Were you recently laid off? Or maybe remote working has given you the physical and mental distance from your job and you’re not sure you want to go back? If you’re thinking it’s time to do something new, you’re not alone. A recent study from O.C. Tanner found that 48% of employees are considering an industry career change after COVID-19 settles down.
But knowing you need to make a change and actually making that change are two totally different things.
“As the saying goes, as one door closes, another one opens,” says Andrew Levine, founder of Second Act Stories podcast. “Now is an exceptional time to explore a new path, transitioning to a different profession, starting a new business, or pursuing a not-for-profit position. As the world finds a new normal, it’s a good time for individuals to find a new job with both purpose and a paycheck.”
The one thing we need to understand: With every crisis comes the seeds of future opportunity, says Abhijeet Khadilkar, author of Unlock! 7 Steps to Transform Your Career and Realize Your Leadership Potential. “Quarantine time forces us to stay indoors and gives us time for introspection,” he says. “Ask yourself, ‘Am I doing a job or am I on a career path? And what do I want to do next?'”
Changing course can be exciting, but it can also feel overwhelming. Here are some concrete steps to consider:
Tap Into Your Dreams
On his podcast, Levine has talked to dozens of people who have made a leap to a more rewarding career. For example, an investment banker is now a New York City public school teacher, a communications professional joined the Peace Corps at 63, a former NBA referee became a Catholic deacon, and a telephone repairman now designs and manufactures women’s shoes. “The most successful second acts involve finding a life of meaning and purpose,” says Levine.
Know What You Bring to the Table
To make a career change, you need to understand your skills, says Khadilkar. “You may have many strengths, but you need self-awareness to bring them forth and give your gifts to the world,” he says. “What are you passionate about, and what value do you bring?”
To create a more complete picture, ask colleagues, managers, or friends what they consider to be your skills. Too often we don’t recognize our own talents or experiences. You’ll likely surprise yourself at the collection you’ve built over the years, says Khadilkar.
Once you’ve got a list, find a common thread or skills that are complementary. Some of the best paths forward happen when you have a skill stack that combines your talents in a way that sets you apart.
Match Skills to New Opportunities
Once you go through the discovery process, look at your skills and experiences differently to determine how they’re relevant today. You may need to acquire new skills.”No matter what skills you bring, if the market isn’t hiring them, then they’re of no use,” says Khadilkar. “Scan the market to look at what new trends and opportunities exist.”
For example, an events marketing manager may no longer be able to do their job given all of the cancelations of conferences. “They could pivot their career and look for new market opportunities,” says Khadilkar. “Almost every company now needs digital marketing expertise. Or take a bigger pivot. Somebody in the travel industry most likely has good empathy and communication skills. They can take their verbal skills and pivot to something related, such as healthcare.”
Build Your New Brand
To go after your plan B, you have to answer the question: Why you? This includes branding yourself, says Khadilkar. “If you don’t tell your story the way you’d like, people will make up a story about you,” he says.
Be able to tell others your value, why you do what you do, and how you do it differently and better than others.
Be Prepared for Challenges
“Every second act involves multiple road blocks and challenges,” says Levine. “But the successful individuals are both flexible and creative in overcoming these barriers.”
One of the people Levine interviewed on his podcast is Chris Donovan, who left his 20-plus-year job as a telephone repairman to pursue a lifelong dream of designing women’s shoes. “He hit a dozen obstacles along the way and ultimately made the move from Massachusetts to Florence, Italy, to enroll in a nine-month, master’s program in fashion design,” says Levine. “His new line of shoes launched this year.”
“You can put a lot of time into the self-awareness, but the most important step is to make the commitment to go after opportunities,” says Khadilkar.
Having an economic cushion can help you slowly move to plan B. A new path often delivers a smaller paycheck but much greater happiness, says Levine, who recommends starting small and limiting risk.
“Investigate a new field by taking a class,” he says. “Do informational interviews with potential role models. Find a volunteer or internship opportunity. Check out the many online resources that are now available. These are all opportunities to explore and sample a new career path.”
You can also test out plan B as a side hustle. Another one of Levine’s podcast guests, Amani Roberts, transitioned slowly from his work in hospitality sales at Marriott to being a full-time disc jockey.
“He started his DJ business as a side hustle on the weekends,” says Levine. “As gigs and revenue increased, he was able to responsibly quit his day job to pursue his passion.”
The latest employee engagement numbers from Gallup are up slightly, but they’re still low. Only 35% of Americans feel “engaged” at work. “That means 65% are either not engaged or actively disengaged,” says Levine. “That number is way too high. A second act is the key to finding greater purpose and meaning. “