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Rethinking careers is precisely what the coronavirus pandemic is inspiring many people to do. Unforeseen events can disrupt routine lives, force people to step out of their comfort zones, and push them to ask fundamental questions about what matters in life.
Is a pandemic the right time to reevaluate your career? Even if you and your family are healthy and are financially secure, the pandemic has made life much more uncertain.
It can be hard to tell how much longer you can count on life being predictable.
Psychologists have demonstrated how people tend to lean toward conservative choices and behavior during times of uncertainty — which is precisely the opposite of what you need to do when you pursue a career change.
It can be hard to fully involve yourself in reinventing your career if you’re worried about stability in life.
How do you reconcile the basic need for survival to do something fresh and new? It can help to keep a few simple principles in mind.
Build multiple selves
When you aren’t sure about what the future is likely to bring, or when the trajectory you thought you were on takes an unexpected turn, it can help to have a range of options to choose from, rather than just one.
Even in times of economic certainty, career changes are rarely predictable processes. They are nearly always messy and uncertain.
To handle a career change the right way, you need to develop a range of different selves that you can try out.
A self is an idea of what you believe you might become one day.
Some of these ideas come to be well-defined by experience, and others may be vague and untested.
Some may be practical, and others may be unrealistic. It’s important to imagine yourself in several possible different roles in life, and begin exploring them to arrive at several possible career futures for yourself.
Liminality is the difficult condition of limbo that you need to go through when making significant life changes.
You need to give up the past that you are comfortable with and go through a period of time when your future isn’t yet with you.
People experiencing liminality tend to alternate between grasping at the past and letting go to welcome the future.
It’s essential to not prematurely attempt to end the period of liminality that you go through.
According to Bill Bridges, author of the book Transitions, brain studies suggest that embracing the uncertainty of an in-between period may be far more beneficial than a lot of apparent busywork of self-improvement.
Get started working on side-projects
Serious pursuit of side-projects is the path that most successful people take to career reinvention.
Building ideas, skills, relationships, and knowledge in a new area in the evenings and over the weekends is the way to great new directions.
People who are successful at reinventing their careers often work on several promising side-projects at once to compare the pros and cons of these activities.
Questioning who you are and what you want to become is often an essential part of working on these projects.
In the middle of the pandemic, when not having to commute leaves you with extra time on your hands, you have the opportunity to try new things.
Many people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic do admit to using the extra time to learn new skills and try new ideas.
The projects you try do not necessarily need to be closely aligned to the direction you believe your new career will be in.
The point is simply to try new kinds of work and talk to new types of people to learn new things about yourself.
It can even help volunteer in your community or volunteer to be a part of the crisis initiative with your employer.
Radically new projects can take you new directions and help you understand what you will be happy doing in life.
Get to work reviving old ties.
Networking is usually best done in person, which means that it’s hard to do during a lockdown or quarantine. Nevertheless, you need to try.
When it comes to networking, your weakest relationships’ revival is an important rule to live by. That is, you need to work hard at strengthening the most tenuous relationships that you have.
The people you know best are unlikely to be sources of new information and insights — you probably already know everything they know.
Less familiar contacts are likely to be far richer sources of valuable ideas and information. Unfortunately, these contacts are also less likely to be motivated to help you.
If you make an effort to network with cooled-off ties, you are likely to find that you come by valuable ideas when you discuss your career with them.
Talk about it
Amid all the upheaval that a change of careers can bring, you probably hope that engaging in introspection will eventually deliver moments of profound insight.
Reflection can be a risky activity when done entirely in isolation; however – it can trap you in fanciful daydreams rather than give you real-world insights.
Reflecting on your own thoughts, somewhat counterintuitively, is best done shared with close friends or family members who can question you, sympathize with you, and read your body language.
People changing careers often benefit significantly from attending training courses in different fields, simply because they can get together with their fellow students and discuss their options.
Simply talking to other people about thoughts that you already have can help clarify those ideas in your mind and take you forward.
As any experienced storyteller is likely to vouch, telling your story to a live audience can be an experience without parallel when ordering your thoughts.
Certainly, amid the self-isolation and the social distancing in place with the pandemic, socializing with anyone other than family members can be challenging.
But you can create a video conferencing group with people that you’re comfortable with, or take a walk with them, speaking across the distance that you need to maintain.
Reinventing your career in the middle of a pandemic can bring you unique opportunities to take advantage of.
There’s just one idea to keep in mind – as far as possible, do it with other people. Don’t try to do it all by yourself.
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