Career Change During a Pandemic? Keep These 3 Things in Mind
Article by Marcus Honkanen
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 radically disrupted our lives. And it hasn't left the professional sphere unaffected: more working from home – including a recalibration of work-life balance as well as management transformations – job losses in certain industries, rising demands in others.
Times of crisis can provide the opportunity for a new beginning. Major transformations often bring clarity and the chance to rethink preferences and priorities. Yes, this pandemic is a huge challenge. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Times of crisis require the ability to combine intuition and analytics to make the best decisions
Human brains thrive on challenges. Particularly on those that involve multiple parts of the brain and are personally relevant, as this neurological research indicates. Cognitive challenges and demanding tasks, so the authors, are beneficial to the brain. In a sense, it is made for such situations. So instead of languishing in a state of fear and stagnation, embracing the challenge and putting the brain into action is the smarter move.
And this action requires choices. Be prudent – but trust your instincts and experience. According to a Norwegian study, times of real crisis require the ability to combine intuition and analytics to make the best decisions. This pandemic is causing uncertainty, but if you have been a sound decision-maker in the past, this is still the case now.
A crisis can be a long-overdue invitation to reevaluate what is — and isn't — working for you. Right now could be the perfect moment for a career change. However, the realities and stresses of the situation should not be underestimated. That’s why it’s important to keep the following three things in mind when thinking about a career change right now.
1. Understand your motivations for a career change
Perhaps you've been considering a career change for quite some time or you’re thinking about your next move out of necessity. Maybe you had time to rethink your professional goals and values – for example, you may have found that you exclusively want to work remotely and that this is simply not possible in your current position.
In any case, it makes sense to review to what extent the course you are pursuing is still in line with your motivation. Reflect and be conscious of your reasons for a career change. After all, it is possible that dissatisfaction does not result from the job itself, but rather from the realities of life during a pandemic.
Frustration may be due to the circumstances. Not everybody can perform at their best in their living room; in this case, there is essentially nothing wrong with your role – it’s the situation. However, if you were already unfulfilled or under-challenged before, the pandemic may just have amplified this.
For a successful career change and understanding your true motivation, it is crucial to distinguish situational from fundamental discontent. How does the thought of going back to your job as it was in 2019 make you feel? Think about what drives you and what you’re passionate about. Only when you fully understand why you are looking for new challenges right now will you be able to live up to them and thrive.
2. Understand what you are looking for
Now that you know why you want a career change, you can explore where you want to go and what makes sense for you.
Instead of looking at what you don’t want and what’s frustrating, you should create a clear vision of what you do want and what’s rewarding: more time for yourself, more money, remote work, more or less responsibility, more creativity, or impact?
It is valid to want to enjoy the task and experience a sense of purpose.
When changing careers in a pandemic, it is important to remain open, creative, and flexible regarding the options. Analyse your unique skill set and how it is transferable to other fields and industries – perhaps completely out of your comfort zone. Then, you need to understand the new industry and how your abilities will be useful there.
Don’t forget: a fresh perspective can be very attractive for employers.
And although the onset of COVID-19 has certainly shaken certain sectors like consumer goods, manufacturing, recreation, and travel, others – for example software, online learning, real estate, finance, insurance, or healthcare – remain relatively insulated, according to the European Central Bank. This is where opportunities lie. Think about the long-term perspective of potential new sectors when making career decisions.
3. Understand how it works and be prepared
A pandemic is an extreme situation. And leaving a job to find a new role is a major life change; settling into a new position, entering a new sector, and joining a new team can be demanding. Honestly evaluate your current capacity for – exciting yet challenging – change.
In addition, the hiring process has shifted to digital. Assessment happens virtually, interviews and meetings are conducted via Zoom or Teams.
Be prepared for these new ways of communication, their particular requirements, and feel comfortable with the technology.
Since many jobs are performed remotely, this evidently affects the onboarding process as well. Initially getting to know all new colleagues and clients only online can pose a particular challenge. That's why virtual networking and digital communication skills are more important than ever.
Now is the right time
Even though these times of pandemic and transformation can be demanding, you grow with your tasks; it depends on how you approach them. Now it's even more fundamental than before to clearly understand yourself, your situation, your goals as well as the changing circumstances.
As long as you take these aspects into consideration, nothing stands in the way of your career change. Don't let fear stop you.
And if you’re ready, now is always the right time.