6 ways to start over if the pandemic crushed your career

Everything you predicted for your career in 2020 went out the window, right around March when the world shut down. Nine months later, you are in a completely different place: perhaps unemployed and looking, maybe freelance full-time, or even considering a professional pivot.

While you may still be licking your wounds and fretting about the future, it’s important to remember you can always start over. It may require time, patience and a dip into your savings, but with these strategies from career experts.

Be realistic about your financial needs

When you’re on the hook for necessary expenses — like rent, mortgage, health insurance, and so on — but you have no income coming in, it’s vital to create a budget.

As career expert and president of Workplace Relationships Maggie Craddock recommends, make a spreadsheet and summoning the courage to assess what you need dispassionately — and why you need it. This isn’t a time to try to keep up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians), and instead, be extremely mindful about spending.

By doing this, you will give yourself more time to make the professional moves, risks, and investments require to put your career back together. “What’s vital for us all during this pandemic is to clarify our emotional relationship with money and how this shapes our professional expectations and our personal well-being,” Craddock continues. “This is the time to examine ways you may have been indulging in recreational spending to deal with stress, identifying new skills you can learn to diversify your job search and keep a personal cash-flow statement handy to restore your objectivity on days when you find yourself catastrophizing.”

Grow your knowledge base

It’s likely been a while since you were in the classroom, but investing in your education is a lifelong pursuit. And right now, there is a massive opportunity for any professional to grow their knowledge base and understanding of their field, market and industry, according to David Imonitie, the founder and CEO of Believe Nation.

You can sign up for a digital course to build hard skills or pair up with a mentor to ask for their expert guidance. “Look for people that are having success right now, and get in contact with those individuals and find out what they’re doing. Find out what they’re reading. Find out what they’re learning,” Imonitie suggests. “This will provide real-life case studies for you to know that there are actually people out there that are succeeding regardless of being laid off, or if their company has gone under. You’ll be able to see firsthand that though going through a tough time, there are people that are still winning out there.”

Monetize your talents and skills

Though it may seem negative on the surface, one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we are all going through it together. And sure, it does create stark competition in the job market. But it also could prove to be the extra nudge you need to finally sit down and do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

As author and career expert Barb Stegmann puts it, we live in a world where people create the most incredible careers out of their own creativity. “Perhaps you want to write your book or become a keynote speaker. Maybe you have a hidden talent that you would like to monetize. Do it!,” she encourages. “You can start with manageable teaching programs that Airbnb offers. You can sell your skill to others. You can go bigger and sell your training on your own website.” 

Seek passive income streams

When you start to explore your dreams, Imonitie encourages professionals to try and think about what passive income streams they can create. What does this mean? You put in a certain amount of work one time, but then you reap the monetary benefit of it every month.

Think books, content, courses, membership services, newsletters, and so on. “The goal is not to be totally dependent on someone else paying you a salary to survive,” he shares. “When you’re providing a product or service that people need every single month, and they can purchase it or utilize that service from you every single month, you’ve generated a demand that will allow you to be more prepared for the next pandemic or the next challenge that’s going to hit the world.”

Shift from a self-help mindset to an us-help perspective

When facing career stress, Craddock says it’s natural to find yourself obsessively focused on your personal security, advancement and well-being.

This can cause you to feel incredibly anxious and nervous, but if you transform your thinking to be centered on what you can do to help others, you will see a ripple effect. “When you network and interview, this shift in mindset will help you bear in mind that how other people feel about themselves in your presence is as important as you are coming across,” she explains.

To do this, she recommends starting small by giving directions when you’re in a hurry, checking in on a friend who may need some words of wisdom, running an errand for a neighbor, or offering to do pro-bono work for an old colleague. “These simple acts break the chains of isolation and self-pity and remind us that, regardless of how powerless we may be feeling personally, we still can add value for others,” she shares.

Look into high-demand industries

Some industries are predicted to continue to grow through the pandemic — and those should be getting your attention. As career expert Keith L. Brown explains, it’s strategic to think all of the ways your skills could relate to a sector of work that is thriving currently. For example, the medical field needs more people than ever. “You may not have a degree in medicine, but you can definitely use your communication skills to become a support staff employee that helps with clerical work and assisting with patients in some way, shape or form,” he shares as an example.

Or, perhaps you’re great with kids of all ages, could you become a tutor? Or an advisor for college-aged kids? Brown strongly suggests pitching your professional services to individuals in your neighborhood, family and friends.

“The key is being willing to have a mindset shift, understanding you may not earn what you are used to earning or operating in the field you’re used to operating in. But you can still bring value to others and earn income at the same time, during a time when the entire country has been impacted in some way, shape or form,” he continues. “When you are willing to keep your options open and take your talents to other industries, that is the essence of having purpose during a pandemic.”