimes be harmful;

  • and, compensation package asks that lean toward true overall employee support versus perks in the office. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Know if a Company Is Living Out Its Values?

How can women ensure those newfound wants at work are preserved as the pandemic continues and eventually ends?

Although we hope that the imminent threat of COVID-19 will eventually fade, it’s important to take the lessons of this experience with us into the “new” work environment. For many clients, this has meant finding their voices in a different way—getting really clear on priorities and boundaries, advocating for themselves and their values, checking in often with managers and colleagues, and ultimately bringing more vulnerability and authenticity to the workplace. We’ve all had to make impossible decisions throughout the course of this pandemic, which have really called into question what is important and allowed us all to get more clear on what that looks like. Not losing sight of that as we settle back into the distractions of a more “open” world will be key in continuing to pursue what it is you want, deserve, and need from a career, workplace, or manager. 

Women will have to continue to first start with understanding what they need and want out of work, and then acting and advocating from there. Communicate; set check-ins; get “face time” with managers, colleagues, and leadership; and establish healthy working relationships where you can have candid conversations about what you, and your team/colleagues, need. 

Read more: How to Make the Business Case for the Work You Do

How would you respond to a woman who says her new values no longer align with her current company, job, or both? Is quitting the only way to go?

First, by asking, what does she/they truly have the ability to impact? How does the lack of values alignment affect you? 

It can be a long, challenging road to truly impact a company’s values, a culture shift is hard even with the best intentions. We have to ask ourselves if we see the possibility of change, are we up for that work? 

Values misalignment can have a really big impact on our mental wellness. There is an emotional toll when we are not living our values. So even if we think we can impact change at an organization, and want to in theory, are we able do so without negatively impacting the rest of our lives? This is a personal boundaries question, and it’s okay if the answer is no, and it’s time to step away. 

If it’s a values misalignment with your role, but the company still makes sense for you, it is time to have a conversation about internal movement and/or a rescope of your role. It never hurts to ask what other opportunities may exist within the organization, don’t make assumptions without first having the conversation. A change internally may not be possible, and again, it is more than okay to step away and go for a role that aligns with your values and makes sense for what you need and want now. 

Read more: The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Happening. These Are Realistic Ways to Negotiate Permanent Remote Work.

For women who are interested in job seeking, how should they change their process in order to accommodate their new values? What are some good questions to ask themselves and interviewers during the process? 

First, get really clear on what information you need to best decide if there is a values alignment. What values do you need in a workplace or role? What are the tangible ways in which those values can be lived that make sense for you?

You can do research on a company and their values ahead of an interview, but speaking with people both as a part of a formal interview process, and more informally through connections who may work there, are great ways to dig deeper. Empower yourself to ask the tough questions earlier on in the interview process:

I read your company’s Glassdoor reviews and found that many employees feel that leadership has not been supportive of employee mental health. What are you doing to address that?)

Ask those questions of many people throughout the organization. If you are part of an underrepresented group, ask to speak with someone whose background aligns with yours—obtaining diverse perspectives will give you a greater likelihood of painting a fuller picture. 

Interview questions from How Can I Learn About a Company’s Culture When I’ve Never Met Anyone in Person? and How Can I Find Out If I'll ‘Belong’ During an Interview? remain relevant for sussing out values alignments. 

Be direct with your questions and ask for specific examples. You can even refer to the company’s values: 

“Integrity” is listed as a company value, how do you feel that shows up in the workplace and/or is fulfilled?

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