Making the Career Shift: Why Now is the Time
By Christina Jackson
Imagine that your client shares how they have been sitting at their workstation contemplating their typical routine and making sure they have completed all the necessary tasks for the day yet yearning for more. They may be at a place in their life where they desire a change. They want to start that new career that they have talked about for so long. However, with all the challenges today’s work world can bring, is now really the right time to encourage them in an attempt to make a career shift?
Research conclusions from Barclay, Stoltz, and Chung (2011) suggest that many in the United States workforce will experience several career changes over the course of their lifetime. Given this assertion, it may only be natural to desire a change in one’s career at some point. This article offers some perspective for practitioners working with clients that may be interested in pursuing a career change considering the current landscape, along with tips to help navigate the pursuit of a career transition.
Considering a Change
As Barclay, Stoltz, and Chung noted (2011), career change can be voluntary or involuntary. The pandemic may have resulted in involuntary career changes for individuals. However, consider the notion of a voluntary career change despite the current landscape.
In a reference to the classic television show, “Seinfeld”, where Kramer shared his interest in a new career, Callanan, Perri, and Tomkowicz (2017) asserted the need for individuals to be in a constant state of preparedness for transition to a new career as conditions require. However, this is not without its challenges. When considering a career change in today’s environment, clients should examine the following:
- layoffs/hiring, freezes/reductions in force
- job availability
- vaccinations (e.g., employers relying on vaccination distribution)
For a voluntary career change, timing can make a difference when figuring out the right moment to embark on the transition. As Verbruggen and De Vos (2020) noted, it takes time to realize a change. While the pandemic is a factor for many regarding finding the right time, financial implications, family circumstances, and additional education/certification requirements may also play a role in determining the best time to start a change.
Due to the pandemic, many companies have had to layoff employees, or freeze hiring for non-essential vacant positions. This could result in a limited availability of certain positions and unpredictability on when/if some positions will be filled. Also, with COVID-19 vaccinations being widely distributed at this time, some employers may even require employees to be vaccinated due to the nature of their work. This could present some challenges to those who choose not to take the vaccine, although according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021), almost 164 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated as of the writing of this article.
Today’s Career Climate
While it is important to acknowledge the challenges associated with making a change in one’s career today, there are opportunities in doing so. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), at the end of February 2021, the number of job openings slightly increased to 7.4 million. While some organizations may have had to pause hiring, this number suggests a step in a positive direction for those seeking job opportunities. Likewise, some organizations may have elected to review their current structure and create new positions to meet changing needs. In their review of two scenarios illustrating employment projections from 2019-2029, Ice, Rieley, and Rinde (2021) described projected increases in employment numbers for industries such as IT support, cyber security, and scientific research as a result of greater demands due to the pandemic. This presents the chance for those seeking a career change to occupy these new roles.
When considering additional education and certifications, many institutions of higher education and professional organizations are offering discounts on memberships, applications, tuition, and standardized test waivers such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). These recruitment efforts could alleviate some financial challenges.
Tips for Today’s Career Changers
As Park, Hai, Akkermans, and Verbruggen (2021) noted, career decision-making is a process. As such, consider the following tips (and associated resources) to share with clients who are deciding whether to make a career change now. Callanan, Perri, and Tomkowicz (2017) shared that it is important for individuals to maintain a positive career viewpoint in times of uncertainty and challenge.
- Start Small. It is okay to start small, as long as you start. Just making the decision to begin one’s pursuit of a new career may be the biggest step forward in the hopes of achieving the desired change.
- Do Your Homework. Research the steps you will need to take to make this career change. Understanding what certifications, training and/or additional education you may need to pursue the career change will help guide your plan of action.
- The Occupational Information Network: O*NET Online provides a database of information to assist with career exploration.
- Network and Learn. Join professional organizations related to your new career. This is a beneficial way to learn more about the field and network with current professionals.
- The National Career Development Association is a valuable organization to join for resources regarding career and professional development opportunities.
- Set Realistic Expectations. Recognize there will be challenges, but also new opportunities to explore.
- Parish (2020) offered a weekly planning tool that allows individuals to identify specific goals and sub-goals to productively work toward achievement.
- Find a Mentor. A good mentor will provide constructive feedback and helpful resources as you embark on the journey of career change especially if your mentor is in your desired field of work.
- Understand the Variables. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis to determine the best time to actually complete a career change.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a range of helpful career information to learn about the forecast for various occupations.
- Check the Posts. Social media has become a very powerful tool in today’s career market. Don’t be afraid to peruse various platforms such as LinkedIn and YouTube for new trends that can help better prepare you for your journey. #NowIsTheTime
Making a career change at any time can seem like a monumental undertaking and formidable task. The pandemic has left many uncertainties but consider the benefits of propelling forward. Whether one is seeking additional income, new responsibilities or a complete change in vocational field, opportunities are available to help make the next steps toward a transition. In the end, why wait? Now may be just the right time for practitioners to help clients make those moves toward a new career.
Barclay, S. R., Stoltz, K. B., & Chung, Y. B. (2011). Voluntary midlife career change: Integrating the transtheoretical model and the life-span, life-space approach. The Career Development Quarterly, 59(5), 386-399. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2011.tb00966.x
Callanan, G. A., Perri, D. F., & Tomkowicz, F. P. (2017). Career management in uncertain times: Challenges and opportunities. The Career Development Quarterly, 65(4), 353-365. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12113
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2021, July 26). COVID data tracker. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations
Ice, L., Rieley, M. J., & Rinde, S. (2021). Employment projections in a pandemic environment. Monthly Labor Review, 1.
Parish, T. S. (2020). Improving our choices through effective goal setting and plan-making. International Journal of Choice Theory & Reality Therapy, 15(1), 41–44.
Park, I., Hai, S., Akkermans, J., Verbruggen, M. (2021). Positive affect and career decision-making: The moderating role of interpersonal spin. The Career Development Quarterly, 69 (1), 49-62. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12248
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, April 6). Job openings and labor turnover summary. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm
Verbruggen, M., & De Vos, A. (2020). When people don’t realize their career desires: Toward a theory of career inaction. Academy of Management Review, 45(2), 376–394. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2017.0196
Christina Jackson, MS, CCSP serves as the Director of Residence Life and is an adjunct instructor at the University of South Carolina where she oversees primary aspects of the residential student living experience. As an adjunct instructor for a new student staff course, Christina also educates students on the transferable skills of their position as they relate to their individual career development. For questions, contact Christina at email@example.com.