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6 tips for switching careers in the middle of a pandemic

Many people are considering a job in a new industry due to COVID-19. Here are six tips for making the switch.

6 tips for switching careers in the middle of a pandemic
[Source photo: Daniel Klein/Unsplash]

Many people are reigniting their job searches in the midst of COVID-19. Some are doing so because of mass layoffs and furloughs, of course, but the crisis is also causing others to reconsider their professional goals.

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Even if you’re feeling that the time might be right personally for you to make a change, actually making the switch to a new job in the midst of an economic crisis is understandably daunting. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong time to consider diversifying your professional skill set or making some strategic moves to find a career that feels like a better fit.

Here is how to set yourself up for success:

1. Consider what you know about yourself

It’s important to be honest about your personal strengths and weaknesses when approaching a new career path. Take a casual survey among friends and family about where you naturally shine. Author Abhijeet Khadilkar says we are often in the dark about our best traits. “You may have many strengths, but you need self-awareness to bring them forth,” he told Fast Company. “What are you passionate about, and what value do you bring?”

This is also an opportunity to look at how you fare with taking risks. As author and consultant Dorie Clark told Fast Company, use this period of a possible reinvention to assess your “inner riskometer.” And stay mindful of not pushing yourself too far.

2. Connect with others

When transitioning industries, networking becomes more critical than ever.

Before the pandemic, in-person interactions were key to landing a new job. Now it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re utilizing technology, including emailing business contacts, making appropriate LinkedIn connections, or joining relevant networks. As you reach out to people, though, it’s essential to make sure your communications still feel genuine—even if they’re not in-person. Opt for a voice call or video meeting when you conduct informational interviews, and make sure to follow up with a personalized email thanking them for their time.

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3. Rebrand yourself

Career coach Dawn Graham recommends turning to social media to connect with industry leaders and begin marketing yourself to a new audience. “The more you can demonstrate that you’re serious and invested in your new target industry, the more credible you will seem.”

Though leveraging technology is a key ingredient of the rebranding recipe, make sure you are doing your research so you’re targeting the right people. Review what your dream role requires and ask leaders in your desired industry what skills are most valuable.

4. Improve your skill set

Look at yourself as a treasure trove of skills—and then analyze how each asset can transfer elsewhere, LinkedIn’s Andrew Seaman tells Fast Company. Frontloading your résumé with completely unrelated skills gets you nowhere. Instead focus on trimming down your qualifications and emphasizing relevant parts of your experience.

5. Be realistic

Depending on how radical a transition you are attempting to make, you may have to take on a lower-paying position or even an internship in order to gain more relevant career experience.

Make sure you have a financial game plan, and don’t feel fearful that people will be judging you. “Other people’s concerns about your potential for success or failure often have more to do with their realities than your own,” writes Lisa Evans for Fast Company. Yes, it may be hard to report to a manager years younger than you, but if you put your head down and soak up all the knowledge you can, your career will benefit later on.

Instead focus on the training you will receive and how it might position you to land a new role. It’s fine to start small to limit your burden from risk, says Levine.

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6. Plan for potential roadblocks

As you work to position yourself to be a competitive candidate in a new industry, there will be challenges along the way. It’s important to sit down and consider what these challenges might be, but it’s also important to know that unanticipated roadblocks can and will arise.

Instead, try to frame each unforeseen obstacle as a new opportunity. Your career switch may require you to move across the country or switch your work process entirely—but inevitably, a satisfying career transition will result from openness and quickness at snapping up new experiences. As Andrew Levine, a podcaster and creator behind Second Act Stories, points out, success results from a one-two punch of flexibility and creativity.

Without a doubt, switching careers is a challenge. But in unusual times, success waits for those who can adapt quickly, think creatively, and possess the wherewithal to see the process through.

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About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur

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