Making the most of furlough

22nd June 2020

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!’ – this quote has been attributed to author Dale Carnegie, and I feel it gives a really positive connotation for this unprecedented and unusual time that we find ourselves in during lockdown.

For many of you, you may find yourself in a unique situation of being ‘furloughed’ from work. Having spoken to a number of women over the last few weeks, I have received a couple of distinct messages about their experience of furlough. For some it is a godsend to allow them a chance to invest quality time in supporting their children & family. Others however, have felt at a loss with the lack of structure to their day and are seeking ways to make the most of the time they have available.

Whichever of these apply to you, it is so important to allow yourself to get through this in the way YOU want to do it. You know and understand your personal and family’s needs better than anyone, so do it your way! The snapshots we see of others’ lives on social media, are just that, a snapshot and not a fair representation of reality. So think carefully about how you are influenced by what you read and watch. The reality is that the messages people share are only what they choose others to see and the image they wish to portray, and is not the full picture. Be kind to yourself and don’t give yourself too much pressure on what you ‘should’ be doing. It is time to think about yourself first and protect those around you.

For those seeking some focus and purpose to your day, there is an opportunity to take some time out from the daily routine to invest in yourself and your professional development. Start by trying to give your day some structure, so you can get a sense of achievement for your day, and consider setting out specific time to explore different areas:

A time to reflect:

How often do you sit down and look at where you are with your career, what you have achieved to date and what you would like to achieve in the future? Think about what motivates you, what your values are and reflect on whether these are aligned with the role you do now. This may be a good opportunity to do some planning. Research roles that interest you and the requirements to develop in that area. Identify any gaps in your skills and experience, and consider how those gaps could be addressed.

A time to learn and grow:

Training providers across the UK have had to adapt quickly to meet the requirements of social distancing. The opportunities to learn online are better than ever, and this is your opportunity to dip in to the virtual learning world and learn some new skills or develop your understanding of a certain topic.

Websites like www.open.edu/openlearn and www.futurelearn.com have a wealth of free short courses across a variety of subject areas. You may also find that colleges and universities are offering you free learning and development programmes. You can search online for these and the great thing is that because they’re online you don’t need to be local to them to take part.

A time to increase your profile:

Networking can be so beneficial for your career, from making contacts with other professionals in your field, to developing contacts with potential employers of the future. Check out your social media presence and review your LinkedIn profile. Does it showcase who you are, your personality, skills and career achievements? Consider looking into opportunities to join professional bodies that can support you in your career area and may offer specific networking and training.

A time to embrace a Positive Mindset:

When we are faced with difficult and challenging situations, it is sometimes hard to see the positives. There are so many useful books available, to help us find different ways of dealing with negative thoughts and can help us adapt to a new approach. I could recommend an endless list e.g. Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway (Susan Jeffers); The Chimp Paradox (Professor Stephen Peters), and lots more. If you are not a big reader, then take a look at TED talks on You tube, or podcasts – there are some fantastic motivational speakers to watch, and you can pick and choose to focus on the topics that interest you!

The most important advice I can give at this time, is that whatever you do while you are on furlough, do what is best for you. Remember that this is a pandemic, nobody was prepared for this and we are all finding our way. Think about your personal and family needs first, be kind to yourself and make the most of this time in the way that is right for YOU.

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