Pivoting 101

…when your job starts to change

By Joanna Samuels

Recently, I received a phone call from a distressed former participant in my virtual employment program. The job that he was hired for over three years ago (an accounting assistant) was changing. However, departmental staff shortages post-COVID had caused his job description to expand. In addition to his tasks as an accounting clerk, he was now expected to help out at reception and with admin tasks. While he was learning a lot his workload had increased, but not his salary. On one hand, he wants to support his manager and be part of the team however, the challenges of these rapid changes are somewhat daunting.

The fact is that the pandemic changed the world of work as we know it. Remote work is a “new normal” and the ways we communicate and get our jobs done are much more dynamic. Some offices have moved to hybrid offices—both in person and virtual. By design, there are less employees in the office at a given time.

“Pivoting” is another “new normal”. When your boss asks you to help the company, team or co-worker out because you are needed, even though it’s not exactly in your original job description, your ability to respond favourably is key. In addition, when you identify a task that is important for the smooth running of the organization in these ground-breaking times and take the initiative to handle it, this too is considered a valuable pivot. Believe me… you are not alone in this situation. Many employees—including myself—help out our organizations in many different ways—wherever there is a need.

Prioritizing safety, doing business productively and being flexible enough to do what’s needed is also a fabulous way to demonstrate our enthusiasm, commitment and team work skills as well. Further, pivoting provides employees with opportunities to learn and improve your skills—and make a difference in your team and company during a pandemic.

Here are five ways to respond when your job changes:

Step 1: Use the opportunity to learn and improve. Think about this change as a positive experience. Never be attached to your “job description.” Being adaptable, and flexible are key soft skills that all employers cherish. It’s a perfect opportunity to improve and learn new skills. Expanding your knowledge and expertise can only help you with your position in the company should you decide to look for another position. This is your chance to help the company grow, and build your resume, so to continue your efforts to remain marketable and competitive in your company and in the working world.

Step 2: Ask your boss for rewards other than a new title or money. With great caution, discuss your new situation with your boss. Find out how you are doing? How is your performance? Without promotion or raise, ask him or her for different perks (for example: a lieu day, a day off paid, longer lunch hours or the ability to work from home once a week). Keep track of your additional working hours, and when the time is right, talk to your supervisor about fair compensation or perks. Be careful. Prepare a script of how to ask for this type of reward. It’s about timing and being reasonable too.

Step 3: Talk to people whom you trust (co-workers, job coach, family, friends). Brainstorm ideas and get feedback regarding your pivoting and new job tasks. You are likely all going through the same process, and you might find it helpful to speak to others. Book a time to meet either on a virtual platform like Zoom or perhaps at the office or in a coffee shop that are safe spaces given
the Covid outbreaks.

Step 4: Get the necessary training. It is important that you learn the skills to help you succeed with your new responsibilities. If the employer or company doesn’t provide the necessary training as your role is changing, then get it on your own. Consult with your supervisor first. Find out if the classes or courses that you are interested in taking that help you with your job. Learning the new technical skills for the new position will only help the company and therefore your supervisor.

Step 5: Self-care. If the job change has any negative impacts on you (your mental, physical, or emotional health because of the stress), then you might consider looking for another job or discussing the situation tactfully with your supervisor. Just make sure not to burn your bridges on your way out.

My last comment is that I am a big believer in “pivoting” and find myself practicing it every day now. I would like my team, my organization and the individuals we help be successful regardless of COVID’s curveballs.

Nothing stays the same forever. Work to be acknowledged and appreciated for the flexibility you’re exhibiting and don’t get too hung up or attached to our past job description. Learning and making new and different contributions can be fun and, at the end of the day should only result in positive outcomes for you (and the company too, of course).

Joanna Samuels, MEd, is an adult educator with an expertise in career/job coaching and community/business partnership building.

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