Career Corner: Career Change During COVID-19

You need to take your risk tolerance into perspective when you decide what you want to do next. – Courtesy photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

If you’ve found yourself out of work because of COVID-19, you are likely searching for something new. You may be doing some soul searching. You want to figure out what you should have been, or what you’d like to be in the future. You may even wonder if you’re living in the right city.

I’m an advocate for major career change. Switching industries, job function, and city can open up so many new possibilities. It can lead you to a better career, potentially more fulfillment, and sometimes, more money. Although the process is scary, it can be worth the effort.

Pre-COVID, I would have advised you to be daring. Take risks. Search for your perfect career and perfect city. Argue your case for more money. It may take time and be a little painful, but it will be worth it. Today, my feelings have evolved with the times. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the May unemployment rate to be over 13% and some estimate this number is low.

What this means is that you need to take your risk tolerance into perspective when you decide what you want to do next. As a general rule of thumb, the more things you are changing in your career, the longer your job search will take.

Think of it this way, if switching everything about your career would mean an investment of one year, are you prepared to wait that long? Are you someone who has saved an emergency fund for just such a time?

If not, consider making fewer changes at one time. For example, keep the same kind of job, but look in a new city or change industries in your existing city — while keeping the same job function. Or, switch job functions within your industry and your current city.

Taking your career change in steps can help you to mitigate risk, and it should shorten the time it will take you to get to the next job. This can be especially helpful during a time when hiring has slowed, and available job candidates have increased.

If you’re feeling especially strapped for cash, or your stress level is very high, you may want to consider looking for something similar to what you did before — near where you currently live. It will give you an opportunity to stabilize and you can go from there.

Remember, no job has to be permanent. If you don’t like it or if it’s not quite what you wanted, you can start looking again soon. But, stabilize yourself first. The more time that goes by, the harder looking for a job can be emotionally — and employers will have more questions about why you’re out of work. And, if you’re in a pinch financially that burden will only grow with time.

Don’t get me wrong. Career fulfillment is important but so is having stability during this unprecedented time.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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