The Best Career Advice for 2021

Our career coaches talked to hundreds of professionals this year. Here’s what they learned.

Published: Jan 5, 2021

2020 was a year of new professional challenges, and as a result, new lessons. Korn Ferry Advance coaches spent the year listening and talking to their clients, who come from diverse job types, levels, companies, and industries. Here we share the observations and advice that emerged from those coaching conversations.

2020 was a year of new professional challenges, and as a result, new lessons.

On networking

“Now is a good time to reconnect with your network. People yearn to be connected as we stay quarantined and socially distant, so you’re doing them a favor by reaching out!” —David Ginchansky

On connections

“Never before have we needed each other more. I’ve needed to lean on friends, family, and coworkers this year for a quick infusion of hope, a virtual shoulder to cry on, or simply a brief moment of connection so as not to feel so alone. I’ve also made a greater effort than ever to offer some joy, hope, humor, or a smile to others who need it. Humans are meant to be connected to one another, and yet we have been forced into a situation where we find ourselves isolated. I will enter 2021 with more gratitude for togetherness.” —Nancy Von Horn

On value

“I define my own success and value, not my employer.” —Sean Carney

On agility

“2020 forced companies and industries to evolve at a rapid rate. It’s important to reflect on how 2020 shifted your company’s or industry’s priorities and to identify what new trends have emerged. Begin to learn about the new concepts, skills, and tools that will be in demand in the future.” —Ryan Frechette

“The world of work can change on a dime. COVID-19 disrupted just about everything, everywhere. My message to those concerned about career progression is to stay agile. When things go south, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Don’t procrastinate, bury your head in the sand, or panic. When the world goes off course, pivot, stay in the driver’s seat, keep a good mental diet, lower your stress level any way you can, and stay focused. And always remember the adage ‘This too shall pass.’” —Val Olson

On soft skills

“2020 proved that ‘soft skills’ truly are what will get us through anything: resilience, adaptability, and above all, empathy.” —Frances Weir

“People hire people.” —Hamaria Crockett

On job postings

“With the massive influx of applicants compared to the number of available openings, job postings in 2020 were put up and taken down much faster than in previous times in my career. Companies were a lot less likely to keep a job up for several weeks, so as to not get overwhelmed with applicants. So when you see a job posting, act fast.” —David Meintrup

On looking forward

“I don’t want to return to ‘normal’; I’d rather move forward to ‘better.’ Let the lessons learned from 2020 be a catalyst to creating a better 2021 and beyond.” —Valerie Hayes

On maintaining a sense of control

“Control what you can, and don’t try to control what you simply can’t. With so much ambiguity and change, it’s important to focus more on the process than the outcomes. For example, you can’t write your own offer letters, but you can write a good process and weekly goals toward getting that offer.” —Josh Daniel

On priorities

“I learned to focus on the things that matter most: the things that really have an impact and align with how I define success. I get to choose what I focus on. This year, I’ve asked myself almost daily, ‘Will this matter in the end? And if not, how much mental space or time will I allow it to take up?’ Then I give myself the grace to reprioritize as needed.” —Marquitta Cherry

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