We’ve all reinvented ourselves in some way this year. In a matter of days, we became remote employees, part-time educators, social justice advocates, home chefs, and social distancing experts to name a few. And for the millions of individuals who have been laid off this year, the changes don’t stop there.
In the U.S., almost half of those who had pandemic related job loss don’t expect their job to come back. That means that over 10 million workers in the U.S. alone will need to find a new line of work in the coming year, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That’s a lot of change, on a massive scale. And, just like we saw when quarantine first started, we are resilient creatures who can adapt quickly when the situation calls for it. In fact, the process can actually be easier when we don’t have other options to distract us.
As someone who has pivoted careers multiple times over the years (including during this pandemic), I’m sharing a few lessons learned and the one thing I wish I had known about navigating big career transitions.
Skills are super transferable. The same skills I used when I was a network news producer –– staying calm during breaking news, having a game plan while being flexible when all the unknowns would happen –– served me well when I transitioned to being a classroom teacher and found myself at the center of a particular type of chaos that can occur in a room with 25 ten-year-olds. (ed note: I loved it!)
The amalgamation of all you’ve learned can be applied in many different situations, regardless of the specific role or work environment. A savvy employer will look for your well-developed skills, and put them to good use on their team.
Learn as much as you can. People love talking about their work to those who are genuinely curious to learn more. My advice? Ask questions whenever you can. Then listen to what they have to say. And I mean really listen. We have so much to learn from each other. Any bits of wisdom that you pick up on the path become part of your unique skill set and perspective. Engage with a wide variety of voices, and people at all levels of experience.
This not only creates connections with those you may not normally work closely with, but it also gets your mind in the habit of looking for new themes, information, and possibilities –– a mindset that will serve you well if/when you decide to pivot your career.
Nothing is permanent. For every career decision I made, I remember thinking “this is it.” I thought each one would be the career that I eventually retired from. That mindset was slightly helpful in that it allowed me to be all-in each time, but it also made the decisions more high stakes than they needed to be. Millennials, dubbed the job-hopping generation, will change their careers an average of 5-7 times according to a (pre-COVID) study. So instead of thinking “can I do this forever?” a better question might be “could I learn and grow in this role/company for the next five years?”
One thing I wish I knew is how normal it is to feel confused, overwhelmed, and unsure when going through a career transition. Many times, I mistook those feelings for signs that I had made the wrong decision, or worse yet that I didn’t know how to make good decisions, and panicked. On the surface, I kept working and showed up professionally. But below the surface, I was expending a huge amount of emotional energy managing these feelings of doubt and confusion.
This is why I love working with people in the midst of change. When we’re in it, it’s disorienting and isolating. But with a little perspective from the outside, we can see the transition with more clarity and confidence, and not be afraid to step into the uncertainty with our full power.