Should you change jobs, perhaps even careers? Few questions are more prevalent among ambitious professionals (with the possible exception of whether it’s time to change a romantic partner). Yet both questions are best answered by the old Facebook status update: “It’s complicated.”
When the job market is strong and opportunities are plentiful, it’s tempting to assume that the grass is greener elsewhere. But with the COVID-19 crisis battering job markets around the world, it may seem less logical for those fortunate enough to have a job to fantasize about alternatives. However, even in the current uncertain, fragile, and weaker economic environment, staying put is not necessarily the best possible strategy.
There is no bulletproof formula for making the right career move. The only way to determine if your move is right is to actually make it and see (the proof in the pudding). This was true before the pandemic, but the question of whether to change careers is even harder to answer now because there are three novel elements at play.
- Crises produce stress and anxiety, which limits our ability to make calm and rational decisions.
- Crises increase uncertainty and volatility, so it is more difficult than usual to predict the future—both short and long term.
- Crises also limit current opportunities. Most employers are in damage-control mode, worrying more about self-preservation and cutting costs than driving growth and hiring new talent.
While these factors suggest that now may not be the best time to contemplate a career move, there are also alternative forces that open up opportunities and make the current environment more suitable for changes than you may think.
Many industries are thriving
Our analytics track real-life skills demand and changes in the labor market daily, and are beginning to indicate a second workforce shift from the roles that got us through this crisis to those that will get us out. Roles in three categories will continue to see growing demand.
- Transforming business: cybersecurity, app developers, specialist sales, marketing, and change management
- Moving things: logistics and roles associated with e-commerce
- Helping people: healthcare specialists, pharma, R&D
If you work in a badly impacted sector that may take time to recover, this is arguably a good time to think about making a change. It’s hard to know whether these trends are here to stay, but the data are beginning to tell us where demand sits. The reality is that many companies are hiring right now, so there are great opportunities to move.
Competition may actually decrease
Those who already have jobs may be less interested in gambling to make a move right now. This creates opportunities for those who are eager for change. As in any area of social behavior and decision making, there are always rewards for going against the crowd and making countercyclical choices. You will make better investments—whether in stocks, gold, or the housing market—if you don’t follow the crowd. Your biggest competitors are those who are employed, and if the circumstances mean they are reluctant to look for alternatives, you will have an advantage if you do.
You can also be sure that as soon as things return to some level of normalcy, and job markets strengthen again, you will be joined by many more potential job seekers who, like you, would be boosted by the stronger economy. Why not get ahead of them by starting now, even if the results take longer to crystallize? In the words of Mother Teresa: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Volatility and uncertainty favor courageous risk-taking
When stability is taken away, there is far less to lose in making risky decisions and gambling on changes. Let’s face it, nothing is certain anyway, so if you stay put as you are, you may still be forced to change. It’s always better to be proactive and take the choices you have when they are available, rather than when you are desperate.
While nobody knows how the pandemic will continue to unfold, or when we will manage to contain it, you can assume certain trends to be part of the new normal, so you can make informed or rational bets on the future. For example, the world will be more rather than less virtual than in the past. There will probably be less in-person contact with others. Doing hybrid work, working from home, and being a digital nomad will continue to trend. You can also expect digital, agile, data-based, and tech-oriented businesses and industries to thrive, at least relative to their competitors.
It’s a good time to rethink your priorities
We can be sure that a focus on wellness, mental health, and family first will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic. At ManpowerGroup, we asked more than 8,000 people in eight countries how they want to work in the future. Their response was clear: more autonomy, more flexibility to spend time with family, and more opportunities to learn and develop sustainable skills. Employers that put people first and prioritize well-being, work-life blend, and learning will attract and keep the best talent. If that doesn’t sound like your workplace, perhaps now is the time to make that switch and reevaluate what matters most.
You can develop your potential by nurturing these skills
While technical expertise, experience, and hard skills will continue to be devalued in general, there will be a growing focus on foundational talent attributes such as power skills. In particular, you can expect employers to value curiosity, emotional intelligence, humility, and learning ability. Any time invested in boosting these skills will make you more employable, whatever the future may bring. And any job that offers you the opportunity to learn, work with people you like, and make an impact should be prioritized as a top choice in the near future.
That said, even if you are eager to make the move, you should be aware of the different rules—and etiquette—that can boost your chances of switching to a better job or career. For example, your networking prospects are now all remote, so you will need to harness your digital brand and work on your online presentation and reputation to compete.
Finally, just because you make a move now doesn’t mean you are making a move for the long term. Job stability and tenure have been less of a priority, and the pandemic has made long-term commitment and loyalty less of a given for employers, too. This means that you have more room to experiment and play than prior to the crisis. When unpredictability, instability, and volatility become ingrained in the new normal, you will not be judged for failing fast, if the experience helps you identify what you really want and where you will be happiest.
Ultimately, we all have a threshold for change. At some point, our desire to abandon our current circumstances and find new experiences becomes so strong, we don’t even think about the consequences—we just go for it. It is also worth remembering Maya Angelou’s words: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”