With over 40 million Americans laid off and many more facing reduced incomes and hours during an unprecedented health crisis, it’s not far-fetched to think you could also face unexpected career changes in your life.
That can bring additional stress to what can be a fraught and complicated journey, especially for those just starting out in their careers.
“I don’t think anyone can say they know exactly where their career is headed, recent graduate or not,” said Maggie Staments, the content strategist for BUILT BY GIRLS, Cashay’s sister site and a platform that helps prepare female and non-binary students for careers in technology. “We’re all reeling from all the change and uncertainty.”
BUILT BY GIRLS gathered some tips for young people struggling to make those career shifts right now.
Assess your values and map out your dream job
Dealing with a career change often means your work pace slows down. But this may a great time to assess what you’re looking for in your next job and where you want it to lead you in the future.
“While slowing down is uncomfortable, especially for an overachiever,” Staments said, “this can be a valuable time for you to assess what you truly want from a job.”
Try to understand what attracts you to that job or company you’ve been looking into — whether it’s the prestige of the company, its work culture, or its mission statement.
One way to do that is to make a list what’s important to you in a job like financial security, creative freedom, or the ability to work remotely. Narrow down the list to three to five core things. After you have this figured out, it will be easier to see which companies or roles are the best fit for you.
“This gives you some control in the job search, which can help motivate you and builds your confidence, especially in this time,” Staments said. “Plus, you’re more likely to find a job you love or love major pieces of.”
Your values may change over time, so think about this as an initial plan, she said.
Be mindful of the “sunk cost delusion”
When preparing for a career change, you have to be mindful if your negative thoughts lead you to a “sunk cost delusion by worrying about what you could lose instead of focusing on what might be gained, according to BUILT BY GIRLS Executive Director Tiana Kara.
“It’s like, not applying for an internship for fear that it might get canceled right before or midway through,” Kara said. “Or lowering your career aspirations because the cost of aiming higher would be a waste of time in this climate.”
Don’t fall into that trap or rationalize this way of thinking. That doesn’t allow you to invest in new projects.
“We think we’ll be happier by weighing the losses,” Kara said, “but not realizing that the risk of falling for the sunk cost bias is much greater.”
Cultivate a growth mindset
The growth mindset means we must keep learning and acquiring new skills
“It’s the understanding that anything we want to learn is available to us, and we have the power to master it if we’re willing to devote the time,” Kara said. “This is a very attractive practice that many companies are adapting and highly valued in a candidate.”
One way to do this is to embrace challenges instead of avoiding them by training yourself to see them as opportunities. This will help you adapt to new projects, which is valuable trait managers are looking for, Kara said.
You should persist when you face setbacks and see effort as part of the process in order to get into that growth mindset. Learning from criticism is also an important part of the process.
“Constructive criticism is valuable because we’re not going to do everything right,” Kara said. “You will make mistakes, and when someone is willing to help you fix those failures, you should always listen.
Focus on what’s within your control
If you’re changing careers now when the economic fallout from the pandemic is still unfolding and uncertainties abound, focus on what’s within your control.
“The world is chaotic, but there are things that are within your control,” Staments said. “Because no one is sure when things will open back up and get back to near normal, it’s important to start create that normalcy for ourselves.”
Create a realistic daily routine. Have a set time to get up, do a morning activity, work on your goal, and plan your meals. When setting goals, make sure they’re all dependent on you. For instance, set one a week or month to finish your portfolio website, send five job applications a week, or finalize your resume this week.
“No matter what it is, your goal should be trackable with a clear final outcome. Think in smaller, tactical steps,” Staments said. “This is a good skill to have in the professional world as well, quantifying and tracking your progress is crucial.”
Read more information and tips in our Career section