Is a pandemic the right time to switch jobs?

Is a pandemic the right time to switch jobs?

This year has taught us a few lessons. The Great Toilet Paper Panic of the spring, for example, was a good demonstration of how we collectively react in times of uncertainty: hunker down, stay put, ride it out.

Indeed, a pandemic – and a recession in general – typically causes people to act conservatively, and we’d expect that kind of caution to also apply to the job market. Yet, this year is also unpredictable, which means that even though many job-seekers may still be stockpiling Lysol, they’re also taking the opportunity to explore new career options.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, the pandemic has been the push many people needed to realize they needed to make a switch—the catalyst that finally revealed the truth (one that was too easy to ignore during normal times). Susan Peppercorn explains in Fast Company:

“Even in industries that have not been badly hurt by the pandemic, many people are facing a reality that they work in jobs that they dislike, which can force people to ask themselves, ‘Is this really the tradeoff I want to make?’”

For many of the candidates we talk to, the shift to working from home was the big eye-opener, providing them with a fresh perspective on their current job and pushing them to make the leap. And while the recession has unfortunately decimated many businesses and even entire industries, others have flourished—creating a plethora of new opportunities.

The resumé rules have changed

Most of us have heard the advice to stay in a job for at least two to three years, lest you be branded as “unreliable” or “flaky.” It was a good rule of thumb, but – alas – it met its match in 2020.

“The snow globe of the world has been shaken up,” says Jenny Blake, career strategist and author. “No one is judging anyone for making a career change.”

It’s true. If you were ever waiting for the right timing, this could be your window. With so many employees furloughed, laid off, or even forced to pivot to something new, hiring managers are now approaching candidates with a new sense of understanding and benevolence than ever before.

And that’s why now may be the best time to take stock of your priorities, explains Bruce A. Johnson, PhD, MBA, in his blog:

“When a significant lifetime event occurs, such as a worldwide crisis, it creates an opportunity to re-evaluate the thoughts and plans you’ve had for your career … You have a choice: You can use it as a time to reflect and redirect your focus, or you can give into fear and become paralyzed with inaction.”

Steps to a smoother switch

Nevertheless, switching jobs or career paths can be scary, and the move can carry with it a host of challenges and issues. If you’re considering a change – or want to at least explore this new terrain – start with four steps:

  1. Do your homework – Time to crunch the numbers and organize all your personal information—current salary, monthly expenses, savings, other income, etc. Be sure to look at your benefits (and who relies on them): What kind of insurance needs to come with a new position? Do you need a 401(k) or can you forgo that for a while? Do a deep dive into your complete financial picture so you can make an informed decision.
  2. Make a list of job and career options – Compile your options for new companies or opportunities (if you want to stay in your current field) or new career paths (if you’re ready for something new). Now’s a good time to get our of your silo and look around for options you’ve likely never considered before. What are you qualified for? What past experience could prove your value in a completely different role?
  3. Choose your path and make your preparations – This may mean saving additional money to cover any gaps, or it may mean enrolling in online classes or night school to earn a required certification (or just hone your skills). The more preparation you can do while you’re still employed, the less anxious you’ll feel when you finally give notice.
  4. Take action – Now’s the time to put your plan to work. It’s also the perfect time to work directly with a recruiting professional who can help you not only explore your new career path but provide insight into the companies and roles available to you. Especially if you’re headed down a new road, having a guide to help you along the way can make all the difference.

Yes, this insane year has indeed taught us several lessons, and not all of them have been very good. But it’s also taught us to value what’s important to us, to take the time to reevaluate the choices we make and how we spend our time—something so simple but vitally important, especially with such an uncertain future ahead.

“Ride it out” only works for so long. If you’re ready to explore a new path for your career future, we’re here to help show you the way.

Melissa Rose is a recruiting manager with the Administrative team at Morgan Hunter, serving Kansas City-area employers to help them meet a range of hiring needs, from temporary staffing to direct-hire placements. Share your thoughts on Facebook, LinkedIn or on Twitter @MorganHunterCo.

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