It is painfully evident that the Covidcrisis has been a sort of crucible for the business world. It has imposed incredible stressors on companies, revealing their core strengths and weaknesses. While some have adapted and thrived, others will take years to recover.
The HR aspect of the crisis has been unprecedented. Even companies indirectly affected by the crisis are struggling to keep employees engaged and feeling appreciated. One consulting firm reports that57% of companies anticipate “major” changes to their culture as a result of the pandemic.
As with companies, thisis a transitional moment for workers. Millions have lost jobs. Others have jobs but face a high burnout rate. For many, the uncertainty of the situation has brought into sharp focus personal or professional dissatisfactions that, hitherto,were swept under the rug. No wonder, then, that so many are now open to a change.
Naturally, there are always risks in making career changes, but if you risk little, you gain little.The trick is in determining when the upside outweighs the downside.
Why take the risk?
If you are thinking about a career change, the first thing you should do before anything else is to understand what you want from it. Do you want a change because you’re unhappy? You don’t make enough money? You’re not progressing? You want routine? You hate routine? You feel unappreciated? You’re bored? You’re stressed? Your values don’t align with those of the company?
Professional restlessness is often just part of the progression of a normal career cycle. But sometimes, there is a specific catalyst, like a corporate merger, a pass-over for a promotion, a major family event…or a pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
If you are unemployed, your first priority is probably to find a job. But don’t overlook that unemployment is an ideal opportunity to consider a big transition that may not have made sense before.
Whatever the reason, if career change is on your mind, be clear and honest with yourself about your dissatisfaction and what you hope to achieve with a change.
Noone measurescareer risksin the same way because so much depends on your individual risk appetite.How much risk are you willing to accept for a potential reward? The answer hinges on your personal situation – your age, where you are in your career, and your financial situation. So, this exercise begins with researching all aspects of the risks you face, then being honest with yourself.
Gather as much data as possible. Research prospective industries, companies, and roles.
Talk to people who can offer insightfulperspective, and be sure to factor in all risks, both measurable and immeasurable, such as:
What is the compensation structure?
How do base pay and bonus compare with your previous compensation?
Will you be changing health plans?
What will the commute be like?
Will you be comfortable with the culture of the new work environment?
If a career change involves a relocation, you have more homework. A position in New York City at a higher salary might sound good until you factor in the high cost of living. Be sure to weighthe potential for career advancement against the cost of moving, thenew cost of living, not to mentionthe loss of your localsocial support network.
If you have dependents and family commitments your calculations will be even more complicated.For example, the prospect of a low salary butunlimited sales commission potentialmight be unpalatable if you’re the breadwinner. In this case, it maybe better to limit your upside in order to limit the downside.
When it comes to weighing risks, there is no right answer. So, be introspective. Make sure to ask the right questions of others – and yourself – to ensure you know your comfort level with the risks of any career change before you make it.
A good risk model is predicated on severity and likelihood. It begs the questions: What is the credible worst-case scenarioandhow likely is to happen? Once those answers are clear, steps can be taken to mitigate the severity and likelihood.
Consider Mara, who relocated from Boston to Florida for a job to be near family before she was 100% sure that it was the right move for her. She hedged her bets by maintaining her house in Boston and living with her parents until she felt convinced that she was ready to move her household.
Another example is Bruce, who hated his six-figure job and wanted to quit totry to make a living as the drummer of his buddy’s rock band. Being a successful rock musician was his dream come true. Realistically, however, the chances were slim they’d make it big and, if the band flopped, he could end up penniless.To mitigate this risk, Bruce created a backstop – he saved up enough for a year’s worth of living expensesand gave himself exactly that long to make it. If he was unsuccessful, he determined to hang up his drumsticks and find a new desk job.
Not everyone has the option to go backwards in his or her career. But there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful career change. According to Herminia Ibarra, author of “Reinventing Your Career in the Time of Coronavirus” (Harvard Business Review), and Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, major career changes are likelier to succeed if you test them out first. How? By volunteering, consulting, or doing short-term contract work in fields and roles that interest you.Also, it makes great sense to explore more than one career path before making a big transition to make sure you have chosen well.
Career changes aren’t always the right decision, but don’t forget that sticking with the status quo is not without risk. So, when is the right the right time to risk a career change? Well, there is no time like the present. Just think before you take that leap of faith.
Many might argue that the greatest thing to look forward to in 2021 is the end of 2020. Between record-breaking Australian bushfires, a rampaging pandemic with over 1.5 million deaths, a tanking global economy, U.S. racial unrest, and political convulsions following a U.S. presidential impeachment and then a contested presidential election –2020’s miseries were numerous.
Even those who weren’t directly affected by these calamities were very likely indirectlyaffected, not least of which the millions of people who lost their jobs. Those who didn’t lose their jobs were either forced to work in potentially hazardous conditions or sequester themselves at home to work remotely – in many cases sharing the dining room table with a remote-working spouse and remote-learningchildren.
No matter what happens in 2021, it’ll likely be a better year by anyone’s estimation.
Butthere are also some objectively good reasons to look forward toit from a jobseeker’s standpoint, not to mention some interesting new developmentsabout a Covid-changed work landscape that offer a useful perspective for all workers, whether they’re employed or hope to be so soon.
1. An economic rebound!
Covid devastated the global economy this year, but the U.S. economy, at least, seems to have been surprisingly resilient. Many economists forecast a huge bounce in 2021. Morgan Stanley, with one of the most bullish positions, predicts a V-shaped recovery delivering as much as5.9% GDP growth in the coming year.
Of course, any economic recovery will rely greatly on a successful and speedy distribution of the promised Covid vaccine.But once the vaccine arrives, hiring is expected to take off and unemployment to fall by the end of the year.
The ThinkWhy team is one of many labor market analysts that expects businessesoverall to boost hiring nationwide in 2021. It forecasts the labor market to be back to pre-pandemic level by the first half of 2023. “The absolute number of hires in many markets could be staggering relative to historic averages,” assertstheThinkWhy’s recent
The pace of jobs recovery, however, could vary considerably by industry and location. While, many types of business will have recovered all lost jobs before the end of 2021, others will lag for years until normal social behaviors return.ThinkWhy predicts that the industries best positioned to rebound quickly are Retail Trade, Health Care, Construction and Financial Services – in fact, they may even face talent shortages. Leisure and Hospitality, however, which took the biggest drubbing in 2020, isn’t expected to fully recover until 2025.
When it comes to location, the healthiest markets in the near term for job seekers are Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Phoenix, cities where many businesses are already in expansion mode. Other markets, like New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Orlando, which suffered bigger job losses, will see delayed job growth until the pandemic eases.
3. Remote work is here to stay
For better or for worse, Covid has ushered in many transformative changes to the workplace. One change for the better that is unlikely to go away is a business culture that accommodates remote workers. Workers love it and, it turns out, so do employers.
A survey of more than 9,000 knowledge workers in six countries found that most were happier working remotely than in an office. What they most valued was saving money, an improved work-life balance, and an, um, “shorter” commute. Just 11.6% of those surveyed say they wanted to return to full-time office work.
That’s not to say that 100% remote working will become the new norm.
First of all, only about a quarter of the workforce can actually execute their job function from home– mainly highly skilled employees who trade in, process, or communicate information or knowledge. (Think finance, management, professional services, and information sectorworkers.) But those who cando socould work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office, according to a report by global management consulting firm, McKinsey.
Over 70% of knowledge workers prefer a hybrid remote-work model. In response, many executivesare signaling plansfor a hybrid model at their companies, whereby employees work part of the week in the office and part from home. This solution makes for a happier workforce – and it is a huge cost-savings for the company.What a win-win!
Notable workplace trends
In under one year, the acute, widespread pressures imposed on the world by Covid have accelerated many workplace trends that were already underway. Below are a few notable ones that could affect you.
With remote working on the rise, some people foresee a population shift from large urban areas to smaller cities and suburbs in the wake of the pandemic. A LinkedIn reporton workplace trends identifies indicators suggesting a great dispersal of urban workforces, including dropping rental prices, climbing vacancies, and worker sentiment surveys. Even before the pandemic, population growth in big cities was stagnating, but Covid-19 may well be the catalyst that permanently drives people away from high-cost, high population centers to other locales. How this trend plays out post-pandemic remains to be seen.
If your job function allows for it, the trend towards remote working means that your future job opportunities will be less limited by geography – in other words, the world is your oyster. The downside, however, is that your competition will also no longer be limited by geography – it could be global.
The million-dollar question asked by businesses in the Covid remote work experiment is how working remotely impacts productivity.A studyof 12,000 professionals by the Boston Consulting Group before and during the pandemicfinds a positive link between productivity and remote work,but notes that productivity hinges on four key correlating factors: social connectivity, mental health, physical health, and workplace tools.
Many companies are already stepping up their efforts to support workers in these areas, offering wellness packages and workplace tools to staff in their remote offices. Arguably, recreating social connectivity in virtual settings will be most challenging, but to the extent that employers can support this and the other important drivers of productivity, their businesses will have an edge.
So, expect to see exciting new opportunities to gather around the virtual water cooler going forward.
Real improvement in diversity in the workplace, especially at the executive level, moved at a snail’s pace until 2020. Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement amplified the inequities of diverse workers. Diverse groups – largely defined as people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ employees –suffered the most in 2020.
This year, more than ever, American workers are demanding better from employers. In a survey, 70% of job seekers saidthey want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
They’re smart to do so because McKinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for diverse leadership teams outperformed less diverse peers on profitability.McKinsey finds this year that employers are well aware of the challenges facing employees and that nine out of ten of them are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion despite the business pressures they face during the pandemic.
What will that look like? It could mean that we will see the creation of new roles, such as chief diversity officer, or new diversity initiatives that improve equality for job opportunities and salary.
Women under stress
Women, it seems, have become an unfortunate workplace casualty during the pandemic, especially those with children at home. Women are more likely to have been either laid off or to have dropped out of the workforce during Covid-19 as they struggled to balance increased childcare and home-life demands. They’re also more likely to have suffered mental health issues.
A Workplace Trends 2021 outlook published on LinkedIn reports that two-thirds of women are planning a major career change post-Covid-19, and McKinseyfound in its Women in the Workplace 2020 report that 25% of women are consideringdownshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely in response to the added burdens.
Once can’t beat the drum too much that upskilling is crucial in the digital age, especially in the Covid world. Technological innovation is reshaping the work world top to bottom and new skills will be in constant demand. Making upskilling a small part of your daily routine is ideal – those incremental efforts will add up over time and ensure that you aren’t left behind.
You may find that carving out time for this important habit becomes easier in 2021. Employees are increasingly responsive to employee demands for more support, so look forward to increased training opportunities, flexible work schedules, paid and unpaid leave and other perks.
It has been a tough year, but there are lots of solid reasons to look forward to 2021. In fact, count one more – Covid or no Covid, the post-holiday season is the best time to get a job.
Most people focus on their career in a reactionary instead of a strategic way. That means that if things go south, it is hard to understand what went wrong.
If you’ve adapted to the status quo, switching gears is hard. You may face barriers to change that sometimes feel insurmountable. Some of these barriers are very real, while others might be self-imposed.
Either way, overcoming barriers often involves a level of self-reflection during which you analyze your career and, more broadly, your life in order to assess your innermost goals and your value proposition – that is, everything that you can offer an employer. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.
What is standing in your way? If you feel stymied in your efforts to advance your career, answering that question is the first step towards overcoming whatever barriers you face.
Maybe you’re worried about money. Maybe you don’t relish the idea of starting a new career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Maybe you struggle to find time in your day to job hunt.
Many people are paralyzed by fear – fear of losing their job; fear of speaking up at work; fear of getting passed over for a job because of age, gender or race. Or perhaps you have “impostor syndrome,” the fear that you aren’t qualified to do the job your hired to do.
Perhaps your problem is simply that you know that you are unhappy in your current job, but you just aren’t sure what else to do. Or maybe you know what you want to do, but you have no idea how to pursue it.
Some people worry about lacking experience. By the way, if this is you, you’re not alone. In today’s economy this should actually be everybody’s concern because the rapid change of digital technology is disrupting business processes in so many industries.
A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed.
Only after you identify what is standing in your way to a more fulfilling career can you focus on overcoming it. But be sure to give the question serious reflection. Arriving at an honest answer here is crucial, and it isn’t always easy.
You may need to dig deep to assess the real barriers between you and your goals. It may even be worth engaging the professional services of a career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group. Career coaches are a great resource for someone in a rut because they intentionally push clients out of their comfort zone and encourage them to consider perspectives and options they may not have thought of.
The methodology starts by investigating all aspects of what’s right and wrong in your life, including financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness. Ask yourself challenging questions such as:
What are you most proud of?
What does success look like? or
What is the worst thing that could happen if you
don’t achieve your goal?
Such questions help differentiate between societal ideals of success (e.g. money or status) and personal successes (e.g. work-life balance and a happy family).
Use the “Five Whys” technique to drill down to the root cause of a problem. In this approach, you identify your problem (e.g. I’m unhappy at work) and ask yourself “why.” Repeat the question five times in response to each answer.
Typically, you will uncover alterable behavior on your part that could resolve the problem. When you ferret out self-imposed barriers in the path of your career advancement, you can think through how to dismantle them.
The process can be emotionally arduous, but, ultimately, it brings you clarity about priorities and personal values in your life, and it sets the foundation on which you can rebuild career aspirations.
The clarity process is the hard part. Once that is done, you just need to come up with a game plan for advancing your goals and commit to it. First, consider how you can lessen the barriers that you identified.
Lack of experience? Up your game through online courses, reading books, or volunteering to work alongside someone who can coach you. Of course, if you’re an older worker, don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills.
Lack of time? Completely understandable! Prioritizing a career change is very hard, especially given that it doesn’t provide immediate gratification. Still, the benefits of scheduling even a few hours per week into your calendar to promote your career will build up over time.
Unsure how to pursue your goal? Start by building and
nurturing your network of contacts. Reach out to them and have a conversation
or solicit advice. You’ll be amazed how informative and helpful people can be.
How to Stay Motivated
Change is stressful and the frustrations of a job search can wear down the best of us. Getting organized and structuring a routine in your job search will help. Set S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, schedule 10 hours per week towards enhancing your career opportunities, target three resumes per week to send out, or plan to meet 10 people for coffee per month. Revise the numbers as necessary, but stick to it!
There are several other steps you can also take to stay motivated:
Focus on what you can control and not on the
things you can’t control.
Celebrate small victories whenever you can.
Make a list of all your accomplishments, which has
the dual benefit of making you feel good about yourself and providing you with
a handy reference of your career highlights to use for quick reference. It may
also spark ideas about how to link different career goals!
Take mental breaks – looking for a new job is
Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. If you ask people how they came to be doing what they are doing, they often answer that they fell into it due to chance circumstances. That may be frustrating to hear, but it should actually encourage you.
“Chance circumstances” is a testimony to networking. If you cultivate and grow your network, you will be surprised how opportunities will crop up.
Changing careers isn’t easy, but it’s easier than staying in a job you don’t want. It’s also easier when you have a strategy to overcoming the barriers to your success.
Did you know that 85% of all jobs are landed through networking?
If you know nothing else about networking, that statistic should focus your mind – and your approach to job seeking. Short of being born into royalty, networking is THE best way to land a job, bar none. And, therefore, it should comprise the lion’s share of any efforts you exert to find a new job.
Networking has been touted for years as a valuable tool during a job hunt. In the digital workforce, it is indispensable.
According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two.
In fact, the survey indicates that the people who get jobs from networking most often are actually employed and NOT actively looking for a job. In many cases, they’ve been offered a job before it was published. That’s some powerful networking!
Are you fully leveraging your network in your job hunt? If not, it’s time to hone your skills so you, too, can slip through the backdoor of a company to land your next job.
Sow the Seeds Early, Reap the Benefits Later
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The same could be said of building a network of contacts.
A network is much more than the people whose business cards you collect. It’s about building valuable relationships.
Relationships develop over time and must be nurtured and maintained. Naturally, a network includes your professional contacts, but it also includes everyone you’ve ever met in any capacity: former co-workers, clients, vendors, school friends, people in your running club, members of your church – your family, of course…the list goes on.
If you’re anxious about getting started with networking, these are the people you should reconnect with first. Sure, your aunt is probably not the one who can help you get a job at Google. But her neighbor’s daughter’s boss might. You’ll never know unless you reach out to connect with her.
When you reach out for the first time, find out what people are up to. Typically, you will catch up a bit and talk about family, work and aspirations for life. When you enter into those conversations, focus on giving to the relationship, not taking.
At some point in the future, your contact may talk to someone about something that reminds them of the conversation with you and they’ll reach back out to you. It may take a short time or a long time – but the opportunity will grow only if you’ve planted the seed.
Continue to build these connections and expand your circle. Surprisingly often, they lead somewhere.
While a business lunch is still a perfectly acceptable way to network, the best way to build and maintain the informal relationships that are most useful in job hunting is through social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are popular options with younger folks. For more seasoned professionals, however, the most important one is LinkedIn, where 56% of workers go to job search.
Unlike other social network websites, LinkedIn is uniquely designed for professional networking. You can summarize your career and highlight certain skills and expertise. You make connections by inviting people to join your network. This enables you to see their connections and even the connections of those connections. Through this visual web of professional connections, you can develop new ones at the companies or industries that interest you.
Members in your network can also endorse you for skills, which increases your professional value in the eyes of other members of your network. Your goal should be to get endorsements from 99+ people in your network.
How? The easiest way is to endorse people in your network yourself. People will often return the favor. What’s more, the activity might also lead to a phone call in which you verbally reconnect, catch up and possibly learn about upcoming opportunities.
Three Types of Networks
As you build your professional network, you should remember that networking is not just for jobseekers. Everyone should always be networking because there are so many other tangential benefits. Networking is a great way to build up references, meet potential new clients and vendors, and learn the perspective of people outside your industry.
Operational – this is the group that you engage
with in a professional sense and upon whom your success hinges. These are the
people around you that you need to do your day-to-day work – your immediate
Personal – this group includes those
individuals that you trust and to whom you can turn for advice or just to
discuss career options, even in a social setting, like coaches, mentors or
people you might ask to be a reference.
Strategic – this network may overlap the other
two. These are peers, industry leaders or other contacts with whom you can
share ideas, discuss future initiatives and how to realize your goals. Building
and maintaining this network takes time and attention away from your routine,
so it is typically the most neglected of the three networks. But it is,
arguably, the most crucial one to build.
Whenever possible, you should always try to be on the giving end of a relationship with anyone in your network; it builds good will and you never know when you might need to exercise some of that social capital for your own benefit.
Success in Any Industry Starts with Networking
No matter what industry you are in, it is smart to develop a strong network, especially one that spans many other industries, because you just never know where an opportunity might arise.
He used LinkedIn Analytics and was soon referred by someone in his network to two scientists who were trying to produce an artificial sweetener. He went to work for them, and in his second year made over a million dollars. He never used a recruiter or even a resume. It was all word of mouth.
“This happens all the time,” said Resendes. “Of our clients, 75%
land a job through their social networks.”
leverage your networking skills, you learn about potential opportunities before
they even become available. With luck, that creates an opportunity – and then
you slip in the backdoor.
Are you in a midlife career change? Are you changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 years of age? Do you need a new career? If you are currently experiencing difficulty in your job search, we’re here to help. Please send a message with your information or call.