Liv McConnell
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Pie > cake.

Maybe your hours at work have been cut back drastically as a result of the coronavirus, or you’ve lost your job altogether. As businesses across the world shutter — with little idea as to whether or when they’ll be able to reopen — countless people are left feeling like their careers have been put on hold. 

While it’s a good idea to continue job searching even as we navigate this pandemic, sending in applications isn’t the only thing you can be doing for your career right now. Below, here are 12 other ways you can use this time to increase your professional value, until this “new normal” shifts back to a simpler “normal.”

1. Beef up your Excel skills. 

That’s the plan of one FGB’er who says that during the pandemic, she’s been “working to advance my Excel skills. I think this will help set me apart during my continued job search.” If you similarly feel your career could benefit from stronger Excel skills, check out online course offerings on Lynda or Coursera; you can also find free tutorials on YouTube.

2. Register for free webinars.

FGB regularly hosts virtual professional development webinars and is always adding more to the lineup, including upcoming webinars on breaking into STEM fields (without going back to school), reinventing yourself after 50,  and advice from CEOs on forging your career path.

3. Host your own webinar.

Want to use this time to strengthen your standing as a thought leader in your field? Try hosting your own webinar!

4. Take a free class from an Ivy League school.

All eight Ivy Leagues in the U.S. are offering online courses that the public can take for free — and there are hundreds of them. Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, published a list of 450 such classes, spanning subjects like business and data science to personal development offerings like Yale’s incredibly popular class on happiness

We’ve rounded up a handful of other free-to-stream college courses that sparked our interest, too, like UC Berkeley’s class on emotional intelligence in the workplace and the University of Michigan’s negotiation class.

5. Participate in a virtual career fair

Career fairs are a great way to put yourself (virtually) out there, ask questions about companies you’re interested in and connect with recruiters. FGB regularly hosts online career fairs; our next event, specifically for women in technology, is on April 30th.

6. Get caught up on your industry’s required reading.

Maybe you’ve been telling yourself for months that some day “soon,” you’ll make it through the top five titles everyone in your field is talking about. Now’s the perfect time to get caught up. Try posting your list of to-read books on social media to gauge whether others have interest; you could make a virtual book club out of it, which has the added benefit of reinforcing your network connections.

7. Ask someone whose career you admire on a virtual coffee date.

Maybe it’s an old colleague you haven’t caught up with in awhile or someone new you’ve connected with online. For many of us squirreled away indoors, distractions are (relatively) at a low, and the hunger for connection and conversation is high. Now could be an excellent time to pour some resources into your network; just make sure when asking that you’re sensitive to any hardship the other party may be experiencing.

8. Join an online career group. 

One of the simplest things you can do for your career in this moment is explore online networks and groups that are dedicated to your field (or your intended field). FGB offers a wide range of groups to join, from the FGB Official Job Seeker to groups for career changers, freelancers and women looking to reenter the workforce after a career break. There’s even a group dedicated specifically to resources and support for navigating life during the coronavirus. And if you don’t see a group that fits your needs, you can always create your own!

9. Watch relevant Ted Talks.

In between Netflix shows, try streaming a Ted Talk or two for inspiring advice from experts in education, business, science, tech and creativity. 

10. Take new headshots. 

You don’t need a fancy camera or professional photographer to give your social media profiles a professional facelift. Plus, it’s a great excuse to change out of your PJs. 

11. Make a Professional Profile on FGB.

Let recruiters know you’re open to new opportunities with your FGB professional profile. Our private profiles let you showcase your accomplishments and easily apply for jobs with top-rated companies who believe in gender diversity.

12. Give yourself permission to do nothing.

It’s tempting to try and make this unsettling time count for something by maximizing your at-home hours and convincing yourself that, in this way, you’re taking action. But you don’t always need to be taking action. That’s a statement that was true before this new normal, but today, it's especially salient. As the world increasingly feels like it’s holding its breath, waiting to see how this all shakes out, allow yourself to sit with some of that stillness. Our lives won't look like this forever. In the meantime, you can take some of the small actions on this list in preparation, but also — take breaths. Be generous with yourself. And give yourself some time. Goodness knows, there's plenty of it.