A guide to career change during the Covid-19 pandemic

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Changing career during a crisis, especially one as severe as the Covid-19 pandemic, can seem like a bad idea. With so many people losing their jobs alongside uncertainty surrounding economic growth, job security is at the forefront of our minds.

But if you have lost your job, then out of necessity you’ll be thinking about your next steps, which might include a career rethink. And if you’re still in employment, the pandemic has likely been a time of change, adaptation and reflection, which may have led to a career re-evaluation or a peak in curiosity for other possibilities.

So if either sound like you, there are a few steps we advise taking and questions you should ask yourself. And above all, start writing lists of all your answers and observations.

Self-assessment

What are you motivations for considering a career change?

Be wary of a knee-jerk reaction during the pandemic. You might feel unhappy, but ask yourself, is it with your job or career, or with the situation, eg working from home and dealing with the pressures of living through a pandemic?

What are you looking for?

You might know you want change and feel confident in your reasons for doing so, but answering the question ‘what do I want’ isn’t often easy. This needs some research and self-evaluation, as well as honesty and willingness to work towards a new plan.

Are you mentally prepared for two life-altering events at the same time?

Taking care of our mental health has become paramount amid the pandemic, so be sure you’re capable of making such a big career alteration at the same time. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Is now really the right time?
  • What are your reasons for making a career change?
  • Are you ready to tackle the challenges of a job hunt and starting a new job?
  • Will a change be worth it, given the challenges?

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Evaluate the professional you

Again, ask yourself more questions and build up a picture of your current professional persona, the one you want to become and the one you might need to become to get to where you want to go.

What are your hard and soft (transferable) skills?

Soft skills: communication, leadership, problem solving, empathy, among many others.

Hard skills: the skills you’ve gained in your education and training. Will they be useful in your desired career path?

What skills do you want and need?

Look at where you want to go: What skills are in demand? Do you have them? How can you get them? Also, what would you like to learn? What skills and activities make you happy?

What are your biggest career successes to date?

These can be as simple as compliments from colleagues or skills you’ve gained off your own back, all the way to successfully lead projects, promotions or major positive changes you brought to previous organisations. This can help you understand what you’re good at and what you enjoyed doing.

Do you have a dream job or sector?

Make list of jobs you think you’d love and/or excel at. Also think about situations you’d like to work in or types of company or sector.

What are your core values?

These should reflect the core of who you are, what you stand for and what can’t be broken. These can include work-life balance, honesty, customer-led, being charitable, and so on.

What things are off the table?

What things don’t you want to negotiate? These could include flexible working, financial and job security, a clear career growth path and training.

Career path research

If you’re super clear on the job you want, then the battle is half won. Work out the skills needed, the network to grow, any additional education and plan a path to change.

If you’re unsure of a specific role, take the above evaluation and begin researching the job marketplace to find paths that suit you or that peak your interest. Go to job boards, research roles and job titles, make comparisons of roles between industries. It could be that financial analysis would be a perfect fit you, but only in certain sectors that you’re interested in.

Learn about the different responsibilities and tasks and honestly judge whether you have the skills needed or whether you could gain them sufficiently to be competitive. It really depends on how big a career change you’re making. If you want to become an accountant, you’ll need a qualification like ACCA – do you have the time and resources to do this? 

If you’re already in finance but want to make a change, for example, from audit to tax, or bookkeeping to governance, how can you do this? Are there any opportunities to learn in your current company? Can you shadow people? Are there further courses you need to study?

Again, keep a list of job titles that interest you and the skills they require, so you can map them more easily to the skills you have and to see what you need.

Make a shortlist

Take all your lists, cross reference and start to make a shortlist of roles that 1) you like and 2) you have a skillset for. Is there a sweat spot of roles that tick both of these boxes? If not, which are closest in terms of fit? Can you see a way forward to bridging the gap? Such questions are very subjective as everyone’s situation will be different and will depend on personal responsibilities, resources and available time.

Get searching

You’ve made your choice, now what?

Update your CV… not once but for each job you apply for. Tailor it so that it meets the job advert’s requirements as closely as possible.

  • Think of examples you can give employers of your adaptability or how you have led through change – important qualities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Highlight the softer transferable skills that are most important to the roles you’re applying for. Employers highly rate soft skills in combination with the right technical qualifications and experience.
  • You might not be an obvious choice for a recruiter or manager because you’re making a career change, so you need to show how your skills will transfer, what impact you can make in a role. Highlight the tenacity and desire you have shown to prepare for your new career.

Start applying

  • Set goals and track progress. This might relate to the number of applications you make a week, the number of new relevant contacts you’ve made or targeted social media activity.
  • Quality over quantity. Remember to tailor your CV to each application. You will waste time by applying poorly to a lot of roles, as opposed to targeting your top roles with the best applications.
  • Follow up on applications. Send polite emails and make contract with hiring managers and recruiters via social media. Don’t ‘bug’ people, but show interest.
  • Use your network to help you meet the right people. Make sure you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile that reflects what you’re aiming to achieve.
  • Manage your expectations. These are not easy times, and a career change, while seemingly desirable, can be hard won. Be patient, be realistic and give yourself the best chance of success by conducting a quality search as opposed to a desperate one.

Job interview

  • Have your interview skills ready. Practice with friends. Write down and practice responses to common interview questions. Think about how you’ll come across – confident not arrogant, competent not condescending.
  • Prepare for answers around why you are changing career: Why makes you qualified for a role? Why did you decide to change careers? What can you bring to your new career from your old one?

Good luck!

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