It is difficult and challenging these times we are in now. The unexpected turn of events brought by the pandemic has disrupted a lot of the things we used to know. Travel bans, economic meltdown, stricter regulations have forced employers to furlough people and/or change work arrangements to adapt. New opportunities are hard to find in the social impact sector now. Organizations have postponed hiring and are laying off people. But now, more than ever is the best time to rethink your career to battle the uncertainty.
Finding opportunities these days means to double the effort. Networking and connecting with potential employers are crucial to staying relevant. Global unemployment has hit at 190M and we’re to expect more layoffs coming. The complicated situation we’re all in means that hiring is more competitive than ever and building a career may become complex than we think.
What to expect for your career?
Organizations are thinking of ways for the workforce to adapt for the short-term and long-term. The good news is that there are still jobs available in the market. Depending on the sector, employers are continuing to hire more people. Health and Technology sectors are still seen to need more talents to add.
Evolving career paths continue to emerge as well as what we used to know about how we work. A lot of professionals are working from home or remotely due to health concerns and quarantine restrictions. New opportunities are introduced to the job market based on demand. Job boards like JobStreet, Indeed, and the like are requiring job seekers to update their profiles and use hashtags for a quicker get around for the employer to find them.
While this information is a bit overwhelming to digest, understanding what’s currently happening can help set the right expectations. It’s easy to get misinformed and discouraged these days but knowing how COVID-19 impacts the job market can rationalize how decisions are made for one’s career.
Ask the right questions
When the future is bleak and the path to it can take unexpected turns, it makes sense to ask the right questions to yourself. Who you want to be? How do you see yourself in 5 years? Are your skills and personal brand enough for the hiring manager to notice you? What are your weaknesses?
For example, the organization you are applying for might be downsizing but they continue to hire. Two people that they bring in are expected to contribute and perform what five employees used to do. When you want to get the job, are you able to keep up? Are you well-versed in the field that they don’t need to supervise you every step of the way?
The tougher the questions, the better. Learning to ask tough questions about yourself and what you want for your career can give you empowering self-knowledge and a full picture of reality. You can hit for the stars but what you want right now is a career that matches your personality, character, interest.
Career reinvention is not a linear process, it’s a messy journey of exploration. It involves a lot of mixed emotions of fear and frustration. But by sitting down and listing answers to your tough questions about yourself can help you have clarity on what to do next and how you’re going to reinvent your career.
Prepare your narrative and skills
Some jobs in the job market especially in the social impact sector may have a wide range of qualifications. For example, a Project Coordinator position at UNDP requires the applicant to be able to speak multiple languages. Although a lot of applicants in the field are fluent in those languages, you want to be able to stand out from the crowd.
- Take this time to rethink. Cultivate knowledge, skills, resources until you think you are ready. Use this time to explore online courses and work with career development coaches. You can also make use of this time to take part in pro-bono or advisory work to pursue an excellent portfolio.
- Attend free webinars. Albeit challenging, this crisis provided us an opportunity to try new things or learn new skills. Even though you’re reskilling to a job that requires it, you can stumble upon surprising discoveries about your hidden talents and skills that are worth exploring for your career.
- Work with a career coach to help you reassess your value proposition and personal branding – two of which are important in reinventing a career. He/she might be able to help you aim toward great jobs that are more suited to your talents, personal values, purpose, and ambitions. So the next time you apply for a job, you have a solid footing of how fluent you are about yourself and how you can contribute where you’re applying to.
This time is about being creative in redefining our identities and our priorities. Sometimes it takes a couple of steps back to construct our sense of ourselves and the crisis gave us an exceptional chance to reflect on what matters most.
Navigate your network
It is an important component in building a career but in a situation where social distancing matters, how to network effectively? Initiating conversations and establishing relationships with people who have their own set of struggles can be a daunting task.
- Determine your networking goals – Reflect on the purpose of why you are networking in the first place. Maybe you’d like to connect to someone who is knowledgeable about a certain field so you know what skills you need to develop. Identifying your goals helps you become strategic with networking.
- Define networking and how you can bring value to the other person – Networking isn’t about you. It’s about communicating with other people in a two-way street. Ask yourself what ideas and thoughts you can provide to others. Be genuinely curious and interested in other people and ask them questions that you need answers to.
- Increase your online presence – Make sure your profile across job boards are updated. You want recruiters to see your profile available for work. Post a relevant topic that interests you and that can engage other connections you have. While you’re at it, be consistent as it reflects your personal brand and how others can perceive you.
Networking gives you a scoop of the industry you are in or interested in. Your connections can provide more value and opportunities than any other job posting or shared article out there. Be less transactional and be more conversational. Show interest in what other people do and why you want to connect with them. Make sure to use this tactic wisely and effectively.
Related article: How ‘Smart Networking’ can make your career (and life) easier
Career reinvention in essence can be about changing your career story. It’s not about fixing something moving forward but it’s about assessing what you have done so far and how you want to change it. Your current career story may say something you’re no longer interested to be defined. And now is the best time to re-write it to something you are truly passionate about.
How has COVID-19 changed your career story? How did you manage to reinvent your career?