Can it get weirder than this? What is happening right now doesn’t even happen in a real war situation. Corona Virus has brought everything at a standstill. And with this you must be really wondering by now, what to do in self isolation?
The government has ordered schools, colleges, and other institutions to remain in complete shutdown indefinitely. The biggest of the hotels have shut down, domestic as well as international flights have been canceled. Some of the industries have entirely vanished from some countries, there are no sales happening.
This is spooky. Not just a couple of countries, but the entire world has gone into a pause mode. Yes, it has happened, in an otherwise peaceful-looking environment.
For so many of you, your jobs, internships, or even entrepreneurial ventures have gone in a limbo. Everything is under arrest, and so are you at your home in self-quarantine. But even in these extremely demotivating times, you can find a ray of hope in certain productive things to do while you are in self-quarantine.
One of the most resilient and the most productive thing to do at such times is self-education and focusing on improving yourself through progressive skill building.
This gloomy time in self-isolation could very well turn out to be a defining moment in your career. In this situation, let me discuss with you what to do in self isolation to come out with exceptional opportunities of crafting your dream career.
Corona Virus and the State of Affairs
Most certainly, you would have heard of the ‘VUCA world’ in one of the management classes at your B-school. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
Today, there would be no better example of VUCA than the Corona pandemic. Corona Virus and its outbreak has led to things that had been unheard of in this world. All the discretionary buying has been put away by the consumers.
Usually, calamities and disasters bring people out on the streets, making them hastily lurch for moments of respite. This Corona Virus, or Covid 19, as a faceless enemy, has done worse to us. It has reminded us of our helplessness.
That for once, there is no amount of retaliation, visible solidarity and show of brute strength that can decimate the enemy. It has pinned us against the wall(s), most likely of our closed rooms.
In fighting the case of Corona Virus, our sensibility and astuteness lies in being dormant observers from the windows of our rooms. And, therefore, it is extremely important for you to utilize this time really well and for you to know what to do in self isolation.
Thriving in Self Quarantine at your home
You and I are sure that nothing is going to change or move forward in your external world in the next few weeks. Right now you could sleep for days and days at a stretch, or could even go and live under a rock and come back - and trust me, most of the things in the world would remain the same.
While the time has not stopped, it never can, the pace of the world has certainly reduced. So, if you are wondering what to do in self isolation, in this scenario you have two options. You could sleep for days and days at a stretch and relax like nobody’s business. Or you could utilize this time to do that crucial catching up with life that you know you have had to do for a long time now.
You could be a student at a B-school or a working professional. In the next few minutes, allow me to turn your head towards this brilliant opportunity that you have in front of you that will change your career forever.
Whether you have done anything productive at your B-school or not, this period of self-quarantine will ensure that you level up with the world and also take the next steps you need to take to remain relevant in this VUCA world.
How to Craft Your Dream Career in Quarantine?
How often do you find time in your daily life to sit back and scrutinize what you are up to and where your work is leading you in terms of your professional aspirations? Most of the days, we keep working on mundane things at work, so many of them!
Post work if we sit back and try to think of all the things we did today, we are unable to recall even a single thing that we did that day and we are left with a strong feeling of dissatisfaction with ourselves.
But when you get an opportunity of being away from the hustle-bustle of life to scrutinize your work and various things associated with it, you have the responsibility to take the ownership and become the craftsman of your career.
The idea behind this craft is simple. I am suggesting you to witness the power of being laser-sharp on your goal. If you want to be the craftsman of your own career before the world catches up you need a plan to acquire, practice and teach new skills during this time of quarantine.
Let me share with you a step-by-step method of making big changes to your career by adding something meaningful in your skill set before the hustle-bustle comes back to life.
This will give you clarity of what to do in self isolation so that you remain agile all through the journey of these 10 steps. In the end I will also share with your 5 bonus steps which can further accentuate your career prospects.
Here we go with the 10 steps to craft your dream career in self-quarantine.
Step 1: What career goals do you visualize?
All of us do have a picture of what kind of work we wish to do right now. We may or may not be doing it already but there is always the “next change” that we have in our minds. The first and foremost thing that has always helped me is to write all the things down on a piece of paper.
When you are thinking of what to do in self isolation, I am sure you would be thinking of how it can impact your career. And images of what kind of a career you want right now would flash in front of your eyes.
Writing down things on paper makes everything more real and you are able to see your aspirations right in front of you on a piece of paper.
For example, I always made use of a big whiteboard that I had bought for myself for my hostel room at IIM Udaipur. That helped me do a great deal of mind mapping right in front of my eyes.
Visualizing your goals could be as simple as what it was for me. If you were to ask me what I would have written on the piece of paper at that point in time would’ve been something like this.
This what I would have written back in the day while I was doing MBA. This could be as vague as it gets, just like what I wrote above. You need not worry about how myopic or how big & audacious your career goal is. But it should be true and authentic. That is what will give this exercise its true meaning. The point is to have your “next change” in your mind and also have it laid out in front of you.
Step 2: Map it to the skills that you need to get there
You are doing some back-calculation now. In order for you to have a particular type of career, you will need to learn the skills which are required for that. On the same piece of paper make a list of all the skills that you think you will need to acquire for what you want to be.
In my case, if I were to map my aspiration of becoming a marketer who is known for his data-driven decision and an extremely analytical mindset, I am sure of certain skills that I definitely need to gain in the next coming days.
I am of the opinion that if I am able to gain these five skills, I will be well on my way to develop a sprawling career for myself just the way I visualize it.
In my case, since I am an MBA, by virtue of that, I already have developed a fair sense of acumen in (1) Traditional Marketing Knowledge and in (5) Communication. Also, since I had worked for a couple of years pre-MBA, I have a fair sense of the idea in (2) Digital Marketing. However, I will still be looking at brushing it up and even improve upon it in the due course of time.
Something similar could be your situation too. Out of all the skills you would have listed out, it is possible that you already possess some of those skills. Just strike them off for the time being. You and I are looking at spending this self-isolation and quarantine time as effectively as possible to do things we would not have done otherwise.
And surely, in the normal course of life, learning an absolutely new skill seems like an uphill task. Therefore, in these days of quarantine, pick up a skill from the remaining ones - the ones that you haven’t started off yet.
I would pick Data Science as a skill which I plan to take up in the next 10-20 days of quarantine.
Let’s see how I plan to learn it.
Step 3: Understand how do you like to learn something
You are about to commit yourself to learn a new skill that you always wanted to learn. And you are even more eager this time around because you know that this idle time of self-quarantine is going to give you that no-distraction quality time which you were looking for for quite some time.
Here, you will be making a call of how you would want to learn that skill. To make it easy for you, let me tell you that the choices aren’t many. From your past experiences at trying to learn something, you would know whether you are more committed to and hooked into video-based learning or text-based learning.
You would be amazed to know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world right after Google. Does this tell you something?
It should probably tell you that people are either searching for text-based articles on a topic (on Google) or they are looking for videos on the same topic (on YouTube). Needless to say, there would be many who would search up Google but would end up watching a video on YouTube.
Therefore, you can get a sense that there are these two kinds of people and both of them prefer different methods of learning.
Are you a person who likes to read books or are you someone who likes to watch a video on a topic instead of reading about it?
In my case, while I love to read books, I always prefer video courses to learn a new skill. I feel that engages me in a better way and my learning is far more when I see, hear and read something instead of just being able to read it.
Make that decision for yourself and proceed.
Step 4: Choose your learning medium, you have two options
You are now ready to scout the various learning tools which can effectively and efficiently help you learn the skill that you have picked up. There is no dearth of books, blogs, YouTube videos and online courses out there. You could just endlessly learn anything that you want.
But to initiate learning in a particular skill, it is important for you to go through a structured pedagogy so that you have every vital aspect of the subject covered. And it is for that reason why I always recommend learning from a book or an online course before you get onto blogs and YouTube videos.
The reason is simple. In a book and in an online course you get a list of contents and it will take you through the subject matter step by step. In the case of blogs and YouTube videos you might not even know what to look for, what to learn first and what to learn second and third.
Since I have chosen that I would be learning Data Science through an online course, I will go about searching for the best online course for Data Science which I like.
Now, since I have already learned Data Science earlier, I would do a little bit of cheating here and would tell you that I would pick DataCamp to learn Data Science.
DataCamp provides a great combination of theoretical learning through videos as well as its practical application through its in-built coding console. I have also captured my take on DataCamp in a fairly elaborate DataCamp Review that I wrote sometime back.
Coming back to choosing a medium to learn, I would recommend you to do a basic Google search to find online courses on the topic you want to learn. In most cases, BitDegree or Udemy will turn out to be a great place to search for courses.
These are extremely affordable courses and they are really good in terms of quality.
And I am sure, no matter what skill you are trying to build in the next few days, there is a course or a book out there.
For instance, for someone looking to learn Web Development, which let me tell you is a great skill to have, you could look at this brilliant course on building a website from scratch with HTML and CSS on BitDegree.
For someone looking at improving their copy writing, you could look at this Content Marketing Course by Brad Merill.
If you want to learn from books instead, since you are in quarantine and you may not be able to go out and buy books or order them to your home, you will have to search for eBooks. One way is to find them on Amazon and read them through your Kindle device or the Kindle App on your phones.
I can recommend a book or two for someone who is interested in learning Data Science. This Aurélien Géron book title Hands-on Machine Learning with Sckit-Learn, Keras & TensorFlow is probably the best book you can use to start off with Machine Learning. If you have any inclination towards Data Science and Machine Learning, you are likely to know about this book already.
(Also, you must be wondering that I like to learn from videos and courses, why do I have this book with me? I will let you know about that secret in the subsequent points shortly).
Another really nice book which brings to you direct application of data science into the field of marketing is this book titled ‘Marketing Data Science’ by Pearson publication. I am starting to go through it these days and I am already liking the practicality it is putting forth.
Step 5: Grab a copy/pen and make notes
This is where your real learning will begin. And this technique is one of my personal favorites which I have always followed and it has always worked for me.
By now, you should have already got your hands on the book or the online course you are going to learn from.
Another thing that you need to get your hands on right now is a brand new notebook and a pen which is where you are going to make all your notes. Noting down things is something that you and I have been doing from when we were back in school.
Therefore, right from the school days we are naturally accustomed to neatly writing down all the things that we intend to learn. We are also attuned to highlighting and underlining and giving a different color to all the things we find important in our notes.
We will be using all of those psychological tricks here as well. Not just because we’ve been doing it since years, but also because writing something down makes us more involved in the process of learning
Therefore, it is really important for you to make notes from your book or your course to solidify your learning.
When I was learning Data Science, I had made detailed handwritten notes of the things I was learning. Here is how a page from my over 200 pages of handwritten Data Science and machine learning notes look like.
I urge you to follow a similar routine. After every couple of minutes of watching a video or reading a book, make a habit of noting down the things you learnt in the last few minutes.
Later in this discussion, I will tell you another interesting use of the notes that you would have made by then.
Step 6: Do a toy project
While making notes was where your learning truly began, this is the step where your learning becomes interesting. As you keep on learning, within the first 3 days, pick up a toy project on the side and start doing it.
But, what is a toy project?
A toy project is a sandbox where you apply all your learning on solving a dummy problem. This would be similar to the assignments that you made at your college.
So for example, if you are learning digital marketing, then go ahead and launch your first campaign by spending a few rupees. If you are practicing written communication then write an article or a detailed whitepaper.
If you are learning Web development, then go ahead and develop your first online page!
At every point in this exercise, your aim is to make all your learning real and to exercise your mind by creating things with your learning.
In my case, where I am learning Data Science in this example, I could pick up a Kaggle competition or many of the toy Data Science projects given in DataCamp.
Step 7: Add it to your resume
I have witnessed an extremely common phenomena across numerous B-school aspirants who prepare for their B-school admission interviews and other job interviews. They usually underestimate their achievements and never mention them anywhere in the interview.
That’s not how it should be. You should put out all the things that you have done on your resume or on your work portfolio. Small things add up to make a big difference. Achievements where you have implemented your extra learning onto a project show the initiative from your end and your attitude towards learning new skills.
Therefore, go ahead and add your project in your resume and on your LinkedIn.
If you have completed the course that you have taken then please add the certificate of it on LinkedIn. I have shared with you how to add certificates on LinkedIn using the example of my DataCamp certificate in another article.
Step 8: Network with people with the same skill (seek feedback)
My assumption is that you would be having a well maintained LinkedIn profile which has already helped you build a decent network. This is the time to do some networking.
Quarantining can be really boring. But since you have got to be safe at your house, you have to utilize the prowess and the reach of your LinkedIn account to connect with the right people and seek all kinds of feedback from them.
This helps you get more ideas on the project that you have executed and what other people with similar interests have done. You can ask them for feedback, suggestions on your work.
If they’re a little bit ahead on the curve than you then you can ask them for recommendations on what sort of courses you should do and what books you could read.
If they are really well established in the industry, you might as well accept them as your mentor and connect them to seek guidance on your overall vision.
You have finally taken the first step towards putting your work (no matter how small it may be) out there in the public.
Step 9: Improve!
Here’s where you will get to know the little secret that I mentioned above. The secret of why I have that machine learning book by Aurélien Géron with me despite the fact that I like to learn through courses and not so much through books.
Now, you did put together a few hours or days and learned something new. You went ahead and did a small project on it as well. You would have most likely either completed the online course or the book that you picked up. Or you would have been through a considerable part of it.
Now it’s the time to get deeper into it and really make yourself an expert in that field.
I prefer to do it in a really interesting way that I feel is unique to me. I choose an alternate medium to learn than the one I chose to learn the basics. Let me explain.
So, let's assume you purchased a course to learn Data Science. You have the basics in place now or you might still be going through it. Now to improve on Data Science and to deepen my knowledge, instead of buying another course I go ahead and buy a book on Data Science. That is, I chose a medium of learning that is different from the one I chose earlier.
Similarly, if you were the one who chose a book initially to start off with your learning, you should now go ahead and pick an online course to deepen your knowledge.
It might sound a little counterproductive at first, that if you eventually had to learn from, both, an audio-visual medium and a textual medium then why did I ask you to choose between the two in the beginning.
There is a simple logic behind it.
Firstly, choosing your favorite medium, to begin with, reduces the resistance that you have from within. If you are a book reader, you would have read quite a few books earlier and picking up a new book would be just another day. Easy transition, easy initiation.
Secondly, this way you utilize your entire bandwidth completely and get more out of your days in quarantine. If I had picked the online course at the beginning, I would now go ahead and pick up a book. In a day there’s only a certain limit to which you can do one activity, e.g. watch a video. After doing that, you would feel like shutting off your screens and doing something else.
Getting a book helps you switch the medium while still continuing to learn. So all you are doing is honoring your fatigue, switching the medium, and still improving on your learning.
So go and find a book or an eBook on Amazon and start reading.
Step 10: Start a Side Hustle
This is the real deal. If you are able to do everything I mentioned above and if you can reach this stage then you have no idea how life-changing this entire journey of a few days of quarantine can be for you.
With the skills that you possess now, you need to apply it on a real-world problem. Low and behold, you need to now start a side-hustle!
What is a side-hustle?
A side hustle is a big project that you take up that is much more than a toy project and a bit lesser than a job. It's a project which has the potential of earning you money and a lot of recognition.
Therefore, you need to now apply your minds onto creating a side-hustle for yourself, which you can treat as your own product, and go ahead and apply all your learning on it!
As an example of how crazy and big your side-hustle can get if done the right way, let me tell you that this blog is the result of this step-by-step process that I have shared above. This blog, Super Heuristics, is a side-hustle that I started while learning Marketing and Digital Marketing concepts during my days at IIM Udaipur.
My objective was to apply my marketing learning on a project that I put out in the real-world.
The situation for me was pretty much similar back then when I started this blog. I was mostly ‘quarantined’ in my hostel room and, therefore, I had all the time in the world to do something like this.
Over the years, I have had friends and acquaintances, fairly impressed by Super Heuristics, telling me they could start off something similar only if they had the time.
Now that you are quarantined in your homes, you have all the time to do whatever you want. And your objective should be able to launch this side-hustle of yours and let this project do the talking for you instead of you or your CV.
While the skills that each of you would have worked on would be entirely different and there’s not one type of side-hustle that you can start, I will still share with you a few examples of what you could do.
Option 1: Start a blog/website (go online!)
Most of the skills that you would work on can be easily brought down to a blog or a website. If you chose to learn Digital Marketing as your skill, blogging would probably be the best way to practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Facebook Ads and other Digital Marketing techniques to build and grow your own brand.
This will not only be extremely interesting for you, but it will also help you position yourself as a practitioner rather than just someone who is out of his B-school or working at an office.
The skill you could have worked on could be learning to play the guitar. Great! Start a YouTube channel and start uploading short videos.
You think why would someone watch you trying to struggle with guitar. You could very well position your videos to be learn-along-with-me tutorials for someone who is also beginning to learn. Millions out there are likely to relate with you and you could soon build a tribe while you get better
You could be someone who would have chosen the skill to learn a new subject, an academic one, maybe Finance. That’s great. That can easily be culminated into a blog where you write your opinions about what you learned recently. This not only helps you in building your own online real estate but simply writing something which you have learned helps you in remembering that better.
Option 2: Start freelancing
This is the best technique to test whether there are any takers in the market for the skills that you possess. Start offering your services as a freelancer. Go onto freelancing websites like Upwork.com or Freelancer.com and start applying for freelance gigs that are posted by people.
One these websites, these are usually Westerners who are willing to outsource crucial parts of their work to skilled professionals in regions like India. You are likely to get paid hourly or as per project basis, that too in dollars.
And trust me, there will be lots of work out there. Imagine, the entire world is in quarantine and so many other entrepreneurial people willing to start their projects are all online looking for freelancers.
So, if you aren’t able to think whether you can start a blog or a website for your skills then freelancing is the next best option that you can do for almost any skill that you choose.
Option 3: Take up a pro-bono project
You could, alternatively, approach any small or medium sized business where you think your services can help in solving a problem of theirs. You can offer to work for them pro-bono from your home.
Whatever skill you have worked on in the last few days of quarantine, you can find somebody who would want you to work on those skills for them. They may or may not pay you anything. But that’s not the point. As long as it can help you hone your skills, you should be eager to spend your time on their work while you are in self-quarantine.
Also, as mentioned earlier, do write about it in your resume. You would surely have a great story by now of how you utilize your time in self-quarantine to be productive.
Option 4: Solve a problem of your work place
Not all of you may have entrepreneurial ambitions. Or for quite a few of you the skill that you would have chosen would have been closely aligned to your work. And therefore, it makes complete sense for you to go ahead and solve a problem at your work place which you have been struggling with.
A colleague of mine at the education company I used to work at is a highly skilled front-end web developer. She decided to upskill and chose UI/UX designing as a direction to develop her skills in.
She happens to have followed a similar regime as what I have elaborated above to get those skills. In order to practice this, she took the initiative to redesign many web pages and internal company admin dashboards based on the UI/UX knowledge she learned.
Most of us, Product Managers at that company, upskilled ourselves to learn Tableau and Python to do our routine marketing and sales analysis and reduce our dependence on the Marketing and the Data Science team.
Now this is something that is surely going to put you in a good stead. You would have creatively and productively utilized your time at home to learn something new and ensure that you kick-start your journey towards your dream career.
I have personally benefited from this regime and during these days of self-quarantine I am applying the same set of steps to gain more skills that will help me achieve my goals with regards to my work and my fitness.
But, here’s a bit of surprise for you. If you are really committed towards achieving your goals, you can take some extra steps that make it almost certain that you will be a success in finding your ground in the field of your dream career.
So let me share with you some BONUS steps on how you can bring in big changes in your career.
BONUS Step 1: Offer your notes to others
I mentioned this is in point 5 that you need to grab a pen and notebook and start making notes from the book or the course that you are learning from. You should be looking at making these notes as neat as possible.
Go ahead and scan these notes through a physical scanner or the Cam Scanner app on your phones. Create a file and share these notes online on your blog or various other sites where you can share your notes.
You could offer them for a small price and I am sure that a lot of people will be more than willing to buy these. A practitioner's personal notes have a lot of value as these are written from the perspective of a beginner-turned-expert person.
For example, I have an entire notebook of handwritten notes on Machine Learning with R which I wrote when I was learning it from a course. I have never put them on sale yet but you can mail me and let me know if you would like to get them.
So send out a message to friends who share the same hobby or skill with you and tell them that by the end of this self-quarantine you will be offering them a notebook of your notes.
BONUS Step 2: Get other's notes
Similarly, to ensure that your friends are doing something productive during quarantine, tell them that you will be buying the notes that they write. It would make total sense for you if your peers are working on building the same set of skills.
Each person learns the same set of things with an extremely different perspective. And what you will see in their notes will help you learn a lot more about your craft.
BONUS Step 3: Write 5 articles about your skills
I remember my professor of B2B marketing sharing this in the class one day. He said that if you want to become an expert at something then start writing about it.
This is true and I have been following the same from much before than that. But hearing it was a good reassurance.
The more you write on something you get better clarity on it. Therefore, go ahead and publish at least 5 articles on the topic that you have worked on during self quarantine.
You need not to do extra work for this.
You will realize that you can easily create 5 articles of about 800-1000 words each from the notes that you have written for yourself. Go ahead and re-use that content and create articles that explain in detail any topic so as to teach it to others.
BONUS Step 4: Share your articles online
The articles that you have written needed to be read by people out there. Therefore, go ahead and share your articles on your social networks i.e. LinkedIn and Facebook. As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn has proven to be a better place to share content which is more academic and has career implications.
Writing articles and sharing them online is something that the biggest of the CEOs do. While self-written articles are great marketing tools for the products and services these CEOs are selling, it helps a great deal in personal branding.
You will be able to build a greater network through this and are likely to get people writing in to you with their views. It is a win-win. Moreover, developing a habit of writing regularly and sharing them online will prove to be really beneficial in your career.
BONUS Step 5: Appear for Interviews
Finally, this is the big step. Having followed all of the steps above, you would have built some great knowledge, a great network and a great portfolio of work (and maybe some money on the side too).
Now is the time to start applying to the companies that you want to be at who are looking for people with your skillset. Get on LinkedIn Jobs or IIMjobs.com, set up the search filters basis what kind of jobs you are looking at and start applying with your updated resume and portfolio.
Even if you are not looking to switch your job or get a new job at this point in time, applying to companies and taking a few interviews will not harm you as it will be a great litmus test of whether your skills are aligned to what the industry needs.
Most of you would be MBAs from some good B-schools. Therefore, you are likely to get a few good interview shortlists. Line up these online interviews and see how well this entire exercise has been for you.
Congratulations in advance if you bag that dream job at that dream company. More importantly, do remember to stay safe in these testing times. The wisest decision that you will take will be to stay at home. And I am sure, this discussion would have made the choice of staying at home for the next couple of days/weeks much more exciting and productive.