The numbers are brutal. The pandemic has left millions of Americans unemployed, somewhere in the ballpark of 20 million, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Maybe you’re one of those people out of work after being furloughed, downsized, or fired from a job that gave you an identity and a sense of purpose. Dealing with a canceled career is devastating. Instead of wallowing in self-pity long-term, there are ways to bounce back and reimagine a new path forward.
Don’t Abandon Your Skills
If you worked in an industry decimated by COVID-19 such as entertainment, hospitality, or transportation, that doesn’t mean your skills are useless elsewhere. Don’t abandon your skillset. Use this opportunity to identify your strengths and build a bridge to a different profession. First identify your “hard skills” which can include knowledge of computer programs, equipment, a foreign language, or any professional certifications you’ve acquired. Then think about your “soft skills” that involve interpersonal strengths such as leadership qualities, problem-solving and motivational skills. These talents will put you at an advantage as you transition into a new industry.
Grow Your Expertise
Use this time to identify what you want to pursue. You’ll want to start filling in the gaps to grow your expertise. Start doing research, attend free webinars, or take online courses to obtain certifications that will help you gain knowledge in your new field. Volunteer at a non-profit organization, start building a new network with people outside your industry who work in your future profession. Identify specific companies or firms where you want to work and learn more about their corporate culture and figure out how your skills could be an asset. Look for resources that might be able to help, such as Facebook or Chamber of Commerce groups.
Take stock of the skills you already have and put them to use by pursuing a side hustle. If your talents include graphic art, web design, or computer coding, build a website and start looking for freelance gigs. If you like writing, start a blog and self-publish. If you’re a good teacher, launch an online course. Do you have a green thumb? Grow and sell your plants or vegetables at a Farmer’s Market. As you plot your return to the workforce, turn your hobby into an income stream that will help you gain entrepreneurial experience and help keep you moving forward.
Boundaries are healthy and will help you manage stress, especially if you decide to start your own business. Transitioning careers can trigger a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll want to create a schedule for your job search that can provide structure to your day. Maybe you want to set aside one hour of the day to work on updating your resume or commit to 3 networking events a week. Take occasional breaks and give yourself “me time” to replenish your reserves.
Be Kind to Yourself
Give yourself some grace. We all make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a mentor who can show you the ropes and provide meaningful advice. Focus on what you can control. The world is complicated and there are so many things completely out of our control. Once you’ve accepted that you have very little control, it will get easier. I tell students looking for jobs to do the same. You can’t control whether you get an interview, but you can control how many job applications you complete. We can’t control COVID-19. But we can stay inside, keep busy, and accept this new reality. Reimagining a new career that will bring happiness and a sense of security is within reach of our control.
Nicole Kuklok-Waldman is a legal expert in land use and entitlements who has worked on numerous regulatory approval processes required for different land uses across the region. Nicole is a lecturer at the University of Southern California, where she teaches Planning Law and Entitlement at the Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Lusk Center for Real Estate and has guest lectured at Temple University and UCLA School of Law. Nicole created a course called Lucky Lawyer that helps lawyers transition careers either within the law or to other professions.