The pandemic changed everything, from the economy to our mental health to how we live and work. This seismic shift has allowed many Americans the opportunity to stop and take stock about what really matters. Fearing for loved ones’ health while being stuck alone indoors for endless unchanging days really impacted our priorities, and recent surveys are reflecting that. A Pew survey conducted in October 2020 found that almost one-quarter of employed respondents were less satisfied with their jobs since the pandemic hit. Prudential surveyed workers and found something even more striking: 48% of their respondents are reconsidering what kind of job they want, and 53% would switch industries altogether if they could retrain.
It isn’t just employed people who are thinking about what the future of their work will be. A Pew survey conducted in January 2021 found that fully 66% of unemployed Americans were considering changing occupations – across all income levels, not just the formerly high earners with big savings. On top of that, they found that one-third of survey respondents were already taking courses or retraining for a new kind of work. So what are the best tactics to consider when a career pivot or change is on the horizon?
Think first about qualities, not roles
Think about the qualities you do and don’t like in your current role. Then think about those things in terms of values. If, for example, you enjoy working with your colleagues but don’t feel like your work matters, then you may value:
- A fun environment
- The ability to be yourself
- Good communication
- Work that has a positive outcome
- Work that has an obvious impact
- Results you can measure
None of these values are “good” or “bad”, per se, but they will reveal the qualities you look for in a good role for you, and you can use this to decide if a company or role you may be considering is actually right for you, outside of the experience requirements and salary.
Once you know what kind of values you have for a job, you can then look at roles and sectors that match that.
Find a mentor or advisor
This can be awkward, especially since we’re coming out of nearly two years of isolation of one kind or another, but it is important. You can read everything on the internet about this sector and that kind of role, but until you talk to someone who has lived it, you really won’t understand. After all, a lot of the career advice out there is meant to be encouraging, and although that’s all well and good, it will often gloss over or speak euphemistically about the downsides or the challenges of a role or industry. Speaking face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with someone who has lived it will result in a much more realistic, candid view of the world you’d like to enter.
Even more, these kinds of contacts can give you excellent, experience-based advice. You can ask questions like:
- What sort of education or training will I need to enter this field?
- Can you help me identify transferable skills that I can highlight in my resume?
- What does career progression look like in this field, and how competitive is it?
You’ll be surprised how much information you can get from the horse’s mouth that you’d never see on the internet. And who knows? It might even open a few doors for you in the future.
Come up with a plan
As mentioned above, you want to talk to someone with direct experience because you will want to create a plan or roadmap for yourself, and their input will prove invaluable. They will know many different routes into the career they and their peers have, and you can figure out which path aligns best with what you want.
Most likely, the first step will involve retraining or earning a new degree. With so many options for getting further education online, you should be able to find options that fit around your life already, so you might not even have to give up your current job immediately. This is especially great if you don’t have a giant pile of cash just hanging around.
But what are the next steps? Apprenticeships? Work experience? Going straight into an entry-level role? You will have to figure that out for yourself.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
There is no right or wrong answer here. All you can do is make the best choice for you right now. You simply can’t anticipate what the best choice for you for the rest of your working life will be. Too much will change in the future. But if you think carefully about your values and ideals, take good advice and plan well, you will know how to change again, if this new career isn’t working for you anymore.
After all, if you can make the leap to a new career right now, you can do it when everything has returned to normal again, too.