By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Curiosity: The Key To Surviving And Thriving During A Pandemic

As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, Americans are feeling the burden of the new normal. According to a recent survey, most U.S. adults (53%) claim that the stress and worry associated with the pandemic have negatively affected their mental health. This burden is only compounded by the looming return of the school year, with many Americans disagreeing about the best approach to education during a pandemic.

At a time when bad news is everywhere, we need to keep our heads held high. Of course, most Americans know that perseverance is valuable currency nowadays, but there is perhaps an even more valuable one: curiosity. I believe that those who are curious are much, much more likely to survive and thrive in the months to come.

Those who are currently out of work — and there are millions of them — need to keep chugging along. Remember: This was never the original plan. Six months or a year ago, we could not have foreseen social distancing and self-isolation becoming the norm, affecting employees and job seekers alike.

But that’s where we are. One of my newest employees, Kat Child, recently showed me that the key to success in today’s climate is embracing opportunities that may take you in a different direction. This is a power that can be found in all of us — the power to adjust based on changing circumstances. This is especially important now. If the Covid-19 pandemic closes one door (and it might), we need to open another one and another one. Only by continuing to open doors can we hope to find the right path to follow.

Opening those doors — even in the face of unprecedented odds — requires curiosity of the highest order. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in “Ulysses,” “We are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; / One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

For professionals, striving and seeking come down to learning. As my employee recently put it when I interviewed her for my podcast, we need to have an appetite for self-improvement, whether that means reading or going to museums. Even personal hobbies can help you reach greater heights in your professional life — from job hunting to securing a promotion at work. The key to success is turning habits and routines into productive pursuits, rather than mere tools to pass the time.

Personally, I have made an effort throughout my career to combine the best of old-fashioned PR methods with the new techniques available to us online. I am not a digital native, but I sometimes think that social media was created just for me because it allows me to stay connected to old contacts and make new contacts 24/7. You may laugh, but for me, it has opened new worlds both professionally and personally. Of course, I also launched my own podcast two years ago that has allowed me to have in-depth conversations with old and new contacts about growing your network and your brand both online and in person. I am naturally curious about other people and how they live and work, which enables me to make connections with people around the world.

Look at it this way: You can never be too curious. In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to succeed in our professional lives. Thank goodness we have the internet available to us. Can you imagine where we would be right now without Zoom calls? Because we are traveling less, we generally have more time now to devote to something — whatever that something may be.

What matters most is using that time wisely. Perhaps you can fire off two or three more job applications per day than you could in January. Perhaps you now have an extra hour or two a day to exceed expectations for a client or customer. Perhaps you just have more physical and mental energy to get your work assignments done properly and on time or to make more connections on LinkedIn. Hopefully, you are listening to more podcasts, as I have been. They both inspire me and introduce me to new thought leaders in my field.

Never forget the silver lining. Find one for yourself. What about taking a risk? What about stepping outside of your comfort zone? The Covid-19 pandemic has probably already erased your comfort zone, so why not devote your time to something new and productive?

Let’s keep striving, seeking, finding and never yielding. I have done that since starting my PR agency in 1991, and for that, I will be forever grateful. After all, I was never a very good employee. I had so many new ideas every day, I drove my bosses crazy.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in August 2020.