Has the pandemic caused you to find yourself at a career crossroads? Perhaps you were furloughed, laid off or suddenly had to take on a much greater workload. You may feel like working remotely means you have to be “always on,” and on top of everything, you are the primary caregiver for elderly parents or children during this time. If you have been questioning whether your current job or career is fulfilling or meaningful, that may be a sign that it’s time to consider a new direction.
Here are some valuable tips when you find yourself questioning your next career move:
Put yourself first
When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to “put your oxygen mask on first” before helping others. This metaphor is significant—particularly for working moms. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly 80% of all adults in the U.S. who stopped working during the month of January 2021 were women. Why? Working mothers are finding themselves taking on the roles of teacher, chef, housekeeper, babysitter, therapist, and more as they struggle to keep their families functioning. It’s just not sustainable. The first step when you find yourself at a career crossroads is to put yourself first. It is not selfish to make sure that you are okay before attending to others’ needs. If you aren’t exercising or getting enough sleep, it will be nearly impossible to achieve the mental clarity necessary for a career change.
Many of my clients at a career crossroads start by looking externally for answers. They take tests, talk to friends and family, and even visit psychics in the hopes of achieving clarity. In the end, all they are is confused. Finding support is essential, but seeking advice from too many sources can be daunting. Ultimately, the answers are within. If you can put yourself first and find some stillness, things will become much more apparent.
Changes are difficult, and if you are at a career crossroads, you are undoubtedly coming up against serious doubts and fears. That is normal and expected. This is a good time to find support, whether it’s a colleague, coach or mentor. Having an unbiased outside perspective can make all the difference.
Envision the life that you want
If you’ve determined that you’re at a career crossroads, think about what you really want and what needs to change. Maybe your values no longer align with your company’s values. Or perhaps you long for a job that offers the ability to travel internationally. Spend some time understanding what’s making you unsatisfied, even if you don’t yet know what to do about it. Then ask yourself this question: “If I could be anywhere, doing anything, where would I be, who would I be with, and what would I be doing?” Once you can answer this in vivid detail, you will be well on your way to making that vision a reality.
Explore the possibilities
Once you have a clear idea of your dream job, it’s time to start exploring. Open yourself up to the possibilities. Tap into your network. Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to find people in the profession you’d like to pursue and set up informal virtual chats. Find out how they got to where they are. Can you identify any gaps you would need to fill to achieve your goals—like additional skills, education or certifications? What does a day in the life of this person look like? Is it what you envisioned, or does the reality seem different? Also, consider other ways to research different careers like books, podcasts, virtual conferences and professional associations. And if you can shadow someone in the profession you are targeting, even better.
Put yourself out there
The perfect job rarely comes knocking at your door. You need to seek it out. Keep networking. Revise your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect the position you want, not the career you had. Start applying for roles that are in line with your vision. And don’t underestimate the importance of social media. Studies have shown that 92% of companies are using social media for hiring and that three out of four hiring managers will search for a candidate’s social profiles. So, whether you’re a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional looking for a new opportunity, social media can be a helpful job search tool.
Remember, career change is an expedition, not a day trip. While finding yourself at a career crossroads may seem terrifying, it can also be an exhilarating journey. Most importantly, don’t be paralyzed by indecision. Once you’ve ascertained what you want, take a series of small actions to get there. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”