Making a Career Change. Career Advice for a Post-Pandemic Workplace
There’s nothing quite like a pandemic for prompting reflections on the truly big questions like “What do I want to do with my life?”.
Lockdown has given us extra thinking time away from the hustle and bustle of the commute, the distractions of the open plan office and our busy personal lives.
It’s therefore unsurprising that according to a recent survey by Aviva, 60% of workers are planning a career change in what is being called “The Great Resignation”. Sometimes it’s only when you step off the treadmill and see where you are, that you realise you want to be somewhere different.
Corinne Mills, Managing Director of Personal Career Management a leading career coaching company, shares her insights on managing your career in a post-pandemic world, where the workplace and our relationship with it, is rapidly evolving.
Shape how you work
The pandemic has opened the possibilities of working in different ways. Remote working has reduced many of the tensions associated with office life, such as a stressful commute, an overbearing boss or the interruptions of a shared communal space. It’s also brought a new authenticity as we tend to be much more comfortable within our domestic setting than the performance playground of the office. No wonder that according to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Survey,.4 out of 5 workers say that they would find another job rather than go back to work in the office full-time.
Yet while there are undoubted benefits of flexible working, there are career risks in this too. It would be very easy for your professional world to become small and transactional. This leaves you in danger of being overlooked and therefore vulnerable. It’s much harder to build wider and substantive relationships with people when there’s few opportunities to mingle but it is going to become even more important that you do.
Developing your visibility post-pandemic doesn’t only mean updating your LinkedIn. You’ll need to find opportunities to grow your job and get in front of key people. Talk to your boss about how in addition to working on your key tasks, you might also develop particular areas you are interested in, especially if they give you exposure to new people and other parts of the business.
Ask for a mentor, offer to become a brand ambassador or internal champion for internal well-being or charity initiatives. Volunteer for projects that are cross-organisational, or suggest that you spend time talking to customers, suppliers, or stakeholders, to gather research or investigate a long-standing issue.
Externally you also need to be networking. This might be through a relevant professional group or association. There are so many available and most of them are running virtual events. If and when you are in the office, use it to have face to face discussions with as many people as you can, including scheduling after work meet-ups.
We may have sensibly retreated to our cave during the pandemic, but if we stay there, we lose the richness and energy of interacting with different people who we can learn from and who may be able to help us with our career.
Whatever job you are applying for, either pre or post pandemic, the best way to reassure a recruiter that you’re the right candidate for them is to study the job selection criteria and talk about real-life examples where you showed exactly the capabilities they want. This can be tricky if you are looking to change role or sector and the two worlds seem very different.
Wherever you can draw their attention to parallels between your experience and their organisation, for instance shared customers, similar working environments, the same types of technology or team structure. Use their words and jargon, not those from your old sector. Paint a picture for them which seems familiar rather than relying on them to make their own imaginative leap.
For reluctant career changers, don’t worry if you find yourself needing to take on a role which isn’t necessarily your first choice. Some sectors have been so badly hit that it may make sense to look at alternatives at least in the short-term. Employers can be wary of career changers especially if their new chosen career seems very different, but in these unusual circumstances, most of them appreciate that individuals need to be pragmatic to pay their bills. However, they will still need to be reassured that you genuinely want and can do this job and will only offer it to you if they think you’ll stay long enough to be a good investment for them.
The career positives of a crisis
For many of us, the pandemic has brought some of the most difficult professional challenges of our career – let alone the personal ones. Recruiters are always asking questions about how you work under pressure and now, courtesy of a global pandemic, you have a whole host of highly relatable stories to draw upon. This might include handling an emergency reorganisation of the way you and your teamwork, supporting colleagues and customers under stress, or learning a whole new set of skills as we switched to remote technology. Perhaps while you were on furlough you undertook some training volunteered at a vaccination centre or supported an elderly neighbour. All of this will be of interest to potential employers who value resourcefulness and resilience as well as community and team spirit. The pandemic has provided you with many mettle-testing career achievements carried out in extraordinary circumstances and you shouldn’t under-estimate how powerful and resonant these stories will be whenever you need to talk about your career.
And the good news….
The June 2021 Report on Jobs by the Recruitment Employers Confederation showed that since the lockdown ended in May, permanent job recruitment has been growing at the quickest rates in the history of their surveys. At the same time, candidate availability fell with distinct staff shortages in many areas.
After 18 months of mass job cuts, it’s become a great time to be looking for a new role, with companies starting to re-hire again. Meanwhile employers are seeing growing numbers of staff resignations and are starting to realise that they need to offer more internal career development, to help them hold onto people for longer and reduce their recruitment and training costs.
So, from a difficult 18 months, career-wise things are starting to look more positive again. It’s a very good time to have a career conversation with your manager about your career goals and the development opportunities that are available to you within the company. At the same time, get your CV up-dated and make sure you are interview ready, because new opportunities are starting to appear.