Navigating an unexpected career change

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

woman going through a career changeMost of us will experience a career change at some point. In an ideal scenario we’d hope that this change was something we were in control of; a personal decision to embrace a new challenge or venture into a completely new field.

But what if the decision has been taken out of your hands?

The long-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are causing high levels of redundancy across many industry sectors, or forcing businesses to restructure and redeploy its staff into new areas. Many who find themselves in this situation will likely find themselves taking an unexpected change in direction.

It might seem more daunting the longer you’ve been in the workforce. If you’ve been in the same career for 10, 20 or 30 years, you’re established, you’ve spent a long time climbing the ladder and likely have not foreseen having to take a turn.

Whether it’s a planned move, or brought about by circumstances beyond your control, a career transition is a big change, and can impact us in many ways. If you find yourself in this situation, I’d  encourage you to be open to opportunities and optimistic about the future. There may be an industry that you have considered previously but never seemed a viable option, or it may have never occurred to you before now. Regardless of the circumstances, this can be an exciting and empowering opportunity. With nearly 20 years working with those going through a career transition, I wanted to offer some words of advice for anyone going through the process at a later stage of their work life.

  1. Overcome the fish out of water feeling – If you have spent the majority of your working life progressing up a ladder within a certain organisation or sector, it’s only natural to feel like you are starting from square one. Understandably this can lead to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. It’s important to realise that you are not a failure for feeling this way, but there are some key pieces of advice to overcoming this and thriving in your new role. It’s important to remind yourself of the skills that you have already acquired throughout your working life. 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.
  2. Embrace a new challenge – Too often we can become defined by our careers and job title, and a change in this can be daunting. If you’ve spent your entire working life as a retail manager or an accountant for example, taking on a new moniker can feel as if you’re losing your identity. 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. By no means do you have to leave your previous experience at the door – it’s an asset. You’ll be bringing your previous industry experience and a fresh perspective to your new role.
  3. Keep your activity level high – It’s so important to relax and recharge your batteries right now, but it’s also important to keep up momentum with your job search. This is a chance for you to be proactive by doing research, fine tuning your CV or LinkedIn Profile, and practicing interviewing.
  4. Take time to review and reflect –Take a look at your job search; what’s working, what isn’t and where have you had success? Is it the success you want or do you need to rethink your strategy? Ask friends and family for their feedback so that you can incorporate this into your search; they might provide a completely new perspective that you hadn’t considered.
  5. List out your skills – Positive affirmation can have a huge impact on your mental health and productivity. 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.
  6. Stay connected to old and new contacts – The new year is a great chance to network; send a cheery message to your former colleagues or LinkedIn connections, think about volunteering to meet new people and gain new skills, and join online groups in your professional area to speak to likeminded people. If you feel comfortable, mention to your contacts that you are on the hunt for a new job and ask who they can connect you with.
  7. Talk to recruiters – Check in with recruiters that you have spoken with, or that have reached out to you in the past. Equally, ask your network for recommendations of recruiters they have worked with. Remember that recruiters are there to help you through this process.
  8. Plan the year’s activity – Planning is key. Start by setting your intentions and goals for the year, and work backwards from those to plan your activities. Having a diverse variety of job search activities keeps it interesting and increases the possibility of landing your dream job.

About LHH

In today’s marketplace, organisations are discovering the need to turn their attention inward to find their future talent. At LHH, we help companies see the possibilities in their people. Through assessments, coaching, upskilling and transitioning, companies can realise the untapped potential within their own workforce, resulting in increased productivity, morale, and brand affinity.

A division of The Adecco Group – the world’s leading HR solutions partner – LHH’s 4,000 coaches and colleagues work with more than 7,000 organisations in over 60 countries around the world. We make a difference to everyone we work with, and we do it on a global scale. We have the local expertise, global infrastructure, and industry-leading technology to manage the complexity of critical workforce initiatives and the challenges of transformation. It’s why 60% of the Fortune 500 companies choose to work with us. Learn more at

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