Ever have a crazy idea that you trusted would come true? I did, and I went for it. However, a stumbling block showed up, and I challenged myself to use an adventure mindset to find work in the new economy.
In November of 2019, I took a leap of faith, quit my job of seven years, sold my house, and road-tripped to Corvallis, OR with a good friend and my old dog, Ruby. Fortunate that I could bunk with my sister and brother-in-law, I confidently assumed I would find work in my career field in 3 months or less. While I had a spate of first interviews in January and February after the holidays, COVID-19 attacked the world and my best-laid plans. I find myself, for the first time in my life, unemployed far longer than I could ever have anticipated. Has the Corona virus effected you, too?
The New Reality
The “stay home” orders impacted everyone. Unemployment during the pandemic reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. Those who can, have been working from home. Many have been furloughed, and still don’t know when they will return. A growing trend is that, now that some restrictions are being lifted, many don’t want to return to the office and old routines. Being in this place, we have the opportunity to take a look at ourselves and what we want from our career.
The new reality we are all faced with raises many questions about the nature of work, and what that might look like for millions of us as we move forward. Will the kind of work I’ve done in the past (insert your current/former title here) ever look the same? Will remote work be more viable? If I can’t do the same kind of work, what will I do? For me, the field I worked in over the last two decades has been in higher education, and it is already changing significantly. How can I keep myself competitive? At this stage of my life, do I even want to?
Trust Your Crazy Ideas
A close friend gave me a gift before she died, a placard stating “Trust Your Crazy Ideas.” This gift, with the intentions my friend wanted me to know, impacted me. When I decided to move across the country without a job in hand, I knew I was taking a chance with a crazy idea and trusting it was the right move for me. I’ve used that adventure mindset in many ways in the last few months—making new friends, cutting my hair short, and helping an elderly neighbor pack and move– so why not use it for finding employment?
One of the first people I befriended here was Stacey, creator of Adventure Wednesdays, who is a living, breathing reminder of how to approach life with courage and trust. We could all use a little more courage and trust in the current global circumstances. Let’s shine some light on how to explore and examine ourselves, and our current and potential careers, through a post-pandemic lens. While ways of making a living and finding work is changing as we move through this tremendous, and ofttimes devastating shift in our world, new pathways will emerge. How can we prepare ourselves to find them? Can we find the courage to trust our adventure mindset and follow what may seem as crazy ideas?
Prepare for the New Economy
Through my personal career journey as a teacher, librarian, researcher, career counselor, and administrator I’ve gained experience working with students of all ages. From this, I’ve found it often true that:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,”attributed to the Roman philosopher, Seneca.
Preparing for change is hard, especially when we never know what it might look like. However, as human beings, we are privileged to grow, evolve, and redefine ourselves as circumstances present themselves. There are steps we can take in the process of evolution. For me, there are four steps to applying an adventure mindset to a job search in the new economy: Know Yourself; Research Your Options; Connect; and Be a Learner.
If you are using an adventure mindset to seek out employment in this soon-to-be post-pandemic world, then you will need to do some honest soul searching to find the things that give your work meaning. It’s important to think beyond a job title and to consider what kinds of activities and accomplishments truly excite you. These will help provide a platform for your search.
As a Boomer and a woman, this is what I know about myself. I value stability in my work. I excel working independently and I enjoy the energy of working with a student community. That’s what has driven my career path. Now, however, I am asking myself, where do I want to use a lifetime of expertise and what do I want to get out of it?
Some tools I’ve used for self-reflection and growth:
- Journaling about what I love, value, and desire
- Asking others for their alternate point of view of my best qualities
- Taking online personality and career assessments
- Following up with interviewers and asking for feedback
Self-knowledge is a powerful tool in the job search process because it builds confidence and inspires trust. Your adventure starts with knowing yourself so you can pursue the opportunities that will allow you to be your true self and enjoy this phase of your career.
Research Your Options
When I worked as a career counselor for first-generation college students, part of my role was helping them identify possible academic majors and career choices. Rather than narrowing down a career path from one college major to one potential career, I worked with the students to broaden the range of possibilities. This applies now, with taking my years of experience and opening myself to a potential career I hadn’t considered before.
General research starts with the question, “what can I do with my skill set/ expertise?” However, what is important to you will be what sustains you at work. While we have this time where are mostly staying at home, create a strategy or assessment of your career options. Why not look at
- fields that hold your interest,
- hobbies you are passionate about,
- people you admire, or
- things you have yet to accomplish?
Then gather as much information as you can about those things. If you love growing flowers and vegetables, have an aptitude for math, enjoying working with seniors, and admire your Aunt Pearl’s artistic abilities, can you find a way to put all of that into work that you will love? What about becoming an accountant for a small organic farmer and volunteering to lead groups of seniors for a painting class on plant still-lifes.
Always be curious
Use your adventure mindset and always follow your curiosity. With a world of information at our fingertips, some research is easier than ever. Read about your interests in blogs, journals, association websites, and follow up on the careers of people you admire (tools like LinkedIn and YouTube are indispensable). Go down the rabbit hole and follow links to articles and other sources that educate you in new ways. Review job descriptions to learn the language of potential employers and what they are looking for in employees.
Don’t rely only on passive research, however. Take action. Reach out to people who do what you love or what you think you might love. Ask them about the realities of their job, their insights, and their path to their current position. Research provides a map for your explorations, but the guides you consult along the way are key to finding your treasure of a job.
Research studies continue to indicate that most people find jobs through networking, by building connections with those in the field who have influence in the organization. Career search guru, Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute*, said (to paraphrase):
“There are two kinds of employers; those that will hire you and those that won’t. It’s your job to find the ones that will.”
What I’ve always taken this to mean is that the more I put myself out there, the more likely it is I will find a job. This could be a job I love, or one on the way to someplace else, or even something unexpected.
Even in this new economy environment, networking and informational interviewing are still key to opening doors to people, places, and possibilities. Even before COVID-19, social media platforms provided easy access to hundreds of organizations and employers, along with a multitude of articles and other resources for increasing knowledge of current trends in business, entrepreneurship, education and more.
Connections open doors
Before I moved to Corvallis, I searched LinkedIn for professionals in my field and connected with a woman here who is originally from the mid-Atlantic. Over the months of our online connection, I shared articles related to her area of expertise, asked her to review my resume, and followed up for further connections as I applied for positions here. When a position opened up in her agency, she encouraged me to apply and spoke to her supervisor about me. Although the position was later cancelled due to budget constraints, I have a friend and powerful contact for life!
While you are ‘stuck at home’ for stay-at-home, take a chance and connect. Write or call those whom you admire or who could provide insightful information about a possible career option. This may seem daunting in the best of circumstances, so take a deep breath and reach out. In other words: comment thoughtfully, like, reply, and tweet. Like a spider, you will build your web… and bonus -possibly make friends and mentors in the process.
Bringing value to connections
Building any kind of relationship, including business relationships, also requires bringing something to the table, whether it is information, curiosity, or a genuine offer of assistance.
Be courteous of others’ time and ask for ideas and additional connections. Even in the digital realm, grace and civility matter.
What value can you add to your networks?
Be a Learner
If you’ve read this far, and spent some time thinking about your own career adventure, then you are already working this step! Maybe you’ve identified some skills you’d like to improve, or something you’d like to learn more about –maybe there’s someone you’ve decided to talk to about how to build your career further. The subject doesn’t matter as much as showing a willingness to learn new things, so be bold.
Learning can be fun
The digital landscape provides many tools for self-assessment, research, connection, and learning. There are many formal and informal paths to developing yourself in ways that will help you personally and professionally. No experience is wasted. Dare yourself to learn something new.
Find ways to share the things you already love doing on social media or in print. In this new economy, teaching and learning has become the exchange of choice!
- Take an online class or participate in webinars that interest you.
- Consider certifications and courses that can add value to your resume.
- Trade an activity with a friend so you both learn something new.
Reflections On My Adventure in the New Economy
I never expected a pandemic to derail my perfectly arranged plans for finding work here. Yet I feel grateful for the chance this new economy has presented to evaluate my situation and truly reflect on where I want to be in this next phase of my life. How often in the past have I taken time and energy to focus solely on myself, my goals, my dreams?
The Adventure of a Job Hunt
Tackling the challenge of job hunting during the current COVID19 crisis and this new economy takes courage, trust and an adventure mindset. Restarting the process from a different point is where the best adventures happen because, as our perspective shifts, new vistas appear. I’m setting off myself to find work that draws on my experience, allows me to grow, and brings me fulfillment. Won’t you join me?
LinkedIn is a terrific resource for finding connections, employers, and valuable articles related to employment. They also offer LinkedIn Learning which has been offering great insights to take advantage of while upping your skills prepping for the new economy. I recommend you follow Andrew Seaman for current articles about finding work in the pandemic. https://www.linkedin.com/feed/ If you are so moved, reach out and link with me (and Stacey too!)
Fairy God Boss is a site created for women to share advice, jobs, and a community for connections. You can sign up for free and personalize the information you receive. They’ve been offering great advice for job hunting in the new economy.
What Color is Your Parachute? By Richard Bolles. A #1 selling career book that is updated every year. It is full of job searching tips and strategies, as well as exercises you can complete to learn about yourself and plan your search. (*Stacey’s note: This book is available through Amazon Affiliates. If you purchase it, I may receive some compensation).
OpenSource Psychometrics links personality and other assessments to help in your self-discovery.
7 Tips for How to Job Search During the Coronovirus Pandemic This Forbes article addresses ways to use your stay-at-home time and technology wisely.