Is it OK to have a career crisis during a pandemic?

Of course it is.

In fact, perhaps now more than ever we have had time to reflect on what we really enjoy and don’t enjoy about our work and for many, those restless feelings have started to take effect. Before you dive headfirst into a career overhaul, here are some questions to ask yourself.

Before COVID-19 what was I liking or disliking about my job?

Do you not like your job or is it that you don’t like working during a pandemic and the aspects of it like working from home for example? Make a list of the good and bad in your role before COVID-19 and consider while there is an aspect of uncertainty the aspects of how we work right now will change over time.

What’s my emotional state like right now?

Time for a self-check in. None of us have experienced anything like this before. It’s difficult but important to separate our feelings from what is happening in the world right now versus how you’re feeling about work. Living through a pandemic and changing careers are both life changing events. Can you deal with the stress of both right now? Do you have support financially and from friends and family if you need it?

Is it your job or the career you don’t like?

This is an important distinction. Sometimes it might simply be your existing team. Think back to a time when you did enjoy your career – what was it about the role you enjoyed then? How has this changed? Could this be met by pivoting to a new role within the company or does it mean leaving your existing job? Clients can always tell me what they don’t like about their current job but when we take time to sit down and look at what they value in a career and a business, not only is it super motivating but it also gets you very focused on the steps you need to take in order to make change happen.

What is your personal narrative?

Your personal brand is the story you sell every day whether you’re on a Zoom call, out for a socially distanced coffee or catching up with friends on the phone. What are you telling yourself and others about where you’re at right now? Are you dithering over ideas and asking for others to make a decision for you? Or are you focused and telling people exactly what you are looking for and how you see your new job unfolding for you? Whether you’re in-person or on social media your personal narrative is what people will remember. When you get to the interview process this is the story they will take or leave. Having some clarity about your direction and awareness of your personal brand is an essential component in career transitions.

What career capital can you leverage?

What do you have already in your career toolbox that you can utilise when considering a move? Evidence suggests you are far more likely to be more satisfied in a new role if you’ve moved using existing skills than throwing caution to the wind and following solely your passion. List your skills and consider where else they might work.

What can you learn from your current role?

Many of my clients have never considered the existing opportunities available to them until they sit down and map it out. Being employed while researching and planning your next career move also gives you some security. There may also be opportunities to try new skills by seconding to another team or approaching someone more senior to mentor you. If the opportunities aren’t at work and why not start a side hustle, get involved in a non for profit project or find a course to build on your career capital.

What is the outlook for your industry in the next while?

Speak to others within your field, get a gauge and consider a move away if necessary to continue growing your skill set and perhaps come back to this area once the pandemic doesn’t so heavily affect it.

Who within your network is worth chatting to right now?

When you are feeling ready to move start by seeking out contacts who will expand your horizon. Immediate friends and family can be good but they already know you, reach out to those dormant ties who you were once close to but you haven’t spoken to in a while or ask friends and family for referrals to someone new who is involved in an area you’re pursuing. Keep in mind some contacts may be under extra pressure during the pandemic so suggesting a quick phone call rather than a one hour coffee date may be more appropriate.

It’s important to remember pandemic or no pandemic, career change is never perfectly linear – it’s a messy journey of exploring, experimenting and can move sideways as much as up and down. So strap yourself in, get support where required and be open to what comes your way.