How To Successfully Transition Your Career When Everything Around You is Changing

Jane Horan
5 min readMay 18, 2021

Switching careers is always tough, and extra challenging when the world is shifting, and work from home is for many the norm.

Here’s what you can do right now to make the leap.

Changing careers (not jobs, careers) is a big step and it’s natural to have jitters. These feelings tend to be a lot more pronounced under COVID-19. Things you once took for granted — making connections, researching meaningful looking roles, even interviewing — are now done differently and at a safe distance.

In addition, many companies are in a cycle of reinvention. Job openings may be on hold or disappear altogether as companies navigate the post-pandemic economy and adjust to new requirements. Even if a new career looks great today, there’s no guarantee it will look the same at the end of the year.

All that said, you should still actively work on your next career. Here are some tips to help make the transition smoother.

1. Make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons

The top reasons given for making a career switch today are being laid off, feeling like their job is meaningless or even pointless, or that there’s no room for growth in their field. If these reasons resonate, then changing careers may well be worthwhile.

However, there are also situations when leaving your current role is not the best course of action. I know this because as a career and leadership coach, I meet a lot of talented people who think their work problems will be solved by changing fields. That’s possible, but not always true; you take your baggage with you wherever you land.Make sure your reasons for leaving are healthy and you’ve explored other less-extreme options first. How you make a career change requires time to reflect. Not months of navel gazing but structured time to look back, take stock and uncover what matters most.

If you’re employed, can you mold your job to make it more palatable?

The stressors you’re going through may be short term, and it would be unwise to give up a job because the world is in a state of flux. Do you know what the root cause of your stress really is? Think carefully before making a move grounded in emotion.

Read more: Do You Want a Change Career…Or Are You Just Off Rhythm in the New Normal?

2. Be strategic with your research

You can tell a lot about a company from the way its leadership has dealt with COVID. What are employees saying on social media? Has the company improved engagement in a time of remote work? How are transitions — WFH, not WFH — supported? What are the company’s plans for life after COVID? Is leadership managing the situation creatively?

Set up alerts to research a specific company or sector, that is so easy nowadays. But remember there is a lot of exaggeration on line, so try the 5/5/5 test to separate fact from fiction:

-Will this issue matter 5 weeks from now?

-5 months from now?

-5 years from now? Your answers can give perspective to both the company and the employees.

For example, you read that a company you’ve followed was tone-deaf to the challenges of parents who were trying to balance work and childcare while schools were remote. Is that a 5 week or 5 year issue?

3. Build online relationships with relevant people

Events may now be cancelled, but networking, done right, is the single best thing you can do for your career transition. Contact people who are doing today what you’d like to do next. Be genuine about their day-to-day and what makes them tick. Do they have advice for those wishing to change careers to their sector?

For those who aren’t natural schmoozers, online networking can help the process feel more authentic and nourishing. That’s because you can focus on people and groups more closely matched to you, according to interests, job type and sector, rather than negotiating the professional pot luck of a typical conference.

The process is faster too. You can join virtual committees, take part in online leadership development programs, or volunteer your skills, at all times of the day and night and with just a couple of clicks. By sharing your time and stories, opportunities are more likely to find you.

4. Let your strengths be your guide

In times of transition, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. For example, you can control your attitude and how you present yourself to the market. You can’t control who you may be competing against or what skills they possess, and no point wasting your energy on it.

It’s fundamentally a question of mindset. Stories you tell yourself shape how you think, how you feel and how you act during a career transition. Starting with the wrong narrative (“I’m not qualified for this role” ;“I don’t think I can do this”) only erodes confidence and makes a stumble a possible fall.

To get in the right headspace, take stock of the many skills, strengths and qualities you offer. Be your own greatest champion. Focus on what you love about your current and past roles — what do you excel at? What motivates and energizes you? Can you frame these in a way that’s advantageous to your new career?

Can you determine the challenges your new sector or potential employer is facing, and articulate how your experience gives you an edge in solving them?

What’s your unique value — What fires up your soul?

Be bold about expressing it!

5. Prepare for a different type of interview

It’s safe to say that video is now the default way of interviewing. You may struggle to humanize the conversation as there’s no body language and scant opportunity to build rapport through small talk.

A key principle for any interview is to make a connection with the interviewer. Here’s my checklist for a powerful virtual interview:

● Visualize you’re in the same room. (this helps you stay in the moment and retain focus)

● Be both authentic and animated.

● Use a louder-than-usual voice without shouting — this stops any mumbling and a great way of conveying confidence and credibility

● Avoid falling into the stilted “question / answer / question” trap by having ready discussion points to keep the conversation engaging.

A video interview is not the same as face to face in-person interview. Don’t be afraid to say if something feels off — if you missed making a point, back up, and start again. “I might not have been clear on that last question, let me start again.” This just shows that you’re willing to speak up and are working towards clarity and a better outcome.

What will your transition look like?

Each career pivot is unique; conducted in a different way and for different reasons. There is no perfect roadmap, but there are proven processes which involve introspection, knowing your motivators, setting realistic goals, expanding networks and refining your approach until you start to see results.

If that sounds exhausting, then career-change coaching can help you confidently take the next step. Navigating next steps? Check out Rob DeLange Career Climb Consulting or coaching tips based on Now It’s Clear, the Career You Own.



Jane Horan

Author. Helping people find meaningful work. I write monthly on inclusion, political savvy and careers and how these interconnect.