Use this challenging time to reflect on career goals

Woman gazes to her right, chin in hand.

I recently met with a client who was considering a career change in response to some health concerns. She had already taken a few steps towards making the switch but was unsure if she was fully ready to commit — especially during a pandemic.

But now may be the perfect time to prepare if you’re considering a career change. Whether you’re one of the lucky ones whose job was only minimally impacted by COVID-19 or you’ve been laid off or furloughed, reflecting on your next career move will pay off in the long run. Amidst all this uncertainty, here a few tips on how to ponder your career.

headshot of Moira Kelley
Career counselor Moira Kelley

Check in with your goals. When was the last time you thought about where you wanted to take your career? You may have a different mindset than when you last checked in with yourself. If you’re not sure what you want for your future, reflect on how you’ve gotten to where you are now. Make a list of all the jobs you’ve had, then connect the dots by reflecting on how you got to each position. You may have parts of your list that don’t line up with where you see yourself in the future, and that’s okay. By getting a clear picture of your career past and present, you can see if your career trajectory aligns with your goals.

Consider education. If you’re not as close to your career goals as you would like, look at your educational background. Are there gaps in your credentials or skills you need to fill or brush up on? If you’re unsure of what types of skills or education you need, explore the educational backgrounds of people you admire in your field. Consider taking an online course or enrolling in a program that helps you shore up your skills and knowledge.

Do your research. When it comes to a career change, it’s smart to be pragmatic. Take the time to learn which fields are blossoming and which are taking a hit. Explore employment projections, including the Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*NET, plus state and federal projections.

Lean on your network. Now more than ever is a great opportunity to focus on building and connecting with your professional network. Informational interviewing can help you learn from someone whose career you admire, and with many people still holed up at home, you may have an easier time getting on people’s busy schedules. While face-to-face networking is somewhat limited, you can still work on your LinkedIn profile and connect with contacts virtually.

My client has been working her way through this list over the past few weeks, even recently taking a free online career seminar at her alma mater. Whether these unprecedented times spurred or derailed your potential career move, consider following her lead and taking the time this summer to focus on yourself and your goals so you can look forward to whatever comes next.

Career Corner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Moira Kelley, a career counselor, can be reached at moira.kelley@wisc.edu.