How to make tough decisions in your career right now

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The coronavirus pandemic has us all thinking that 2020 is just not going to be a good year for us in terms of finally making that career move we’ve been meaning to make.

But while coronavirus may have even taken a toll on your current role, it doesn’t mean it’s permanent or that you don’t have control over it. You have always had full control over that, and you still do.

So how can you make tough decisions in your career right now that align with where you’re trying to go?

We were asked this a lot so we made you this handy guide.

Step 1: Regroup

Step one is just to give yourself some time (and space) to regroup to view your situation objectively.

“Pause and take a breath—literally. Giving yourself a moment to step back, take stock, anticipate, and prioritize may seem counterintuitive, but it’s essential now, says financial firm McKinsey & Company in a report.

“A dramatic example of a leader who paused during a landscape-scale crisis is Captain Chesley Sullenberger. After a bird strike caused both of his plane’s engines to fail shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in January 2009, he had very little time to decide whether to try to land at a nearby airport, as the control tower was urging or to aim for a water landing,” the report goes on to say.

“With no training for such a scenario, he stopped and reflected for a matter of seconds—all that he could afford—to determine if he could get to the airport safely and instead pivoted to the Hudson River for landing. All 155 people on board survived.”

The moral of the story is that the smartest first thing we can always do when we need to make a decision, especially when we’re under a great deal of stress and uncertainty, is to thoroughly evaluate our unique situation. Give yourself time to think.

In the case of your next career move, this means asking yourself questions like, “What have I done in my career so far? What do I like about the moves I have already made and what do I not like about them?” and “What are my goals for my future?”

For example, if your goal is to make a lot of money, you will know you need to look for a position that pays very well. If you mostly care about making a difference, you might want to look into nonprofits that create the type of change you’re interested in creating. If you don’t take some to think about where you’ve been, what it’s done for you, and your goals, you’ll always remain stuck in the same place.

So, ask yourself, what’s worked? What hasn’t worked? There are many opportunity costs to any career move that we often neglect to see, some of which lead to struggles in other parts of our lives. For example, does not earning enough money cause you to fight with your partner? Or does working long hours cause you to be away from your children?

Those are all the opportunity costs of your career. So ask yourself, do you care more about status and being able to brag about your position or making lots of money? Most positions don’t have every single aspect built into them, so you need to choose what’s most important to you.

Look at it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then, do the math. Only then can you begin a proper spring cleaning and really begin to go in the direction you want to go. Sometimes, we fail to realize how truly mathematical these calculations can be.

Step 2: Talk to people who have made a similar career move

“Especially when things are unfamiliar and the decisions you are considering are bold, you need many points of view to make sure the decision-makers aren’t missing something,” writes the previously mentioned report by McKinsey & Company. But you don’t have to just blindly take everyone’s advice, either, as that’s always a sure route to failure.

You’re asking them their opinions to get more perspective, not to have a cookie-cutter decision made for you – because that never works.

Once you hear those you love and respect speak about how they view your situation (and what they did with their own) from an objective angle, you’ll be better prepared to make your own informed decision.

Step 3: Use the crisis “to your advantage”

It’s easy (and completely understandable!) to get super stagnant right now but you can really get an advantage if you can push past that.

This does not mean not taking care of yourself or allowing space for your feelings; it just means simultaneously letting yourself think about the future. Which is, actually, really good for you.

What many people also don’t realize is that, in many ways, the pandemic is a great time to look for a job. Yes, you read that right.

For example, many hiring managers are home right now with more hours to spend on going through emails. And many industries are thriving.

Since you also likely have a lot more free time right now, it’s also a great time to update your LinkedIn profile and post your resume to job boards to see what “bites.”

While none of us can predict what our post-coronavirus world will look like, or when the pandemic will end, there are some things we can predict.

“As most of us are in lockdown at home, we are left to wonder what a post-coronavirus- world might look like. There’s a lot unknown about how the world will transform after we get the novel coronavirus under control, but it is extremely unlikely that things will just go back to exactly the way they were before. Our workplaces are likely to change, and
with it, the skills companies will require,” writes Forbes. Take some time to refresh your existing skills and work on building some new ones.

And really think about it: what are the skills that really differentiate you? This is usually one of the best questions you can ask yourself when planning your next career move. Know how some companies have been absolutely devastated by coronavirus and are just reporting coronavirus job loss while others are making a killing by having just the right products at the right time?

While some positions and industries are definitely suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there are also many industries and companies hiring right now. It’s worth checking out which ones those are.

For example, accountant, healthcare, and government-related positions are all still very much in demand right now. “Search the internet for companies in these sectors and look for open positions that fit with your experience,” head of technology recruiting at GQR Josh Fitzgerald told CNBC. “A role as a marketing associate at an airline probably won’t be available at present, but the same role at a pharmaceutical company might be.”

Step 4: Begin your career move with one tiny step (you don’t need to see the full picture yet)

“I’ve heard not having a specific next step is supposed to be empowering because there are so many exciting paths to pursue, but I actually tend to find it fairly stressful,” writes Leslie Moser at The Muse.

“As someone who is still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, I completely understand why coming up with your next move can feel paralyzing. People often say you should listen to your gut, but what if your gut isn’t coming through loud and clear?”

At this stage, it’s time to make your first move. This will obviously look different for everyone. It can be as simple as changing your LinkedIn profile title, or applying to one position in your field of interest.

Remember: the first step is always the hardest but once you get past that initial shock, the rest is uphill.

After you have completed your first tiny move, keep making more small moves until the mosaic has been filled.

Step 5: Remember: only you know what you need to do!

Remember earlier in the article when we discussed how your decision can only be made by you because this is your own unique situation and only you know your personal values?

That was so important we made it step four.

“Do not just take something simply because it’s offered to you. Do not stay with the same company simply because that’s where you’ve always worked. Do not get up and blindly leave a company simply because people like me write the sentence I just wrote,” writes Leadership writer Molly Cain at Forbes.

“When you get to a certain point in your career, if you want and design this to happen, you will have many offers handed to you at one time. If you have a philosophy around your career, you won’t stray at random. You’ll always be strategic. But your decisions will happen beautifully and organically.”

Replacing a scarcity mindset with an abundance mindset is also necessary.

Opportunities are endless and boundaries. Having the knowledge of this will get you exactly where you need to go.