Depending on the state of your career amidst the current coronavirus situation, you may be thinking about changing direction, whether laid off or having more downtime due to staying at home. There’s no real way to know what the job and stock markets will look like, impacting job and retirement decisions, or how the world of work will change, now that more employers are getting a taste of managing and leading a virtual workforce, once we’re on the other side of the pandemic.
Making the decision to retire from your current work or shift careers can be fraught with self-doubt, fear and trepidation, and uncertainty about the future, even in “normal” times, yet can also be an exciting and adventurous time in your life, leading to great experiences and more fulfillment.
Sometimes, a fear of lost identity or becoming irrelevant comes into play with career changes and can hold you back, especially if you closely identified with your work role and your new one is that of “retiree” or something quite different from what you’ve been doing. A key strategy to overcome these concerns is to focus on the value you bring through your talents, skills, strengths, and experiences. Much of this has to do with how you re-brand yourself, whether your goal is to keep working full time, part time, as a volunteer, business owner, independent consultant, or board member.
To begin identifying how you add value, answer these questions to trigger ideas:
- What are 3-5 career accomplishments you’re proud of and what did you do specifically to get those outcomes?
- What are 3-5 specific examples of how you’ve used your strengths to contribute to an organization’s culture in a positive way?
- What are 3-5 skills (technical or non-technical) you’ve applied in your career that you can see transferring easily to different organizations or scenarios and how can you transfer them?
- What are some new skills you’d like to learn or think you will need to learn to make a career change and how will you gain this learning?
- What are 3-5 positive characteristics or attributes people tend to ascribe to you consistently? If unsure, who can you ask to find out?
- How do those characteristics or attributes tie to your contributions to groups, organizations, or what you’d like to move toward next?
- What type of work/tasks have you enjoyed doing in your career that you’d like to continue to do in some way? What might that look like?
- Ignoring any job titles or life roles, such as parent, manager, director, friend, etc., what would a “headline” be that describes who you are in 3-5 words?
This last one is tough, because it’s hard to encapsulate who you are in a few words, yet it’s also powerful, especially to help you get away from pigeonholing yourself into a job title or thinking you can only be identified by a work role. Mine that I’ve just started using is, “Career Fear Slayer.” Sometimes, I’ll adapt it to, “Career Change Champion,” depending on the situation when I’m interacting with people. Notice it’s not a job title like “coach,” or “career transition professional,” because I want to apply it regardless of what I’m doing to earn a living. I can be a “slayer” or a “champion” as a volunteer, mentor, retiree, contractor, etc. and it describes my value of taking the fear out of career transitions.
Play around with it and have some fun, especially in these stressful times, while you’re at home and perhaps getting bored with binge watching, pet watching, online video watching, 24-hour news watching, or taking a breather from all the scary stuff. It can also make answering that question, “What do you do?” when networking a lot easier to answer.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to become a totally new person (unless you really want to!) when you make a career change or retire to something else, as you’re valuable to the world regardless. You may just need to spend a bit of time identifying how you add this value specifically to whatever it is you want to do next or figuring out what that “next” is for you exactly.
Often, the word “reinvention” is [over]used these days when it comes to career transition. To me, this implies that you need to make drastic changes in who you are, when that may not be the case. How about that instead, it’s about revaluation (Is that a word? It didn’t get flagged in spell check.), i.e. knowing what and who you already are and applying that value in different ways? This makes the prospect of career change much less daunting, I think. See? Career fear slayer. Totally doing it right now.