Dear Millennials: Lessons to Learn from the COVID-19 Crisis

C. Kate Farrar
C. Kate Farrar

C. Kate Farrar is a passionate nonprofit strategist and development professional, specializing in major gift fundraising. She is currently the Director of Development and Donor Relations for Christian Union. Her prior experience is in public policy where she worked in external affairs for the American Enterprise Institute. Kate is currently pursuing her MBA at Johns Hopkins University - Carey Business School. Her coursework focus is in marketing and leading organizations. She hopes to propel Carey’s core commitment to business with humanity in mind throughout her career.

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The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has been an unusual time for professionals. No one has been immune to this rapidly changing market landscape and many are hurting financially as industries are being drastically impacted. Undoubtedly, times of crisis magnify and reveal strengths and weaknesses, not only within our respective organizations and businesses but also within each of us as individuals.

In reflecting on how the pandemic has impacted the economy and many of our individual careers, work lives, and futures, I wanted to write an open letter to my fellow millennials with a few lessons to draw upon during this unprecedented time:

1) VIRTUAL IS HERE TO STAY. As much of the workforce is sifting through incredible change, it is clear that working from remote and virtual offices is here to stay. Even if you work in an industry that demands face-to-face interactions, learning how to adapt your work to a remote environment is critical. I know there are some great memes circulating on social media right now with jokes about working from home, but as a PSA to my millennial friends, take working from home seriously. 

I know there are some great memes circulating on social media right now with jokes about working from home, but as a PSA to my millennial friends, take working from home seriously.

Start figuring out how to be productive in this new environment. How you perform now can impact your hirability in what will certainly be an increasingly virtual workforce to come. The internet is crawling with work from home tips, so do your homework and be intentional and strategic about developing a rhythm that works for you.

2) ADAPT FAST. Many industries and professions are facing unforeseen challenges and your company’s response rate to change will dictate its future viability and success. Begin asking yourself: if your business or organization is not good at adapting, what can you do on your own to help it become more agile? How can you pivot or tailor your services to make them valuable for such a time as this? Times of crisis necessitate creative solutions that are quick to evolve amidst rapidly shifting realities. 

While many millennials may be mid-level in their work, I want to empower you to think through what recommendations you can provide to your boss or their boss during this unusual time. Now might be the moment to pitch that out of the box idea you had to boost revenue or cut costs. Take ownership of your company or organization’s successful adaptation. This is a pivotal opportunity to lead the way in what it looks like to be a resilient organization.

3) LEARN FROM LEADERSHIP. Whether your leadership has been exemplary or disappointing, we can all learn from our leaders in this season. If you have been pleased with your leaders, let them know! Take note of how they are navigating uncharted waters and communicating with their employees and shareholders. Conversely, if you have felt frustrated, think through areas that could be improved and lead from where you are positioned. Criticism during times of chaos or crisis is often not productive; creative solutions are a better way to help.

In learning from leadership, it is essential to understand that before you can lead, you need to practice being a good follower. Note, times of crisis reveal points of weakness, so show some grace when needed. Your leaders are people too and one day our generation will be the prominent leaders. After all, everyone is learning through this process.

While these reflection points are from a business leadership perspective, I know there are many facing unprecedented personal and financial challenges amidst this crisis. Many have lost their jobs and missed milestone events. If that is you, I want to extend my deep sympathy — don’t hesitate to reach out to others or myself for help. Let us lean into the community (albeit virtually), kindness, and generosity.

Let us lean into the community (albeit virtually), kindness, and generosity.

Perhaps extending these virtues despite our own circumstance is the greatest underlying lesson for us all as organizations, as communities, and as future leaders.

*This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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