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2020: A Year to Remember or a Year to Forget?

David L. Elam, Jr., CIH, CMQ/OE, PMP, Vice President and Project Director | December 2, 2020

2020 seemed to be full of promise. How could you not be optimistic about a year that shared the number associated with perfect vision? But things changed rapidly as our understanding of COVID-19 developed. Instead of the clarity that the new year promised, uncertainty prevailed as governments around the globe took steps to contain the pandemic. Many of us in the environment, health, and safety (EH&S) profession have been classified as “essential workers.” While we may have continued to work, the nature of our work has certainly changed. We have faced travel challenges, disruptions in supply chains that have affected how we deliver our services and products, and we have negotiated new ways to manage our lives and personal and professional relationships. While we might like to forget the problems of 2020, that would be a mistake. Instead, we need to sort through the challenges the year presented and take time to record accomplishments. As the year ends, this is an excellent time to reflect on the challenges we have faced, anticipate what those challenges might mean for our future, and take five key steps to prepare for the coming year.


  1. Review our projects and prepare or update project summaries. We have addressed the importance of creating project summaries in past columns.1-3 In short, we want to make sure we capture what we accomplished, the challenges we faced, the benefits we produced, and how we managed change. Even a cancelled or postponed project offers insights that we can document in project summaries. Preparing carefully crafted project summaries is an excellent way to lay the foundation for a new proposal or prepare for a performance review, a job interview, or a new project.
  2. Review and update our base resume or curriculum vitae. It is easier to prepare a targeted resume for a specific opportunity or position when there is plenty of material to use. Accordingly, a detailed resume, coupled with project summaries, provides the foundation for development of a targeted resume that illustrates the challenges we have overcome, the results we have achieved, and the benefits we have produced.
  3. Manage our social media presence. Equipped with updated project summaries and resumes, we can tackle updating our LinkedIn profile and profiles that we may maintain with trade associations and professional societies. This is also a good time to review our connections and news feeds and make appropriate adjustments. It is also a good time to consider how we can improve our visibility in the EH&S community by sharing information in blog posts and at virtual conferences. If you have been troubled about presenting before a live audience, virtual formats can provide you a less intimidating opportunity to share your knowledge.
  4. Review continuing education or professional development requirements. As EH&S professionals, we are subject to a range of credentialing requirements. Although renewal cycles can take place any time during the year, the end of the year provides an excellent opportunity to review completed continuing education and develop a plan for addressing any gaps that would jeopardize our credentials. Further, this is a good time to explore adding credentials, particularly credentials that share professional development requirements with credentials we may hold.
  5. Plan to connect with colleagues, trade organizations, and professional societies. For most of us, the pace slows toward the end of the year, providing us the opportunity to reconnect in authentic terms with colleagues and to consider how we participated in trade organizations and professional society meetings in a virtual world. Maintaining our connections with colleagues, trade organizations, and professional societies, while exploring potential new relationships, allows us to remain abreast of developments in our field, adapt as market conditions change, and share our perspective for the EH&S market.

For many of us, 2020 ranked as one of the most challenging years of our careers. Let’s capitalize on those challenges by remembering what we have learned, documenting it, sharing, and preparing for growth. These five simple steps will provide the clarity and confidence we need to navigate what is likely to remain a challenging world through 2021. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember.

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