Two years ago, Lori Tharps ’94 was at a crossroads, content in her life as a tenured professor but longing for something new. After attending her 25th Reunion, and hearing similar stories from classmates, she took a leap of faith, upending her comfortable life in pursuit of her true passion. These days, she couldn’t be happier.
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‘You Can’t Afford to Be Seen as Dispensable’
As we slowly re-emerge from the pandemic and take stock of changes in our office work environment, some things are obvious. For one, there will be a higher bar for costly and time-intensive business travel, since it became clear how much could be accomplished virtually.
Similarly, far more employees will demand to work remotely at least part time—and it will be hard for companies to say no. Research from London Business School, for example, affirmed that knowledge workers were indeed more productive working from home.
In addition to these well-publicized trends, I have observed two key work-place developments that are worthwhile for every professional to monitor—and get ahead of.
The Personal Brand Challenge of Remote Work.
With the rare exception of companies that have decided to go entirely virtual, we will soon face situations in which some workers are in the office and others are remote. For employees who have chosen to remain remote, this presents a clear networking disadvantage that has to be overcome—which is why consciously honing one’s personal brand has become so essential. (This is a topic I discuss in my book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). If you are not “in the mix” on a daily basis, it’s incumbent on you to develop trusting one-to-one relationships (even through Zoom calls) with colleagues and ensure that they, and company leaders, know what you are working on and how you are contributing to the company’s bottom line. You can’t afford to be seen as dispensable.
The Importance of Multiple Revenue Streams.
Almost no one predicted the severity and duration of the pandemic—not to mention its swift decimation of entire industries, such as travel, entertainment and hospitality. This highlights the need for every professional—including those in “safe” day jobs— to cultivate multiple revenue streams as a form of economic self-protection. Whether you are receiving rent from a real estate investment or cultivating a side gig as a consultant or coach, having additional income sources is a powerful way to mitigate risk, capture potential upside, and enable you to weather future upheavals from the strongest position possible.
The pandemic changed our relationship to work—not least, our sense of security around it. By focusing on these strategies, you can create more and better options for your professional life and work toward the career you want.
Dorie Clark ’97 is a marketing strategy consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has been named one of the top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50. She is the author of the forthcoming The Long Game: How to Be a Long Term Thinker in a Short-Term World (Harvard Business Review Press, September 2021). For a free Reinventing You self-assessment, go to dorieclark.com/reinvent.
This story appears in the Summer 2021 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.
Read More Smart Ideas for a Post-Pandemic World
Creativity: Alice Howe ’13, ‘Slowing Down Was at First a Challenge, Then a Gift’
Remote Learning: Jennifer Smith ’91, ‘Education Is Meant to Be Active’
Pandemic Response: Angela L. Rasmussen ’00, ‘We Must Approach Preparedness Collaboratively’