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While it feels like the entire world came to a crashing halt due to COVID-19, many corporations and companies are still expected to operate, outside of the health care industry. More importantly, if you are a non-essential worker who is tasked with working indefinitely from home, there is still work to be done — and there are still opportunities to showcase that you’re a leader in the workforce.

As a full time professional and a business owner, I’m inspired by all of the companies that have been founded during a recession — everything from General Electric in 1890, General Motors in 1908, Disney in 1923, Microsoft in 1975 and more recently, Uber, Airbnb, Slack and Venmo from 2008–2010. With the threat of another recession upon us, it’s important to showcase your leadership skills alongside your industry experience to help “recession-proof” your career.

I’m a big believer that tough times really help employers identify the strongest leaders. Here are my four tips to showcase your leadership skills during uncertain times at work:

1. Showcase Your Ability Adapt

Adaptability is one of the core skills that managers look for amongst employees, and during times of distress, organizational changes or a pandemic like we are experiencing now; adaptability is even more important. It’s easy to wait for directions from more senior leaders, or assume that because you haven’t heard anything about a project that your only task is to scroll through Netflix until you hear a ping from your work laptop. The key here is proactively identifying ways to adapt your workload, team, and fellow employees.

2. Seek Out Ways To Be Innovative

During this time, senior leaders are faced with countless challenges and meetings to brainstorm solutions to a problem that’s nearly impossible to get ahead of. Rather than communicate that it’s difficult to do your job under the current circumstances, look for innovative and creative ways to solve problems that can be shared with your team as a best practice.

Have an idea of how your team can stay connected while working virtually? Pilot the idea in your team and share the results with your leadership. Noticing a drop in sales but have an idea on how to improve sales while remaining sensitive to COVID-19? Write a business proposal and present it to your leadership team. While senior leaders are focusing on company wide initiatives, use this time to create innovative solutions for your team that align with the company’s response to the current challenges.

3. Stay Connected

I know we’ve all been excited to participate in virtual happy hours and DJ parties with D-Nice, but it’s still a great time to network with fellow colleagues or professionals in your network. During a time when many people are looking for connection, don’t hesitate to send a meeting request to simply check in and see how colleagues are doing, or learn about a new area of the business and how work has changed during this time.

Many organizations are also hosting virtual programming geared at helping professionals during this time. Whether it’s masterclasses on presentation skills, virtual job fairs or support circles, this a great time to stay connected from the comfort of your own home. For instance, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Global Head of Inclusion at Google, has been offering weekly development workshops and interviews with fellow executives for her community that hundreds of professionals and entrepreneurs are joining each week.

4. Breathe, Then Adapt Again

It goes without saying, but everyone deserves a little extra grace during this time. Some professionals may feel super motivated to rise as a leader during and position themselves as a true leader in their industry. Others may simply be trying to stay afloat between Webex/Zoom conference calls and homeschooling multiple children at the same time. Whatever your situation, it’s important to adapt as much as you can, remain flexible and breathe.

We have no idea how long this pandemic will ultimately last, or what the world will look like once COVID-19 is no longer a major risk. However, it’s important to take things day by day and extend yourself grace while showing up at your best in the workplace.


Kimberly B. Cummings is the founder of Manifest Yourself, LLC, a personal and professional development company created to help women and people of color navigate the world of work, make more money, and become industry leaders.