Toxic productivity vs. healthy steps on your career journey

During the lockdown, you might have seen stories of people taking their lockdown time to boost their productivity and “use that free time to your success”. However, there is a flip side to this productivity trend.

Photo by Mark Neal from Pexels

What is toxic productivity?

We’ve seen toxic productivity being discussed in media and this idea of needing to stay productive, successful and “come out on top” after the lockdown… and frankly, it’s a little problematic!

Toxic productivity is the unfair expectation that we should be able to stay productive, even reach new milestones, during adverse situations like the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s an idea that expects us to feel guilty if we haven’t worked hard and used our time extra effectively. This can include university and career-related expectations like having studies continuing unaffected and a summer internship ready and lined up as if it was just like any other summer.

This pressure might be an unspoken feeling in the back of your mind… or a very real expectation too. The pressure might come from your family, friends, media – maybe even from the way your university communicates with you.


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Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

What is healthy productivity around careers?

When we talk about healthy productivity, we mean productivity that is sustainable and centred around students’ needs and their personal, unique career journeys. As a career service, we are committed to helping you make decisions and take steps that make sense for you. This also means taking into account your current situation, life context and other important factors that could affect your career journey and adapting your next steps accordingly.

We might all need a little nudge in the right direction, but this kind of productivity is all about realistic expectations and empowering your learning. This can mean different things to different people. For example, if you are at the beginning of your career journey, you might want to know about ways to learn skills online and reflect your interests. If you’re a little further along and unfortunately had your internship cancelled due to Covid-19, you might want to find a virtual internship during the summer. Whatever your next step could be, King’s Careers are here to help.


What is the Discover – Focus – Action approach? 

Just as our personal situations and career journeys are different, so is the advice that will benefit us. Let’s take a closer look at how you can be productive in a healthy way, wherever you are on your career journey.


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King’s Careers & Employability uses the Discover, Focus and Action stages to target helpful advice to King’s students in the different stages of their career journey. If you are in the discover stage, you might be discovering your options, jotting down interests and researching about the careers out there. Your productivity might look like this: reading through our Discover section on Keats, taking time to self-reflect, either independently or with the help of our e-learning courses. You might be reading about possible careers in your field through our sector guides and even watching some LinkedIn Learning videos.


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If you are in the focus stage, you might have the inkling of an idea but need to narrow down your options and develop your employability a bit more before seeking your next steps after King’s. Your productivity might look like this: reading through our Focus section on Keats, exploring a bit more deeper about roles out there in your field and understanding what knowledge, attributes, skills and experiences you might need to eventually take steps towards your goal. You might be searching for virtual work experience too!


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If you’re in the action stage, you might be ready to write CVs and applications, progress to further work or study or even start your own company. Your productivity might look like this: going through our Action section on Keats and reading about the best tips for job hunting or preparing for interviews. You might listen to some event recordings, such as from our recent #MyNextSteps advice campaign and take part in our ongoing #MyCareerChecklist webinar events designed to offer support and guidance for those graduating in 2020.


However: taking time off is okay

Lastly, with all this talk about productivity, it is also important to remember that it’s okay to put a pause in your career journey if that makes the best sense for your situation at the moment. Here at King’s Careers & Employability, we recognise that the global pandemic has been an unprecedented event and continues to affect students and graduates in challenging ways, such as new struggles around mental health, university studies or your plans after King’s. We are here to support you through all kinds of career planning moments – and sometimes this means stepping back and gathering strength.


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