In 2022, I will . . .

A n online forum for women in leadership roles recently posted the above fill-in-the-blank question. I have to admit that I was stumped. In past years, I could have easily come up with something. It would have been inspirational and actionable. This year, I find myself staring at that blank space, with no idea what I want to do in 2022. The ongoing pandemic plays a huge role in my ability to set aspirations for the next year. We have had too many Blursdays for me to think of anything beyond losing the quarantine 15. If you also are feeling unmotivated, here are a few items that might raise your spirits and perhaps give you a kickstart in your personal development.

1. Give yourself a hashtag.

In 2019, I left a job that no longer made me happy and began a search for something new. I ended up taking a year off – my gap year – and spent significant time with my college-aged child who introduced me to social media in its many forms. I decided to develop a personal hashtag as inspiration. In 2019, it was #courage to reflect my decision to leave a company where I had worked for 22 years and to enter into the job market with no idea how or if I would find a new job. 2020 began as #joy as I started a new job and resettled in a more rural area, which was something I had dreamed about for a very long time. To some degree, 2020 became the year of #facemasks and 2021 the year of #vaccines, but for 2022, I am looking to get back to inspirational hashtags. It might seem silly, but finding a hashtag that resonates can help you focus and motivate you to break out of the COVID doldrums. You will come up with your own, but here are some ideas:  #family, #change, #growth, #excellence, #freedom, #integrity, #dream, #truth, or #freshstart.

2. Say yes to social interactions.

While everyone should make decisions based on their personal risk factors, vaccination status, and the rate of spread in their community, I am making it a habit to say yes whenever I receive a social invitation. Many of these events are still virtual.  Some have been in person with fully vaccinated attendees. As someone who moved to a new community right before COVID, I realize it has been really important for me to start meeting more people and having new and different conversations about a wider variety of topics.

3. Reach out to your network.

If you haven’t done so already, take the time to reach out to your network. Check in on them and catch up on your lives and careers. It is too easy to not be proactive after the past 18 months but taking the first step will benefit both you and the individuals with whom you connect.

4. Recognize mental health needs.

As a corollary to the above, the past year has been incredibly hard for many people. Enforced solitude or, in some cases, being isolated in unsafe or unhealthy home circumstances, can take a toll on mental health. Check in with your colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Remember to include individuals who are not like you. The past two years have been particularly hard for our diverse coworkers, some of whom feel like they have lost connection to their workplace and are having to reintroduce themselves to colleagues.

5. Get out of a transactional mindset.

Remote work lends itself to a checklist mentality. We all have a list of projects or things that we have to accomplish in a day. We keep working through that list each day, only to replace it with a new list tomorrow. But we are missing the interactions that give rise to better solutions and new ideas. This change in workplace mentality is true even for some who have returned to the office. As lawyers, we need to ensure that our daily activities do not return us to a lawyer as scribe mentality. Take some time each day to think big picture and to interact with your colleagues as a business leader with legal expertise.

6. Be a mentor.

Can you reach out to a new coworker or more junior employee as a mentor? The disruption of the COVID era means that many people have missed out on critical learning and development opportunities. Being a mentor doesn’t have to be formal or be a big time commitment. It can be as simple as helping someone learn how your business functions or introducing them to more senior colleagues.

7. Decide - should I stay or should I go?

We have all heard this year referred to as the  Great Resignation of 2021. COVID has caused all of us to think a little differently about life and what is important. Some have realized that they do not want to commute, or even come into an office, stating family as a key priority. Others feel that life is too short to continue in a job that doesn’t excite them. Even employees who are relatively happy have observed that employers are competing for talent by offering all sorts of incentives to join their team, including, in some cases, fully remote work. So, if you are on the fence, this is a great time to consider your options. However, you should do your research, rather than chase the next shiny object, only to find that it lacks substance. If you are happy with your current employer, then this might be an ideal opportunity to reach out for additional responsibilities, to lead project teams, or to broaden your expertise.

8. Create a meaningful development plan.

It is always important to own your own development. No one will take control of your career for you. As you engage in the performance evaluation process at work, you should use this time to think about development. Some of your development needs will probably be included in a written plan for your employer but think broader than that. One of the most focused attorneys with whom I have worked had a specific growth focus each year, e.g., financial acumen, and she came to her review with her plan on how she was going to achieve those goals. Some of her goals were supported by the company, but she also used her vacation time and personal financial resources to ensure that she achieved her development goals by the end of the year. The importance of controlling your own development is also true for those who are in transition or considering a new employer. The pandemic has created a lot of opportunities for growth, and employees and candidates who are proactive about their development have a chance to stand out from the crowd.

9. Slow down.

Although COVID has slowed or delayed much of our normal life, my mind has been running full speed ahead, from one anxiety to the next. Like many lawyers, I fit the mold of a pessimistic perfectionist. There is so much in life that we cannot control right now and so many workplace and personal issues that cannot be solved immediately. Recognizing that I do not need to have all of the answers, and that I do not need to immediately have a plan to respond to every challenge, is key for me. All of us have been through so much in 2020. Take the time to slow down your mind and just listen and observe your world.

10. Remember that change starts small.

Back in March 2019, many of us had big plans for how we would use the time given to us by the pandemic. Congratulations if you were able to complete a degree, learn a new language, or write a book. And congratulations if all you did was learn how to make banana bread. Even if you are not feeling motivated to change the world or your life, remember that even a little change can yield big benefits over time.

So, for 2022 I will #grow, #play, #enjoy, and #learn.

As for the quarantine 15, my new Peloton bike will be delivered on Saturday!

Until next time…

Christine Castellano


Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Andersons

Christine M. Castellano is Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of The Andersons (NASDAQ:  ANDE), located in Maumee, Ohio.   Founded in 1947, The Andersons is a Fortune 500 diversified company rooted in agriculture that conducts business across North America in the grain, ethanol, plant nutrient and rail sectors.

Prior to joining The Andersons, she served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer for Ingredion Incorporated, a NYSE listed Fortune 500 company.   She additionally served as a non-executive director and member of the Audit Committee of Rafhan Maize Products Co. Ltd., a public company listed on the Pakistan Stock Exchange.

Christine currently serves as a co-chair of the Business and Industry Committee of the NW Ohio V Project and on the legacy board of The John Marshall Law School.  She previously served as a Trustee of the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, and as a member of the Womens’ Board of the Chicago Zoological Society.   She is a member of The Economic Club of Chicago and The Chicago Network.   In April 2019, Christine was certified as a diversity professional by the National Diversity Council.

Christine is a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Toledo Bar Association,  the Illinois State Bar Association, and the North Shore General Counsel Association, and participated in The Conference Board Council of Chief Legal Officers and the MAPI Law Council.  She has served as a member of the American Bar Association International Section Publications Committee and Corporate Counsel Committee, and was formerly Communications Officer and Division Chair of the Americas and Middle East Division of the Section.   She was named by Diligent Corporation to the 2020 Modern Governance 100; by the Legal 500 to the 2019 GC Powerlist:   United States; by the Illinois Diversity Council in 2017 as one of the Top 15 Business Women in Illinois; and by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the 2016 Attorneys Who Matter.


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