While things are whack-a-doodle these days (my technical term for going through the pandemic situation), it can be a good time to pull back, take a breath, and reset priorities as well as consider what you’d like life to look like once we come out the other side of stay at home orders. Many organizations will be doing the same, as they assess what work looks like going forward, and so can you.
How do you know you’re ready to make a career change when it’s such an unsettled time? Well, as with many activities, there’s pretty much never a good time and we can be pulled off track easily. Reasons (excuses) abound and us humans excel at coming up with them, imaginary or otherwise. To counter this, it’s good to do your best to tune out the chaos and tune in to any career notions you’ve had, whether before the virus took hold or now, and spend some time considering if you want to make a change and if so, if you are truly ready to do so.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind to signal that it’s time to make a move away from what you’re currently doing in your career:
Level of Burnout/Stress: Much has been written regarding the signs of burnout (physical, mental, emotional) which can be all too real. While of course your financial situation is a key part of your career picture, it’s important to identify the toll your current work takes on you and if you see it as worth it to continue paying this toll at the sacrifice of your health and wellbeing. We’re no good to anyone or anything without our health, let alone be able to spend our hard-earned money, if the thought of going to work (virtual or otherwise again in the future) makes us sick.
Comfort with Change: What information do you need to be present to make a change? As people, it’s typically not the concept of change we can be leery of; it’s usually fear of the unknown and impact of the change on our lives. If your comfort level in making a major change is low, how can you make gradual changes to build your resilience and be able to expect the unexpected more often than not? This pandemic experience has probably already built you some new muscles in terms of adaptation and flexibility. How can you then take this situation and extend it further into a change for your future?
Timeframe: When thinking of the arc of your career and when you might like to do something different, is that a short-term goal (next 1-2 years) or farther out (3+ years)? While having a lengthier timeline in mind is great for taking smaller steps toward your goal, it can also come back to bite you if you tend to be a procrastinator or perfectionist (not that I am, by the way, just saying that SOME people are). Oh wait, yeah, both of those are me too! The longer the time horizon, the easier it is for us to allow events to interfere and make excuses.
Clarity of What’s Next: It’s good to be clear when thinking of making a change that it’s not a temporary response to something that’s in your face that you’re unhappy about and isn’t a reflex to flee your current situation. What is it that you’d be running to as opposed to running away from? If you’re not sure yet, it’s a good idea to get some help, whether from a coach or trusted advisor and really think about if your circumstances are truly temporary or if this has been building for quite some time. Moving too quickly has its own consequences, especially if unclear about your goal or direction.
Level of Motivation: What’s your level of desire to make a change? How’s your self-discipline to stick to a goal and take the necessary steps to get there? If both of these are low, then you may need to do some preliminary work to raise them. Everything from how you manage anxiety to the health of your relationships and social support network to learning from mistakes or setbacks to being confident you can succeed comes into play here. If any of these items are lacking, then building them up will go a long way toward giving you some momentum to take your first steps toward career change.
While some changes are forced on us, like what we’re experiencing right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t be planful and thoughtful in determining what’s next. It also doesn’t mean that we have to live in a state of paralysis waiting for things to happen. If feeling out of control, take control as best you can. A good place to start is your own career. Even if all you do is a bit of online research and have a few conversations to explore possibilities, it’s still forward progress.