COVID-19 threw a curve ball into all of our lives.
The livelihoods of millions are at risk -- prompting many to ponder the future and wonder whether NOW is the time for a career change, maybe a "second act."
As one of the large group who reinvented themselves during the 2008 Financial Crisis, I am not shocked that this pandemic has caused many to pause and reconsider their career direction.
After years of interviewing those who made successful career 180s, or at least career pivots, as a result of crisis, I have learned that while an event triggered them to get started, most were methodical in their approach.
That methodical approach which was so successful was comprised of these 7 phases.
Below are 7 steps to send you to embark on this new chapter and into a career that lies at the intersection of what you are good at, what you like, and what is marketable.
Start by brainstorming. What work have you done, including paid, unpaid, volunteer and/or hobbies that got your creative juices flowing? All ideas are possible in this phase!
Next, make a list of your skills and interests, capabilities and licenses, hard and soft skills. If you’re struggling to articulate them, consider self-assessments, including Reach 360, The Myers & Briggs Foundation MBTI or DISC.
While free versions of MBTI and Reach 360 are available online, trained facilitators can offer you a deeper interpretation.
When it comes to nailing down those hard skills, sites like My Nex tMove pull info from the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net platform to identify interests and skills that align with jobs currently available.
A quick search on LinkedIn reveals thousands of professionals who got to where they are today following a non-traditional or non-linear path. In speaking with many of these as clients, I have also learned that many had no idea at the onset that the career path was even an option!
To get some ideas, consider free and low-budget offerings such as MAPP (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) testing, the Holland Code Assessment, or YouMap to help you uncover roles that might be a good fit, identify areas of interest, and gain some career clarity.
Starting a business, or going in a new direction, may require some startup cash, a pay cut or some level of sacrifice in time and/or money. Still others have different "non negotiables" – from COVID safety considerations to commute times.
Everyone has their own deal breakers. The trick is to determine if your career aspirations can occur within the parameters of your non negotiables.
Only you can decide what you can afford and what you are willing to give up to make it happen.
If you need to state your case or gain buy-in from others as part of your new career move, you will need to update your resume and LinkedIn, and you need to work to put your career aspirations front and center.
This means your resume and LinkedIn’s headline and summary section, as well as your cover letter’s opening lines, must clearly indicate how your experience and skills are well aligned with the new role you are targeting.
When it comes to evaluating your career accomplishments, select those pertinent to your new targeted role or industry.
Strong documents will not cut it when it comes to making a career shift, in large part because you are competing against those with direct and relevant experience who will always perform far better when submitting their resume in response to job postings.
Networking is vital to a successful career pivot and will require you to seek out those working in roles or industries you have targeted.
Ultimately, your goal is to have people in your network who are decision-makers, who can listen to your case and advocate from the inside on your behalf.
While most (whether good friends or strangers) don’t respond well to the idea of being asked for a job, they are open to a chat to impart wisdom or advice. An upside to today’s work-from-home environment is that more people are working from home than ever before, giving them more time for these types of chats.
When it comes to reaching out to a stranger, do some research to identify a potential point of conversation. Did they make a cool career move? Write an article on their role/industry? Became involved in an organization related to your targeted transition?
Once you have identified your icebreaker, it’s time to reach out and get conversations going. The below outreach script may help:
I found your profile when searching for people that transitioned successfully into _________ after years of doing something completely different.
I have no doubt your transition was challenging and would welcome the opportunity to learn a bit about lessons learned – as I’m contemplating something similar.
I understand you’re quite busy and your time is valuable, and I’d be quite grateful if you could spare a few minutes to chat.
If not, no worries!
If they agree, prepare questions, take notes, and prior to saying thank you and good bye, always ask for 2 or 3 names of others who can offer additional guidance and further build your network.
Every role has its own set of skills, and every industry its own set of acronyms and terminology. Being able to “talk the talk” shows decision-makers you understand the industry and can hit the ground running with a minimal learning curve.
Networking conversations with those who work in your target field will help you get a handle on the correct lingo and required skills, as will research into company websites, job postings, industry publications and podcasts.
If your new job target requires a certification or a skill that you don’t currently possess, now is the time to search for online learning to upskill and close the gap! Sites like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning (free to premium members and in many local public libraries as Lynda.com) and Coursera are just a few platforms offering low-budget, high-value learnings.
While many career changers are super daring, others are more cautious. If you’re not ready to dive headfirst into a new role, or if you are currently employed and not ready to give up the salary and security that goes with it, consider testing the waters.
Start by inquiring during each networking conversation if there is an opportunity for volunteer opportunities. Not only will this let you see for yourself if this career might be viable, it will allow you to build up a portfolio of work that can springboard into paid opportunities.
If there was ever a time to turn lemons into lemonade, it's hard to think of a better time than a global pandemic. While daunting, career pivots are possible!
Although no doubt tougher than a lateral or next-level move, a career change is achievable -- provided you are willing to put in hard work using the right ingredients: a heaping dose of dreaming, plenty of thought and consideration, good old-fashioned legwork, and some savvy career marketing materials.
Career Change Expert Virginia Franco is a 4 times Certified Executive Resume Writer, LinkedIn Writer, Coach and Career Storyteller. Her experience in corporate communications, journalism, and social work offered her a unique understanding of how people read, communicate, and share information. Connect with Virginia via her website VirginiaFrancoResumes.com, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter at @VAFrancoResumes.