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Reconnecting and rethinking your career during COVID-19

We didn’t sign up for an enforced period without work, but COVID-19 has brought us here. It can be challenging and stressful being without work and also socially isolating, but could there be a silver lining? Is this an opportunity to apply some creative thinking time to reimagine or rethink your career? Do you want to explore new directions and have a complete career reinvention or perhaps you enjoy your job but want to work differently – say job share, access more flexibility work or heaven forbid after this enforced isolation, work remotely. Maybe you have always wanted to start your own business or use your skills to give back to the community through volunteering. Alternatively, you might just want a job. Whatever the circumstances, we all want satisfying and sustainable working lives but where to begin?

Joanna Maxwell, in her book Rethink your Career in Your 40s, 50s and 60s, suggests you start thinking about three core elements of your life – learning, working and resting – and how you want to arrange these in terms of the stage of life you are currently in.  She suggests that rethinking your career takes a good deal of deep reflection about your work identity, what you have done in the past, what you still want to do and how you can maintain or reclaim control over your future.  It helps to know what you really value in life, identify what success means to you and what the barriers are that hold you back.

Mind mapping is recommended by Maxwell and others as a way to help you find your purpose in life.  Mapping everything from your finances to your health, to your skills and qualities and interests, this process can help build a picture of the direction you want to head. Another great idea from Design Thinking is to think about your problem from another persona, a fictional character who can give you a completely new perspective.

The support of friends, family and contacts are also critical in the process of reinvention. They can help you think through or test your ideas and to help you define what you find satisfying in your life (often because they’ve been the ones listening to you complaining about your work).  Personal contacts built up over long careers can be crucial in this process, but in our busy lives it’s easy to let them lapse. These contacts could now help us move in a new direction, but keep in mind it may not be the person you know who leads you to that next opportunity but someone who they know. This is called the strength of weak ties, a phenomenon observed by Mark Granovetter way back in the 70s.  Weak ties can potentially give us access to information that we otherwise might not have had access to. Now may well be the right moment to organize that virtual coffee!

There are plenty of resources out there that could help set you on a new path. Start googling and reading to find that silver lining, but most of all, start reconnecting.

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