I’m struggling to know what to say to you. It seems like the COVID-19 crisis has sent the world mad. And as I write this, I’m hoping fervently that you, Avenger, are in good health, and managing the fall out of this crisis in a way that’s working for you.
In the face of coronavirus chaos, your career change is probably feeling further away than ever. But world events, scary as they are, don’t necessarily have to derail your plans. And, believe it or not, they bring some interesting opportunities too.
Frankly, we’re all reeling right now.
Reeling from the constant headlines about the latest coronavirus statistics.
Feeling worried about what it means for us, our loved ones. Fearing for those in our lives who are more vulnerable. How to manage as we lockdown and put our lives on hold for who knows how f****** long.
It’s not an easy time.
And whether you’re deeply feeling the impact of these world events on a personal level, or simply finding it a frustrating curtailment of your liberty, there’s no doubt that it’s, to a significant degree, a crisis.
To be honest, your career change, or lack of it, is probably the last thing on your to-do list.
And that’s as it should be, in a crisis.
Whether coronavirus or any other significant and unsettling turn of events, life has a way of throwing curve balls, just when you think you’re getting a handle on things.
Unexpected bills that you have to pay, unforeseen drama that you have to deal with, changes that force you to change your plans.
And every now and then, a full-blown crisis appears.
So let’s take the pressure off, in case you needed to hear this.It’s OK if you’re not making progress on your career change right now.
It’s OK to put that whipping stick down, and to deal with life.
Because you can’t change career in a crisis. Here’s why.
You’ll become focused on a different level of need for a while
In his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow described the different levels of human need, and arranged them in a hierarchy.
At the bottom of the pyramid were our basic physiological needs: shelter, warmth, food, etc. Moving upwards, we need safety and love next. Once those things are in place, our next need is self-esteem, and upwards from that, self-actualisation.
Finding work that feels like a truer expression of who we are, and who we have the potential to be, is definitely way up on the pyramid.
But when a crisis hits, it wobbles the foundation of the pyramid. Will I be able to feed myself if the supermarkets have empty shelves? Can I keep a roof over my head if I have to survive on statutory sick pay for weeks? Will the people I love be OK?
It’s hard to focus on the higher levels, when the lower levels are in earthquake mode.
So give yourself a break.
You won’t have the mental headspace
When your brain’s bandwidth is taken up with trying to manage a crisis, there’s very little left for blue-sky thinking.
A crisis — coronavirus, or any other — is a drain on your usual energy levels, and a challenge for your mental well-being.
But it won’t always be like this. This too shall pass.
In case you were feeling frustrated about it, digging in and staying put during a crisis doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the idea of a career change. It’s actually a sensible way to make sure your pyramid doesn’t get too wobbly.
AND if you’re savvy about it, you might spot opportunities in the chaos to consolidate a stronger position to conduct your career change from, once the crisis has passed.
A crisis is a catalyst for change
This situation is going to have lasting effects, many of which experts are only just starting to grapple with.
One such effect is that the world has had a forced awakening to the benefits and possibilities of remote working.
Online apps and services that facilitate remote working have seen their shares skyrocket in recent weeks.
The way people work is being reevaluated and adapted. And the adaptations we’re seeing right now could change the world of work forever.
While we don’t know yet exactly what changes to the career landscape this might create, it’s clear that many eyes are looking seriously at a way of working they wouldn’t have contemplated seriously for their organisations a few months ago.
It’s possible that this could spark changes across multiple different industries, creating the need for new jobs, teams, and support structures for remote workers in record time.
It could be the case that the industry you return to, or the one you’ve got your eye on, could have a wealth of new opportunities by the time the world returns to something resembling normality.
And there may be new industries, emphases, projects, and focus areas that spring up as a result of this crisis that we can’t even conceive of yet.
Wherever there is great risk and change, there is also great opportunity.
You have an opportunity to increase your capacity for change
Perhaps you, like me, are in the process of realising that some of the structures and features of your life, that you rely on, are shakier than you thought.
That perhaps you need a little more in cash reserves than you’d realised. Or that you’re more dependent on certain services than you thought.
While this is uncomfortable, it’s also an invitation — to upgrade, to improve, to shore ourselves up to become more resilient.
One of the key practical tasks that needs to be looked at, and is often avoided, in both career change and a global health crisis, is knowing, with a fine degree of detail, your financial bottom line.
Knowing how you could free up some easy-access cash, where you cut down on expenditure, and what you really need to get by (i.e. when you cut out those TV subscriptions, takeaways, and trips to the hairdresser) shows you that actually, you could probably survive on a lot less than you think.
And the rearing up of a worldwide challenge to your household finances, while scary, might be exactly the opportunity you needed to prove how resourceful you could be if the worst happened.
Knowing that now, and understanding how you could shore up your finances for the future, puts you in a strong place for considering later on how a change in earnings during a career change, even if only temporary, might affect you. And, if the situation is better than you thought, this might open doors in terms of the opportunities you’re able to realistically consider as you make a move into a new career arena.
See? Knowledge is power.
And there are other things you can do right now that will also contribute to creating career change resilience as well as being excellent steps to take during a crisis.
Instead of trying to change career in this crisis, try this:
1. Start focusing on you
Self-care is key when navigating ANY crisis, personal or worldwide.
Take your vitamins, get enough sleep. Be kind to yourself. Take walks outside. If your productivity generally takes a tumble, be gentle with your self-talk. Listen to what your body’s telling you it needs.
Talk about what’s worrying you with someone you love. Reach out for a Zoom chat with a friend. Connect. We’re all in this together, and while we can’t be physically close, we don’t have to be socially isolated.
2. Observe your strengths (hint: the crisis brings them out)
As we’re navigating this new normal, notice what behaviours and strategies you put in place to cope.
Because chances are, you’ll default to doing things that you now make you feel stronger. The stuff you do naturally. Your best skills, and the ones you’re awesome at bringing to bear on the situation you find yourself in.
What are they? What clues can they offer you?
3. SWOT up.
While most of you might be more familiar with SWOT analyses from the world of business, they can also be super-powerful to undertake personally, and even more so when navigating a crisis.
Create a diagram with four quadrants: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Write down everything you can think of for each one:
Strengths: The things you know are working in your favour, right now.
I’ve a coffee maker at home.
I solved the cat’s flea problem before this whole shitshow started.
I have a stash of savings.
I’m resourceful and organised.
I’m a quick study with new technology.
Weaknesses: The things you know are not working in your favour, right now.
I’m only going to get 80% of my wage for a while.
I make to-do lists that are too ambitious, and then I get overwhelmed and do nothing instead.
Traditional routes into career are likely to slow down for a while. Life is going to be tricky for a while.
Opportunities: What can you see as potential options, that you couldn’t see before?
I’ve got some extra time to explore a topic I’ve been curious about.
I’ve got some downtime to really contemplate what I want, to create new goals and routines
There’s never been a better time to reach out to people with authentic words and offer my help.
Threats: What might derail you from getting into action with thee opportunities?
Netflix is calling
I’m feeling worried about the virus
Now, the trick is, to use your Strengths, to accelerate some Opportunities.
Create strategies to develop your Weaknesses, where possible.
I’m going to create shorter to-do lists. And I’m going to reward myself when I complete one.
I’m also going to brainstorm creative and fun ways to earn a small sideline income while I’m on lockdown.
And take steps to mitigate the threats.
I’m going to limit my Netflix intake to one hour per day.
I’ll wash my hands for 20 seconds each time and sanitise my door handles.
I will stay home and take care not to endanger those who are vulnerable.
I’m going to reduce how much news I watch on TV.
I’ll choose to stay in the present moment and focus on what I can control right now.
4. Remember you are not alone.
We are extraordinarily lucky to live in a world where we are not dependent on physical proximity to one another for our social contact.
There has never been a better time to reflect on what makes us who we are, and to connect with each other.
Reach out. And know that we are in this together.
What career change challenges are you facing right now in light of world events? Leave a comment and let me know.
And if you need focused one-to-one support on your career issue, consider a Career SOS session. These are currently heavily discounted to those whose incomes have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus lockdown. Find out more here.