How to Navigate a Career Change During a Pandemic (or any other time)
by Annia Baron
“So, what do you do with yourself?” Ah, the standard nice-to- meet-you-question that highlights how so many of us have our identity wrapped up in what we do for work, where we do it, and who we do it with. But how can we not?
From a young age, pressure to seek and maintain a good job is drilled into our psyche: compete for the best ATAR, go to uni, obtain steady employment, climb the ladder, chase the dollar, and retire after long service leave. I guess that’s more palpable than: finish school but know it’s OK if you’re not sure what you want to do right away. Dabble in work that brings you joy. Maybe engage in further study, maybe not.
If it feels right, pursue a trade, an apprenticeship, or specialisation. Change jobs as frequently as you need. Walk away from toxic workplaces that don’t support your growth. Develop a healthy attitude to money. Work diligently but refrain from thinking what you do is who you are. Embrace setbacks as opportunities for learning. Be earnest with your work and do it from a place of love and respect. That way you’ll never feel as though you’ve worked a day in your life.
I wish that were the spiel we were serenaded with. Maybe then, we would be free to pursue the work-life balance we deserve, instead of over-emphasising what our job ‘looks like’. Because if you think about it, the archaic, linear career trajectory hasn’t made sense for a long time.
We live in a world where technological advancements and a global pandemic mean the employment gears are shifting. For example, research shows that the average person now has between five and seven career or job changes across their working life and that 30 per cent of us are changing work as often as every 12 months.
And why wouldn’t we? Life experience brings opportunity for clarity in our skillset and what we value from our working life. With age and wisdom, we become more in tune with our interests and abilities, and seek a better fit between who we are, what we have to offer, and how we do that.
But that’s not to say it makes job or career change easy. Juggling the realities of money, responsibility and commitments elicit fear of failure and concern about what others may think. It can invite self-doubt and analysis paralysis. So, how can we navigate career change in a way that honours our needs and wants without succumbing to the status quo?
Easy, get P.A.I.D.
P = pump up self-care. Your brain needs the right fuel to make the right decisions. Rest, hydrate, eat more greens, and put the phone down for a while. Get into nature, move your body, and practice deep breathing regularly. These simple but scientifically powerful habits will assist with clarity, planning, and decision making.
A = align with your values. Get clear on what’s most important to you in your working life. Is it autonomy or contribution? Is it location or camaraderie? Do you need structure, status and problem solving or do you flourish with variation, flexibility and risk-taking? Narrow it down to your top three career values. These can provide the scaffolding in creating tangible goals to reach your career objectives.
I = illuminate psychological blocks to success. Shine a light on rusty, outdated beliefs that are keeping you stuck (e.g. procrastination, self-doubt, self-sabotage etc). Consider connecting with a professional to renew your mindset, create a values aligned action plan, and elevate your confidence. This would be a safe space too, for upskilling in areas of communication, organisation or emotional regulation – all helpful when navigating change.
D = direct action. Commit daily to your action plan. Whether updating your resume, researching courses or training, making enquiries, booking appointments, networking or working out your finances. Making purposeful, proactive choices will reinstate your sense of control, and build momentum for motivation, perseverance, and resilience. These are important building blocks for turning your dreamed career vision into an actual lived experience.
Remember, a successful career can look like anything you want it to. And it’s never too late to change jobs, careers, or continue pursuing meaningful and satisfying work. So, get P.A.I.D and start creating the life you desire and deserve.
Annia Baron is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindset Coach at ReMind Yourself in Hobart.