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How to accept what's beyond your control in a COVID-19 world

When you work in politics, you learn how to deal with the unexpected. That’s why political strategists Susan Del Percio and Adrienne Elrod are sharing their best tips on getting through this difficult time.
Image: Susan del Percio and Adrienne Elrod
MSNBC political analysts Susan del Percio and Adrienne Elrod focus on three skills they recommend for career growth, whether or not you're running for office.Travis W Keyes

The beginning of 2020 started off as an optimistic time. After all, for political strategists like us, a presidential election year is like the Olympics. We’ve been busy strategizing and coming up with winning messages. We’ve also been managing our client load, so by summertime we could go into full-time campaign mode.

Then COVID-19 hit. Full stop. Literally, everything came to a screeching halt. Every plan was put on hold, every event canceled and we were all trying to figure out how to use Zoom. And while the health of the nation and the world remains paramount, we’d be lying if we said the pandemic’s adverse impact on the economy hasn’t kept us up at night. We each own and run our businesses, and like millions of Americans, we are not immune to the impact of this frozen economy.

But when you work in politics, you also learn how to deal with the unexpected. In our field, you must always be willing to pivot and keep pushing forward.

So that’s what we’ve done, adjusting our business models and, frankly, our lives to contend with the unknown. We know that our workplaces will not simply return to normal. There is no switch to flip that will improve the economy or allow businesses to recoup their losses. But you still need to have some sort of blueprint, even if it is in pencil. Here’s more on what we’ve learned. Hopefully our experience can help you too.

Susan: For me it has been all about keeping discipline. New York City, my home, has been so eerily quiet that it has become distracting. Nearly everything I was working on has been put on hold. Yet every day, my bed is made by 7:00 a.m. This helps signify to myself that it’s time to get to work.

That may mean reading or writing for several hours, followed by a walk in Central Park, with no interruptions for 45 minutes. My afternoon is spent reaching out to people, it’s my way of keeping up my network.

My advice? Get creative, share ideas and lean on your network. What tactics are your industry friends using to keep their businesses afloat? Are they offering new deliverables to clients that meet today’s evolving landscape? And if so, are these new approaches applicable to your business?

Adrienne: I work with several non-profit and political organizations that rely heavily on membership networks to drive engagement. Virtual town halls have been all the rage, and they’re effective at educating target audiences and keeping people engaged.

I have also been pleasantly surprised by competing organizations that have been willing to share their best practices for getting through these challenging times. We are all learning as we go, and it’s nothing short of inspiring to see rivals among the nonprofit and private sector industries willingness to share their tricks of the trade.

We also reached out to Lauren Leader, co-founder and CEO of All In Together, a nonpartisan organization that empowers women to participate fully in America’s civic and political life, to find out how she has been dealing with work in the middle of a pandemic.

Lauren: I’m a single mom with two young children trying to run a non-profit organization. I’m also a part-time elected official in Harrison, New York, a town near the epicenter of COVID-19 in the state. There is so much that has been out of my control – I’m trying to do good work and help my town manage through the crisis and support my family.

What I’ve learned is to stay relentlessly focused on three things: Taking care of my mental and physical health, actively remembering and speaking about what I’m grateful for, and everyday doing one thing that feels productive and positive in the world. That may be work or just calling a friend to see how they are. We just can’t do it all right now, but we can do our best and we can support one another. After all, we are all in this together.

Adrienne Elrod is a Washington, D.C.- based Democratic consultant and Susan Del Percio is a New York-based Republican strategist.