Achieving professional success amid the Covid-19 pandemic

The Business School’s Global Women’s Leadership Programme hosts panel on how to achieve career success amid the Covid-19 pandemic

In celebration of International Women’s Day, The Business School’s (formerly Cass) Global Women’s Leadership Programme hosted the expert online panel ‘Overcoming professional challenges and achieving career success during the Covid-19 pandemic.’

Open to the public, the event welcomed panellists Samar Elmnhrawy, VP, HR & General Affairs at Nissan Corporation, Noha Hefny, entrepreneur and founder of People of Impact during lockdown, and counselling psychologist Dr Vassiliki Simoglou of Thrive Wellbeing Centre.

The event was moderated by Programme Scholar Maria Banti, who is also a student on the Executive MBA in Dubai programme. “It was important to me to invite a mix of professionals who could share their insights, both personal and professional, on how the pandemic has impacted women in work. The event offered a holistic view of what habits women can build to support their careers during this time,” she said.

One of the goals of the Global Women’s Leadership Programme is to host impactful and inspiring events which offer women new skills for leadership and an understanding of how their organisations can support women leadership.

The Programme Director, Dr Canan Hillmer Kocabasoglu, said:

“The Programme provides women with the skills, tools and network for leadership. The pandemic has upended the world of work – particularly for women— and the Programme’s International Women’s Day panel event aimed to provide women with new tools to personally build resilience and achieve professional growth during this difficult time; and to showcase how employers can support them.”

Professional pressures and a restructured corporate organisation amid the pandemic

As a result of the pandemic, 25 million jobs have been lost worldwide.

Losing a job during the pandemic can cause a real psychological toll, Dr Simoglou said. “For those who have lost jobs, the loss may be experienced as a trauma that shakes their identities—the question they ask is ‘Why me?’”

For others, their working hours soared throughout the pandemic as they took on additional work to adapt to new digital needs or caring needs.

In her psychology practice, Dr Simoglou reported her clients struggling with a lack of demarcation between their personal and professional lives due to the pandemic. “People working from home have felt a constant demand to be available,” she said.

Ms Elmnhrawy noted that the employee value-proposition has changed as employees become less interested in the benefits a company offers rather than the flexibility the employer offers. For many women, the pandemic has added the pressure of home-schooling in addition to working full-time. “Implementing a sharp 6pm finish time to stop employees overworking might not be a one-size-fits-all solution for people with caring needs. Companies need to be flexible with employees’ working hours,” she said.

Ms Elmnhrawy shared insights into the discussions happening within her HR community about how corporate organisations might change as a result of the pandemic. “Our normal is changing. The corporate hierarchy is more agile in a virtual team setting,” she said. “We’re able to reach a wider talent base as employees no longer need to be based in the same location.”

Achieving professional success

Dr Simoglou said that self-care is a set of daily actions we take to look after our bodies, our minds and our emotions. Self-care is exercising and eating healthily, but it also means taking the time to decompress and connect with loved ones.

Maintaining self-care allows you the mental space to reflect on your career and desires.

“Your desire is a motor that pulls you towards life. It draws you toward your purpose, sustains you and feeds your energy.”

Ms Elmnhrawy urged women who had lost jobs in the pandemic not to rush into a new role. “It’s not the end of the road if you lose your job. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your skills, what makes you happy, or to pivot.”

When seeking professional development, Ms Hefny encouraged women develop a ‘growth mindset’. She outlined the steps women could take to do so: “Develop your own life strategy. Build a document of all your successes, the overall direction you’d like for your career, your purpose and your mission. Ask what your unique strengths are and set Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound (SMART) goals to achieve your vision.”

During lockdown, Ms Hefny founded People of Impact, which is her third company. She encouraged attendees to be open to new industries, short-term project and volunteering. “While the economic impact of a pandemic is a threat, it’s also an opportunity for global expansion and has created new customer needs. Digital nomadism is on the rise. It’s time for us as women and entrepreneurs to unite, collaborate, create alliances across borders.”

Watch a recording of the event.

Find out more about the Global Women’s Leadership Programme.

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