Managing your career change (and stress) in the time of coronavirus

By 14/03/2020 March 26th, 2020 I Need A New Job

The past week has been difficult to say the least. Here at Work Bigger, we’re working to offer support however we can – mostly by hosting group calls for our community and letting all of our members know that we’re there for them during this time. 

I see many of our members and clients who are in the midst of a career change are experiencing new levels of uncertainty. After all, we’re already seeing the economic impact of this pandemic and it’s just the beginning. This will all affect businesses and their bottom line, which will impact the workforce as well. 

Changes that may happen as a result of this pandemic include hiring freezes due to the negative financial impact many businesses are experiencing. Furthermore, social functions are suspended impacting your ability to network and make connections.

If you’re in the midst of a job search, you may be feeling some extra anxiety around this – especially if you have a sense of urgency to get a new job right now. Maybe you’re in between jobs and need a salary to pay the bills, or maybe your work situation is just not working out for whatever reason. 

I understand the fear in times like this. Feel the fear and give yourself some time and space to deal with the uncertainty. (Our brains don’t like uncertainty.)

Then, I want you to buckle down, stay hopeful and use this time wisely because it’s temporary, and together we’ll get through it. 

Here’s how to work on your career change and stress in the time of coronavirus. 

Use this time to go inward 

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is sending out application after application online and getting the same result. Maybe you’re getting an interview here or there. Or maybe you’re getting some responses from recruiters. 

But a few months into this process, nothing is moving the needle. And simultaneously, you’re feeling a lot of frustration and confusion on why things aren’t working. 

First, I’m not a fan of this strategy.

Second, sending out job applications online now may be even more challenging. If there’s a hiring freeze or a company is planning one, for example, you may not now about it right away – resulting in you wasting time and energy.

If you’re experiencing any frustration applying online, I want you to pause. This strategy isn’t working for a reason and it’s time to do something differently. Now is the perfect time to spend more time going inward. 

Ask yourself: Are you pursuing what you really want to pursue? Meaning, are you clear on your mission and vision and the impact you want to make in the world? 

If the answer is sort of or maybe and it’s not a HELL YES, take this time for yourself because time is on your side right now especially if you’re mostly home.

Do the deeper work and reflect on your purpose, messaging and strategy so that all of your career change efforts have intention and clarity behind them.

This means getting clear on:

  1. Who you are and what you want. 
  2. Your values and what you stand for, and how these values truly connect to the company values.
  3. Your top strengths AND how you want to leverage them in the next job. 
  4. Your weaknesses and blind spots so that you can speak to them authentically and tackle them with intention. 
  5. The impact you want to make in the world. 

By doing this work, you can have a more focused strategy, including having more impactful informational interviews and more focused materials (LinkedIn, resume, cover letter). 

And when you’re selling yourself to companies, you’re doing so with your whole heart and a lot of conviction. 

I promise you – the work you do to get clear on your mission matters and will serve you your entire life. This is the perfect time to do this deeper work. 

How do you go inward? Self reflection is a great start and spending time exploring what you really want

Manage your mind and stress

This is a stressful time. If you’re feeling the pressure to change jobs because of a toxic work environment or low pay, or you’re in between jobs and your savings are running out, I hear you. To add to this, you may not even feel like working on your career change right now because your brain is consumed with everything that’s going on.

If this sounds like you, managing your stress should be one of the first things that you do.

Remember that our brain operates in two ways: the away state and the toward state. When we’re in the away state, we’re feeling sadness, frustration, anger or lack of motivation. As a result, we’re likely to take action from a place of fear, which can mean procrastination or reacting without being thoughtful (i.e. applying to places in a frenzy vs. being intentional and strategic). 

So managing your stress and overwhelm right now is imperative. 

Try the following:

  • Journaling: Spend time writing about how you’re feeling. It’s normal to be worried about your safety and your loved ones’ wellbeing. If this is triggering anxiety, put it down on paper. 
  • Read a book you love (or two or three): Cabin fever may set after being home for several days. Zoning out with your favorite book will make the time go faster and can help you relax.  
  • Minimize social media: Confession – I have a bad phone addiction. I know I’m not alone here. Spending too much time on your phone and on social media can add to your depression and anxiety. If you need to use apps like Stay Focused to block out certain apps. 
  • Manage your news intake: Stay informed and watch the news, but like one of my clients recently said to me, “if it’s not new, it’s not news.” 
  • Exercise: Do yoga at home or go for a run if you can. 
  • Fill your mind with positive resources and stories to keep yourself upbeat: Which resources help you shift from a negative space to a more positive state? 

Continue building connections

Building authentic connections is one of the best ways to make a career change. You can spend less time applying to random jobs online (and right now many of the job openings you see online may be on hold), and you can find opportunities through people you trust and people who trust you. 

Right now, all social events are basically cancelled or postponed. The communities you rely on aren’t meeting in person. All of this can impact your ability to go out there and make progress.

But it doesn’t have to.

Although it may seem difficult to “network” right now, there are other ways to connect, primarily through online communities, video calls or phone calls.

You can find different online communities through Facebook, or see this list here.

If you don’t know where to begin, start with your immediate network and friends you trust. Share how you’re feeling with them and see what they recommend. They may be able to recommend a useful connection or resource for you. 

Scheduling time to connect with others and openly sharing your career struggles and goals is something that will keep you productive and making progress – even when it seems like things are at a complete standstill. 

As you go through this process, keep track of your progress so that you can celebrate small wins, such as connecting with someone who understands your struggles, connecting with a company you’re excited about or getting an interview. Celebrating the small wins will keep you going, especially during times of uncertainty. 

In conclusion

These are difficult times and many of the circumstances are out of your control. Let me repeat that – the circumstances are out of your control.

The only thing you can control here is your mindset and how you respond to the circumstances. 

Do what you can to stay healthy – physically and mentally. And if making a career change is a big priority for you right now, don’t give up. Keep doing the work that’s required to get you there.

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kate Keaney says:

    Useful advice on managing a career change during COVID. I think the points about dealing with stress are important as I know that can be an everyday challenge for so many so that was useful to read.

    • Belma McCaffrey says:

      Hi Kate – I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you especially the part around stress and mindset. 🙂

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