By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt, PMP, CLTD
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University
My first job was serving up sundaes and popping popcorn at the age of 16. It was a summer job to get me out of the house and allowed me to acquire my own disposable income.
Looking back on my nearly 30-year career, I’ve held over a dozen positions ranging from the service industry to technical, scientific, and academic fields. In many ways, I’ve done it all.
Start a transportation and logistics management degree at American Public University.
In each job, I made a move when I felt the time was right. When the position no longer suited my needs, I left of my own volition.
The reason for leaving my job varied. Sometimes it was not being paid the same salary as my peers, overperforming and having my extra effort ignored by my manager, enduring a non-inclusive work culture, or being subjected to a micromanaging boss who undervalued my contributions.
When I think about my track record, I probably applied for over 200 jobs throughout my career. But I only received “yes” offers for a fraction of those job applications.
So learning to hear the word “no” when job seeking is almost a given for me. But when one door closed, another opened. I prided myself in proving people wrong and doing what they thought I couldn’t do.
Looking back, I probably waited too long to make that crucial career change and only did so when I was at the point of no return. The point is: in each of my career moves, I made the choice to move on and remove myself from a toxic work environment.
COVID-19 Has Forced Many US Workers to Make a Career Change
However, this is not the case for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Literally overnight, people have been ousted from their jobs, placed on unemployment and left with little hope of re-entering the workforce.
So what happens when the job you love and the career into which you invested time and energy suddenly disappears? This has been the case for millions of Americans as the result of COVID-19.
COVID-19 has caused many workers to change careers because their previous jobs are no longer available. The latest unemployment rates are frightening and highlights a national crisis that has a domino effect on the economy.
For instance, unemployment rates are currently higher than those recorded during the Great Depression. Reopening efforts in some states provided a brief respite, especially in the hospitality and leisure industries primarily related to restaurants and bars.
Some Fields Have Career Opportunities
However, some fields are offering job opportunities. For instance, New York has reported over 40,000 new construction jobs in the last month, which defies previous convictions that new jobs are only in hospitality and leisure.
Similarly, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) jobs are in high demand and have among the lowest unemployment rates for those that possess the necessary qualifications. Also, the medical necessity of saving lives has prompted medical professionals to move to COVID-19 hotspots to address shortages and relieve overworked nurses and doctors on the front lines.
Good Ways to Make a Career Change, Especially During COVID-19
While the unemployment rates are abysmal, there is still hope. There are signs that new jobs are being created every day, and if you’re motivated, you can turn your passion into a new career. Here are key items to consider as you’re preparing for a career change:
1. Develop multiple streams of income. If your passion is accounting, for example, find ways to teach, write and perform accounting services. Developing multiple streams of income can help protect you if one job suddenly ends.
Many business owners, like Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey and Kevin Hart, report having multiple streams of income to offset potential setbacks. Having a financial cushion of three to six months’ worth of your salary may be a lofty goal, but it can also dampen unexpected setbacks.
2. Know the market. If you are starting a new career, it’s imperative to understand the business you want to enter. Learn about new opportunities and how your previous skills can be an asset in today’s changing market.
3. Become e-commerce savvy. Nearly every business will have an online component, even if it’s scheduling and billing. So understanding how to automate your business is essential.
Does this mean every new business owner has to be well versed in Python, C+ and other computer programming languages? No, but if it’s not you, a trusted team member will need to know how to incorporate technology into daily operations.
4. Network and market yourself. I’ve taken some side jobs to make ends meet. It’s humbling to admit my income does not cover my monthly spending, but this realization also helped me to acknowledge my problem, take corrective action and get out of debt. While side jobs are not optimal, this is a great way to network with people who are not commonly in your circle of acquaintances and also to market yourself.
5. Barter instead of using cash if the other party is willing. I pride myself in the art of negotiation, so sometimes I exchange services instead of dollars. For example, I was a part of a group of parents that rotated playdates among different households. This strategy gave the kids a free scheduled activity each weekend and an opportunity for parents to run errands without having to pay for a babysitter.
6. Identify your customer base. Does your business fill a niche? Does it supply a need not already in the market? How will your business thrive in challenging times?
Companies often fail because they do not have a sufficient amount of revenue from (repeat) customers. As a result, building your customer base is essential and may take time. Many business owners reported keeping their current job for up to five years after starting their own business.
7. Find training opportunities. You can become an intern, a volunteer or an apprentice. While income-driven opportunities take priority, there is a benefit to unpaid opportunities since employers are more likely to hire people they know. So if an entry-level position is not available, seek unpaid means to gain entry into the company.
8. Learn a new skill. Research local, state and national programs geared to help front-line workers displaced by COVID-19. These programs are designed to help people build new skills to assist in finding employment opportunities and get back on their feet. Several colleges and universities have free resources for students, mid-career workers and the millions of people who are now unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
9. Seek new training in your local community. Skill-based or vocational training often takes less time to acquire marketable skills when compared to two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor degrees. In many cases, a certification can be obtained in a few weeks, which can lead to faster employment.
Experts project that U.S. unemployment benefits will expire later this month. With no viable alternative offered, it’s time for us to help each other and find sustainable ways to support one another. Walking away from a job or career may be challenging, but a career change is also an opportunity to become resilient, self-sufficient, and relevant in the years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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