How to navigate a transition early on in your career

Article by Mel Barclay, Head of Career Transition at LHH UK and Ireland

woman going through a career changeEmbarking on a career change is something that many of us will experience in our working life. When it’s within our own control this can be an exciting and empowering time of change.

However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in this becoming an unexpected route that many are having to take – be that down to redundancy, the uncertainty of being placed on furlough or being redeployed to a new department or business area.

Recent findings have shown that it is in fact the younger generation, often at the beginning of their careers that have been disproportionately impacted by job losses. In fact, findings from the LSE Centre for Economic Performance found that those under the age of 25 were twice as likely to have lost their job during the pandemic. Research has also found that globally, women’s job losses due to COVID-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s.

I’ve worked in career coaching for over 20 years now, and I can really empathise with those that have found themselves in this situation – finding yourself either unemployed or exploring a different career path can have a huge impact on your confidence, and motivation.

While it might not seem like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there are some key actions you can take to remain in control of your career. So, whether you’ve found yourself unemployed, or are facing an expected change in direction, I have provided some key advice to help navigate the process.

Don’t blame yourself – It’s important to remember that job roles are made redundant, not people; finding yourself without employment is not a reflection on you as an individual or an employee. Businesses have been rocked by an unprecedented level of disruption, causing job losses at all levels and across all industries.

Don’t give up – Too often we can become defined by our careers and job title but I’d encourage you to remember that you are at the beginning of your career, and although it might not look like it, there will be opportunities ahead. With any change comes new challenges, so leave yourself open to embrace them.

Embrace the new challenge – In these circumstances, it’s important to view this change as a new challenge, an exciting new venture for you to leave your mark on. If you’re entering a new field, you don’t have to leave your previous experience at the door, if anything it is an asset. View any new experience as a chance to further enhance your skillset, and an opportunity to future proof your CV.

List out your skills – Positive affirmation can have a huge impact on your mental health and productivity. If you have changed career direction it can be easy to feel like a fish out of water and it’s only natural to feel like you are starting from square one. This can understandably lead to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It’s easy to forget your strengths and skills, especially when going through a career change, so listing these skills out will not only remind you, but will serve as a confidence boost when entering a new career arena. This also has an additional benefit of highlighting areas where you might want to bridge skills’ gaps, develop new ones or explore how these skills may be used in other situations. Evidence of having continued to develop professionally is always seen positively by employers.

Work on your social media presence – If you find yourself unemployed because of the pandemic, take this time to work on your personal brand. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Have you done an audit on what potential employers can see about you on your social media profiles? It’s a crowded market out there, so it’s important that your online presence only serves to help and not hinder you. I’d also actively encourage joining online networking groups and signing up to regular job alerts in your chosen field.

Expand your network – Do not underestimate the importance of networking, especially in today’s climate. Spend some time regularly developing your network and keeping in touch.  Follow other people’s careers, learn from their journeys and introduce yourself to new contacts. Being seen to be proactive with your career will get you noticed. Tap into networking groups or form your own. Motivation and support during a time of change is the key to not losing focus so make contact with others who are experiencing the same changes to swap tips, contacts and ideas.

These are uncertain times for everyone, especially if you are at the beginning of your career. But it’s important for you to realise that you can take control of your career back, even by following just a few of these small steps.

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