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Career Advice

How to Navigate a Sudden Career Change


It doesn’t matter if you’re shifting from college to the work world or you’re making a mid-life professional pivot, navigating a career change can be overwhelming. If the shift adjustment comes suddenly, it can only increase the stress and anxiety of the change.

If you’ve found yourself in an unexpected or fast-paced period of professional change, you’re not alone. The coronavirus has upended traditional careers for countless individuals. Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you address the change in an innovative and individualized manner that specifically works for you.

Re-evaluate What Matters

When you leave an old job behind, it can help to bring things into perspective. Job-specific priorities and pressures melt away, leaving you with your core values and interests. 

When this happens, it’s important to take stock of those personal preferences. Remind yourself of what it is that motivates you. Where do you draw ethical lines? Is your job a source of income, a way to vent your passions, or both?

In addition to personal values, consider any responsibilities that you have. Do you have a family? What about a mortgage or auto loan payment? Do you have family responsibilities outside of work that can take up your time? 

Slowing down to re-evaluate what truly matters in your life is a crucial first step whenever you’re making a major life change.

Figure Out Any Skill Gaps

Finding a new company or job within your industry is often fairly simple. You may need to learn how one company accomplishes a task differently than another, but in general, you’re working within the same set of training and experiences.

However, if you’re making a larger pivot, you may find that you don’t necessarily have all of the knowledge to go the distance. When this happens, it’s important that you identify where skill gaps have opened up and how you can address them.

For instance, if you’re shifting from a career in sales to one as a beauty science influencer, you may need to brush up on your beauty industry knowledge. If you’re going into freelancing, you may need to take a course on accounting or running your own business. If you’re working remotely as an HR rep, you may need to hone crucial soft skills like communication and adaptability. 

Wherever you find skill gaps, take steps to fill them as soon as possible so that you have the tools to navigate your new career with grace and poise.

Take Steps to Maintain Work-Life Balance

Career changes can be all-consuming. They can soak up every minute of time, every ounce of energy, and every single bit of resources that you can throw at them. 

With that in mind, it’s also critical that you take the time to maintain a work-life balance throughout the transition as well. This isn’t just a convenient excuse to take breaks. It can help you stay fresh and focused whenever you’re in “work mode.” Especially if you’re taking online classes to help your career change go a little more smoothly, tips for a healthy work-life balance include:

  • Designating a workspace.
  • Maintaining a clear schedule.
  • Unplugging from work when you’re off the clock.
  • Setting both professional and personal goals.
  • Using vacation days to truly rest.

Work-life balance is a huge part of long-term success when going through a career change.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Continual learning and development isn’t just a fun focus in the current business world. It’s a vital part of keeping up with modern business trends. This need to always be honing your skills is only amplified when you go through a career change.

This is why a growth mindset has become such a crucial part of the 21st-century professional attitude. From evolving tech to things like remote workspaces, decentralized organizational structures, and automation, change is always taking place in one way or another. 

If you want to keep up with this change, you must embrace a mindset that you, yourself, can change right along with it. Rather than seeing your current skillset as permanent, always look for ways to keep yourself moving in a positive, developmental direction. 

Successfully Navigating a Sudden Career Change

The ongoing pandemic may have rewritten your professional narrative over the course of the last year. Even if it didn’t, though, you may still find yourself at a career crossroads from time to time. You might find yourself changing jobs for better pay or shifting focus to line your employment up with your passions. 

Whatever the case, if you make a sudden pivot, it can be discomforting and even overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there are many small-yet-powerful steps that you can take to address the stress and set yourself up to thrive — not just survive. 

So review the list of suggestions above and consider how they can help you through your life changes right here, right now. As you do so, strive to regain a sense of calm and focus — two crucial ingredients to a successful career pivot.

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