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Transition Through Tumult: How to Set Yourself Up for a Career Change Amidst a Global Pandemic

Transition Through Tumult: How to Set Yourself Up for a Career Change Amidst a Global Pandemic

We find ourselves in a trying time. Most are likely already familiar with the daunting statistics - the first quarter of 2020 saw 20% of the global population ordered to stay home and a record-breaking 8.2 million Americans have file unemployment claims (as of 4/16/20), in addition to an ongoing and unprecedented test of health systems worldwide.

With so much upheaval and uncertainty, it seems a daft time to discuss career transitions. The ability to transition typically assumes one has options and is accepting some degree of risk. Shouldn’t we instead focus solely on job retention? Now we survive; later we thrive, right?

Actually, it doesn’t have to be so binary. How we act now, how we respond in the face of the Coronavirus chaos, will not only define who we are as leaders, but will set us up for our post-pandemic lives.

Nearly 60% of people have seriously considered or made a career change since college graduation, with some studies showing up to 80% of young adults looking to change careers. While it might not be the best time to make a big career leap, there are tangible steps you can take now to give yourself the strongest foundation for a post-pandemic move.

Before you reach out to others, you must first focus on yourself. What do you want, and how can you define this?

[Related: A Wake-Up Call For Your Career: Five More Introspective Questions]


Take this time as an opportunity to reflect on who you are, how you interact with your world. Susan David's concept of emotional agility espouses that all emotions are important, in that they signal our values.

Accepting - not judging - ourselves, and then being compassionate and curious about the underlying meaning of our emotions, can allow us to move forward and enact real change.

Indeed, our values ground our actions. What are your priorities, your values?


Essential to any successful change is knowing the objective; in this case, (re)defining your own aspirations. Building on "reflecting" above, what actions or decisions will you take to be consistent and true to what is important to you?

Consider how your values and priorities are manifest, personally and professionally. What energizes or motivates you? What are your personal and professional goals? How can you measure the gap between where you are and where you want to be? What is needed to fill that gap, and what is your risk appetite for pursuing change?

Raise up.

Bring your aspirations into the light and start to craft your story. How do you want or need to portray yourself to others to get to where you want to be?

Prepare and practice your elevator pitch - two minutes describing your experience, skills/motivations, and goals. Also consider what defines your personal brand, and how you can actively shape that today. There are a number of expert resources available on this topic.

When you are comfortable with and able to articulate your story and your goals, start road testing and begin connecting with others.

[Related: How to Use Your Current Job to Start Your Next Business]


Now is time to network! Reach out to existing contacts and foster relationships with interesting colleagues or individuals with interesting networks.

Make new connections with people who do things you want to do, have made similar or intriguing career shifts, and ask them about their experience. How can you support them, what interesting information can you share? What specifically do you want to get from them?


Read up on topics related to your professional goals and look into what others in this space are reading.

Are there relevant academic or professional reading lists to explore? What trends are you seeing? What do you find interesting? Take in and interpret information so you can incorporate this into discussions and have your own thoughts.


Communicate, connect, share your thoughts with others, and use your own voice! Relate to others and stay relevant on subjects of interest.

It can be easy to think that making a career shift or moving into a new space strips us of credibility. On the contrary, your unique experience gives you a different and valid perspective. When speaking with others, be honest about your background and expertise, but also remain confident in your ability.

Becoming emotionally aware and agile, stating our aspirations, building up a network, and staying relevant are things that we can all do, even during survival mode. In some ways, this is the ideal time to reflect on yourself and (re)connect with others. Most people are home, hungry for contact, and expecting some degree of post-pandemic professional changes.

We may be at home and riding a wave of economic, social, and professional uncertainty, but taking these steps will only help you move more definitively and quickly when the time is right. Be intentional, be confident, and start building your foundations today.

[Related: What Happened When I Invested In Myself]


Maura Lightfoot has more than a decade of experience including consulting, program management, and learning and development. She has lived and worked in seven countries.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.