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You can change careers in the middle of a pandemic. Here are 7 tips

Danielle Richardson, an optometrist turned yoga instructor, stretches in the sun.
Danielle Richardson, an optometrist turned yoga instructor, says the pandemic has allowed her to realign her career goals.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

After Danielle Richardson was furloughed in March from her job as an optometrist, she slowed down and thought about what she wanted to do with her time away from work.

Richardson had been nursing a fledgling wellness company on the side, one that focused on retreats and experiences. But that was a no-go during stay-at-home orders. So she revamped and started offering virtual yoga classes. Back at work part time, Richardson splits her time between optometry and yoga and said she feels more balanced than ever, despite the busier schedule.

“I really took that time off as sort of a cocoon and container and really realign,” she said.

Danielle Richardson does a yoga pose in the sun.
Danielle Richardson says she now has more fulfillment in her life.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

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Dorie Clark, an executive coach who writes about reinventing yourself, said the health crisis has pushed many to do some soul-searching.

Millions of Americans have lost their job due to COVID-19. Whether you’re looking into a new career or making your new financial reality work for you, we’ve got tips.

“Any time you are in a situation where people are deeply concerned about their health and the health of people they care about, it prompts people to think about the big picture of their lives and wanting to think about how they’re spending their time,” Clark said.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to still have a job during the pandemic, but you’re wondering if that job is right for you.

What should you consider before a transition to something more rewarding? We spoke with several experts for some tips.

1. Accept the pandemic

Do you find yourself constantly uttering the phrase, “When will this be over?”

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David Evans, a Stanford University lecturer who co-teaches a class called “Designing Your Life,” said he has been stressing the importance of accepting that we’re in a situation with no end in sight.

“There’s no way to beat this thing or somehow become immune to it,” Evans said. “But what you can do is you can lean into it.”

We can’t skip the pandemic, he said. But once you accept the state of the world, you can prepare yourself to do some deeper work.

The 40-year-old pastry chef had long dreamed of opening her own bakery. Then, when she lost her job during the pandemic, she realized she had an opportunity on her hands: The Kirsh Baking Co. will now deliver freshly baked cookies to your door.

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2. Do your homework

Beth Altshuler Muñoz, an Oakland-based consultant who works with nonprofits, didn’t come back to her job of nearly a decade after her maternity leave ended. She had coffee with colleagues and mentors to get a sense of what it would take to go it alone, then she branched out on her own and started a consulting business in mid-March, right as stay-at-home orders were issued.

Experts urge job seekers to conduct their own fact-finding missions.

Now is the time to conduct informational interviews, Evans said, adding that many people are at home, lonely and ready to video chat.

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Clark suggested asking people about the cons of their jobs. Answers to questions like “What kind of people wouldn’t thrive in that environment?” or “What’s the worst part of your job?” can help you see more clearly what you do want .

3. Figure out what you’re good at

Jennifer Spoelma, a certified career coach who runs a podcast called “Career Foresight,” said it’s important to ask yourself what forces are leading you to seek change. Think about what specifically about your job might be adding stress to your life.

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Clark suggested asking friends or colleagues to describe you in three words to give you a window in which to focus. Once you’ve narrowed what you’re interested in, conduct research. Talk to people who are already in those jobs or industries.

Too often people ask themselves what they like to do or what they want to do but forget to ask if the market wants that, Clark said.

“What is often a better starting place is, what are people already coming to me for?” Clark said. “For almost all of us, we have talents that people around us are recognizing.”

4. Start to ramp up

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Work on offering your service for free in exchange for a testimonial. Or charge a discounted rate.

“If you are able to build a reasonable runway for yourself, it’s a great time to be thinking about career changes or developing your side gig,” Clark said.

But she cautioned people to be realistic. A rule of thumb: The bigger the pivot, the more time you need to execute it.

5. Make small changes

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Evans said you can do an “easier remodel” instead of completely pivoting to a new job by taking small, low-risk experiments in your current job. An easy mistake people make when trying to fix their jobs is thinking they have to get a whole new one.

“They think they need a whole new life,” Evans said. “If you’re thoughtful and careful, small moves can have huge effects.”

Evans said a tip he offers is to re-frame your situation and change your narrative. Reassess what your job is about or do something differently within your daily tasks.

Diversify income streams. Clark said she has been advising clients to create multiple sources of revenue. If you’re a wedding photographer, start doing headshots. If you’re an HR professional, help people with résumés.

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6. Be patient

Spoelma said people often start their job hunt by looking at postings on Indeed or LinkedIn, which could reduce your prospects. You might try to tailor your skills to what you’re seeing and unintentionally limit yourself.

And it can be disheartening to apply to jobs without hearing back.

“People feel like they’re applying, and it’s going into a black hole,” she said. “It’s hard not to take that personally.”

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7. If you get an offer, negotiate

“Neglecting to negotiate an offer is a mistake, even during a pandemic,” Spoelma said.

Victoria Jimenez, was laid off at the end of March and decided to start a candle company. She used the skills she had cultivated working for public relations and marketing agencies and applied them to her new business.

Jimenez said she “did a ton” of brainstorming and asked herself what she was good at. She knew she wanted to give back to her community, so she started a company that sells all-natural and eco-friendly candles, with part of the proceeds going to a local nonprofit.

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Her advice? “Do your research, do something you love and are passionate about. Just go for it. Nothing is stopping you.”


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