Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 13

How to Let 2020 Help You Grow in Your UN Career!

Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 13

Episode 13 / 31 December 2020


Today’s episode is all about using the end of the year to celebrate everything you did and all that you accomplished in 202 (which you might already have forgotten!). And use it help grow your career.

Remember the “Career Car” that I talked about in Episode 3?

Well, imagine that you’ve been driving for a while now.

The traffic has been dense, and you’ve often had to find new routes – trying to get around big holes in the road or avoiding an accident you could see further up the road. But you’ve still been driving as fast as you could because it often felt like you were a bit late. And there was still a long way to go.

Now you’re feeling tired and in need of a break. You might be a bit concerned about the route you’re taking. Is it still the best one? Are you going to be able to arrive at your destination in time? And are you sure still sure about your destination?

So, today I want to give you an opportunity to pull over, get out of your car and have a good, long stretch. Lower your shoulders that have been sitting up around your ears for the last while.

Turn and look around and behind you – and get out the map and really notice how far you’ve travelled. And faster than you thought after all? Maybe you visited places on the way that you had not at all anticipated from the beginning. What did you learn and experience on the way? With whom? How did you cope with the challenges and problems?

2020 has been a hard year. A truly challenging year for everyone, and it’s easy to just want it over and done with. And then forget it all. But that would be a big shame, I think. After all, many things happened that I want to remember. And be mindful of.

And I’m sure that’s the case for you too. A lot happened in 2020, and you coped with a lot– and my guess is that some of those things you probably already forgot about.

From a work perspective, working in the UN, I’m sure you still delivered a lot – under different and more challenging circumstances due to the pandemic.

It’s time to acknowledge and celebrate your hard work!

So, this episode is about taking time to remember, acknowledge and celebrate everything you did. All the things that went well after all. All the things that turned out differently, but in the end were ok. The battles you fought. The challenges you overcame.

The work you still managed to do while homeschooling your children from the dining table. The training you pulled off, but now online instead of physically. The support to colleagues and supervisees that you had to do via Zoom instead of being able to chat informally in the office. Missing social and professional interaction with your colleagues. And so on. You will of course have many more examples yourself.

Privately, you probably had to cope with many challenging situations as well. Working from home – maybe in settings that were not really conducive to focused work. Maybe sharing your internet connection with the rest of the family having to negotiate whose Zoom meeting would take priority. Suddenly being responsible for your children’s schooling from home. Missing parties and celebrations. Not being able to be with your family and friends, etc.

It’s been hard, but you are still here.

Maybe you lost someone you love. In that case, I’m sincerely sorry for your loss. I lost someone. Not to Covid-19, but Covid-19 made it harder to deal with the loss. Harder to be together and to help each other. And it made all the practicalities much more difficult.

But somehow, we have managed to still care for each other, show love and compassion. And comfort each other. I’d like to acknowledge and remember the time I had with my loved ones and be thankful for all there was.

My favourite End of Year exercise

I live in Denmark, in the northern hemisphere, where it’s been cold, dark and wet for a long time now and we’re right now just a few days past Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Combined with being in the second wave of the Covid-19, things can seem gloomy and grey right now. But one way for me to find new energy is to look back and draw inspiration and motivation from everything I lived and worked through in the past year.

So before sharing this with you I went through the exercise myself. Because I could really use a bit of a boost myself, to be honest.

It was somehow extraordinary to see visually, in my calendar, how many months we’ve been living with the pandemic. And how it’s really not surprising that I feel drained from time to time.

But it was also nice to see how many things had still happened. Personally, I managed to complete a major restructuring of my business with the creation of a new website and new materials. And the fact that I started this podcast – which I’m immensely proud of but which has also, honestly, meant a steep learning curve and a lot of work.

I was happy to be reminded of the workshops I managed to do and programmes both started and completed with my wonderful clients. And the many people I kept in touch with – some even more I think than we would have in a “normal” world. And I started walking every morning. I’ve definitely gotten more exercise in 2020 (which is good, because I think I’ve also eaten a lot of “comfort ice cream” …)

Your 2020 Review
  1. First, get out your calendar. Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I did last week or last month if I don’t write it down, so I keep brief notes of what I do every day in my calendar. (I keep a good old physical calendar for this, but an online calendar works just as well of course.)
  2. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like the effect you can get from working on a whiteboard or flip chart paper on the wall. But most likely you’re working from home now, so a big notepad will also do fine.
  3. Now, simply note down month by month the highlights of the tasks or projects you were working on.
  4. Consider also noting down what the biggest challenges were for each month.
Once you have an overview of the whole year, ask yourself these 3 questions:
  1. What were the three best things that happened in 2020?
    (These could be singular big achievements – or the fact that you managed to do a smaller thing consecutively over a longer period.)
  2. What are the three things you are most proud of from 2020?
    (Again, these can be big or small. You decide.)
  3. What important elements from 2020 would you like to make sure that you remember or carry with you into 2021?
What are your most important learnings from all the things you coped with, everything you did in 2020?
How can they help you grow in your career?

Think about, for example:

  1. What were you capable of?
    (Maybe you feel that you’ve been particularly resilient, resourceful, versatile, patient, or?)
  2. Are there truths you have discovered along the way about what’s important for you in your work? Or about how you enjoy working? Or has it become clear to you what you really don’t want to do – or how you really don’t want to work?
  3. Is there something you want to do more – or less – of, in the new year?
Share your insights

You can of course easily do this alone with your calendar and a notepad, but it can also be a really great exercise to do together with your team.

Ask for example each of your team members to share what they feel are their own – and the team’s – biggest contributions in 2020. Make a brief overview and share it with your team so you can celebrate your achievements in 2020 together! And draw lessons you can bring with you forward.

It can also be a wonderful thing to do together with your spouse or partner and your children.

For work, it’s good to be reminded of how much that actually happens during the year. On each individual day, we’re often hurrying from one thing to the next. Focussing more on what’s still not ticked off on the to-do list. And not quite noticing everything that we do get done. Everything that goes well after all.

There’s a saying that –

we overestimate what we can do in a day and
underestimate what we can do in a year.

This exercise is a good reminder of that. When we look at things a bit long-distance, it becomes clearer how dense our lives are. Full of so many big and small events, relationships, and things we learned from along the way. Creating, hopefully, a rich life – and work – experience.

I really hope that you enjoy this exercise and that it might make you want to share and discuss with people around you.

In the next episode, I’ll talk about how to look forward in the new year – even if that seems difficult in the midst of the pandemic. But most of us are geared in such a way that we need something to look forward to.

And maybe a bit of a roadmap to help us navigate along the way.