What Should Your Career Look Like in a Post-COVID World? Three Executives Offer Advice

Sponsored by Cox

Grace Huang,  Kia Painter-Holland and Jami de Lou

Photo courtesy of Cox.

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If the labor market is a bit of a wild west right now, then job-seekers are the new sheriff in town. 

As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many professionals are rethinking what they value in a career — and are ready to walk away from employers who don’t offer the things they need. What’s more, the U.S. finds itself in a hot job market where many companies are eager to hire. 

What does this mean for you? It means that if you’ve been looking to take the leap into a new company, now’s the perfect time to do so. You can — and should — be picky about your next career move. But what should you look for in a new job right now?

For advice, we turned to three Cox executives who are well-versed in career development and mentoring:

  • Grace Huang, President of Manheim (a Cox Automotive business)

  • Kia Painter-Holland, Senior Vice President of HR Business Partnerships at Cox Communications

  • Jami de Lou, Inclusion & Diversity Director at Cox Enterprises

Grace, Kia and Jami agreed on three key things you should look for in an upcoming career move: comprehensive benefits, evidence of inclusion/diversity/equity and career mobility.

Understand the full scope of your benefits.

Sure, ping-pong tables and free snacks sound fun. But, in the long run, how much value do those add to your life? 

Grace, Kia and Jami recommend doing ample research to understand the benefits package that your future employer will offer. How is their medical, dental and vision coverage? What work-life balance policies — such as PTO — are in place? Are there parental benefits, like generous parental leave and adoption assistance? Think about what is really important to you and assess the employers’ list of benefits with a critical eye.

“For many of us, the workplace came into our homes this past year,” Kia says. “Our colleagues have seen our kids and pets up close. I recommend looking for companies that offer flexibility, support for employees who are caregivers and resources for personal wellbeing.”

“Don’t underestimate the total package of benefits — time off, bonuses and incentives, as well as how people work,” recommends Jami. “Benefits are not just insurance and time off — but how those benefits are used.”

Look for evidence of inclusion.

A diverse and inclusive workplace creates better business outcomes. It also points to an organization’s values; after all, respect and kindness are at the root of ID&E efforts.

But anyone can sprinkle ID&E buzzwords into their job descriptions and marketing materials. Our executives say that it’s important to find an employer who backs ID&E promises with action. How do you find one? By paying close attention to what current employees are saying about their workplace, by researching the organization’s community engagement and activism and by finding out if the company has been recognized by experts for diversity and inclusion efforts (i.e., awards). 

In fact, paying attention to a company’s approach to inclusion begins at the interview table.

“I own my bias here as an ID&E professional,” says Jami. “But, the concrete actions a company is taking to increase equity, diversity and inclusion are critical. Ask questions, and look for verbal and nonverbal cues of how the interviewers are experiencing the organization.”

“I’ve heard from many colleagues over the years that feeling valued drives their engagement and job satisfaction,” Grace says. “If you thrive in a culture that recognizes diverse perspectives, equality and contributions, it’s important that you seek a company that values those same attributes.”

Prioritize career mobility.

Just as the world became more flexible with remote working last year, Grace, Kia and Jami say that you should be on the lookout for a job that offers flexibility in career growth as well — in other words, a job that isn’t stuck simply on a vertical trajectory, but allows you to move up, across and over. 

Companies with an adaptable and personalized approach to career growth will probably also offer lots of opportunities for training and job experimentation. This is a good indicator of how an organization empowers its people to chase their passions and interests; and if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the idea of being stagnant, it’s a good sign that the company may be right for you.

“I would advise to look for companies that are innovative in their approach to building career pathways,” says Kia. “This includes those that tap into capabilities and potential in addition to work experience.”

“At many companies today, career growth has taken on a more experiential focus,” Grace says. “For instance, it’s become more common for companies to encourage lateral growth versus vertical growth, as a way for employees to learn the business. It’s important to ask yourself if you are willing to invest the time it takes to learn and grow in this way compared to looking for a job that gives you the title and compensation you expect. There’s no wrong answer; it’s about being honest with yourself and knowing what motivates you.”

As Grace points out, knowing what motivates you will be key to finding your dream career in a post-COVID world. You are now in the driver’s seat to find the right company that meets your personal and professional needs. There’s never been a better time to find the perfect fit.


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