Jane McNeill Director, Hays Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations to undergo significant change and adjust to an unexpected new reality. From adapting products or services to adopting new technology to run their business, in a matter of weeks organisations have undergone levels of change that, pre-crisis, we wouldn’t have thought possible in years.

Consequently, the people working in these organisations have also had to change. Not only have many been working remotely – and some continue to do so even as others transition back into a co-located workspace – but a significant percentage have been required to pivot to help support the organisation through this period of disruption. Some have refocused on new priorities, while others have supported areas of the business outside their usual remit. Some have even been redeployed into an entirely different role or department.

However, as restrictions start to ease, and thoughts and plans turn to how to restart economies, even more change is ahead. Understandably, this has left many people wondering what the implications will be for their jobs longer-term.

What do you want your job to look like, post-crisis?

With many people being assigned new duties and responsibilities during this crisis, it is natural that they are beginning to question if these will remain part of their role longer-term.

If your own work duties have changed in some way during the pandemic, the lockdown period will have hopefully given you the opportunity to reflect on those changes and how they fit with your career ambitions and goals – if they do at all.

For some, the changes to their role have been welcomed. Such changes may have allowed them to utilise untapped skills, while gaining experience in different areas and generally pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

Others, however, will have decided that the changes to their role resulting from the coronavirus crisis aren’t aligned with the direction they want to take their career. They may not have enjoyed the experience and might feel that their skills were better utilised in their pre-crisis role, and thus understandably want to return to their former duties as soon as possible.

Either way, if you have the opportunity after the COVID-19 crisis to initiate a permanent change to your role that will help move your career forward in the right direction for you, the following advise will help ensure it happens quickly and in a way that works for you.

Want to keep the recent changes in your role? Here’s what to do

If you’re keen to keep the changes to your job that arose due to coronavirus-related disruption – whether that’s working in a different department or in a role with a different focus – then it’s important to formally and professionally vocalise your wishes.

You can do this by organising a meeting with your manager. Let them know in advance what you would like to discuss and then prepare to argue your case. This preparation should allow you to do the following during the meeting:

  • Evidence how you have been successful in your modified role and added value to the business, both qualitatively and quantitatively;
  • Share feedback that you have gathered from colleagues or teams you have worked with;
  • Articulate which of your existing skills have been beneficial in the role and which new skills you’ve developed;
  • Give insight into how your new role may progress or develop as the business emerges from lockdown – what other value can you provide and how can you expand what you’re doing to anticipate the future needs of the business?
  • Communicate how you have adapted to your new or altered job and your success in doing so – adaptability will be key in the new era of work;
  • Explain how this role fits in with your long-term career aspirations.

Want to go back to your pre-crisis role? Here’s what to do

Alternatively, your time spent working in another role or focusing on slightly different priorities may have led you to decide that your skills would still be best used in your pre-COVID-19 role.

If you have reached this conclusion, your preparation for your meeting with your manager should allow you to:

  • Articulate how you have enjoyed the challenge of your changed role and adapted well, but feel that your pre-crisis role better suits you and allows you to add greater value to the business;
  • Explain the value your pre-crisis job brings to the organisation. Talk through how your role might develop in the new era of work and how it can help to future-proof the business going forward. For instance, are you able to effectively argue that the role is indispensable and that you are keen to move it forward in a way that is beneficial to the business?
  • Make clear how the skills you developed during the COVID-19-related disruption will help you perform your pre-lockdown job even better than before. Indeed, you might not have merely gained new skills since you took on your modified role, but also acquired new contacts, developed new relationships and improved your understanding of the organisation’s objectives and how your role helps deliver those;
  • Share any endorsements or support that you have received in the past from senior stakeholders;
  • Explain how returning to your old role will fit in with your long-term career goals.

Take charge of your career

Hopefully, the above advice will enable you to move your career forward in a rewarding direction as your organisation enters its new normal – whether you seek to change your role for good or return to your pre-crisis responsibilities.

If, however, after meeting with your boss it is clear that you are unable to move your career in the direction you wish – either keeping your new duties or returning to your old ones – it may be a good idea to look for a new position elsewhere. You can start this process by updating your CV with details of the new skills and projects you worked on during the crisis, before getting in touch with a recruiter to start your job search.

Now is the time to take control of your career, and to feel empowered doing so. Always remember that no matter what is going on around you, you are the architect of your own career and the person who is best-placed to decide the right next steps for you. So, make sure you have a firm sense of where your career is going so that you can make informed decisions and achieve great things in the years ahead.


Jane McNeill joined Hays in 1987 as a graduate trainee in their London head office after graduating with an MA (Hons) in Psychology from Edinburgh University. She began her career recruiting accountancy & finance professionals, before spending 11 years recruiting senior permanent professionals for London’s banking & finance sector. During this time she quickly progressed through management roles and in 1992 she was appointed Director after leading the London city business to a phenomenal post-recession recovery.

Jane transferred to Perth, Western Australia, in 2001. Over the next decade she grew Hays’ business in that state from a team of 15 to nearly 250 staff. She also established and managed Hays’ banking & financial services business.

She was appointed to the Hays Australia & New Zealand management board in 2007. Now based in Sydney, Jane oversees Hays’ operations in both NSW and WA. She is responsible for 400 staff located in two states that are separated by a five-hour flight and a three-hour time difference. At the same time, she retains her keen interest and passion in banking & financial services recruitment by adding national responsibility for Hays Banking and Hays Insurance to her remit.