Orlando Sentinel

Navigating a career switch amid COVID-19

- Jill Schlesinge­r Jill on Money Jill Schlesinge­r, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. A former options trader and CIO of an investment advisory firm, she welcomes comments and questions at askjill@jillonmone­y.com. Check her website at www.jillonmone­y.com.

As the economy and labor market heal in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are trying to assess what comes next. For some, the pandemic reframed their views on their current career trajectori­es. For others, this scary and anxiety-ridden period of time has prompted a reflection on what’s next.

Whether you are sidelined from the labor force and are considerin­g getting back in, or are lucky enough to have a job but need a change, consider these steps:

1. Conduct research: While the labor market is recovering, some industries are faring far better than others. Tech, health care, online learning, e-commerce and digital entertainm­ent have revved up hiring, and many have opened up opportunit­ies in areas that don’t necessaril­y rely on technical expertise. One tech executive told me that her top priority is filling open sales team roles, not engineerin­g ones.

2. Assess your strengths: While it is easy to focus on technical skills or educationa­l attainment­s, many employers are also focusing on the harder-to-quantify “soft skills,” such as the ability to communicat­e, empathize, work with others or solve problems. This is also a good time to figure out where you need to improve and whether you need to acquire new skills. While you are at it, identify what moves you. What jobs or tasks have you enjoyed doing? Most of us can find one or two things that we liked doing, even if the overall job wasn’t a great fit.

3. Review and update your resume and cover letter: Make sure that these annoying but necessary documents reflect who you are today. Then update your online presence, including cleaning up your social profiles so they are profession­al and ready for networking. This may include changing settings, so they are private.

4. Figure out why you’re jumping ship:

If you are considerin­g a departure, what is motivating you to make the move? Are you seeking more money? While a pay raise can be great, would it require longer hours, days or a loss of benefits or vacation time? Do you want to feel more connected to the mission of an organizati­on? Are you burned out from the pandemic or from your job itself ?

This has been a grueling year for so many, which may cause some people to conflate the general period of time with the jobs they hold.

5. Network: You may cringe when you see that word, but all you really need to do is talk to people you know and also with those whom you share a connection. Contact people whose jobs have always seemed interestin­g to you — just send a quick note and ask for time to chat.

One positive aspect of the lockdown is that we have all learned how to communicat­e more effectivel­y through a screen. If you’re still rusty, practice with friends or family and try to be clear and concise.

6. Consider a side hustle: Whether out of necessity or desire, the pandemic has spurred Americans to become more entreprene­urial. There have been more than 4.4 million new businesses started since the pandemic began — a more than 40% increase from the prior year.

When people ask about starting their own businesses, I advise them to start with a side hustle. Doing so is a good way to test a concept and see if it gains traction, while enjoying the stability of a full-time job and benefits.

If you do decide to go the full-time route, don’t forget that you will need to investigat­e health insurance, life and disability insurance, as well as retirement plan options.

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