When To Make Your Mid-Career Switch

For better or for worse, COVID-19 has forced many of us to pivot our careers.

Canadians have experienced forced layoffs. In June of this year, Canada’s unemployment rate reached 13.7% – the highest on record. Shockingly, when compared to our 2008 recession, the disparity is nearly 6% greater. While these rates appear to be improving, for many, COVID-19 has alerted us to the need to be more dynamic and flexible in our employment.

During COVID-19, some received temporary furlough and have returned to their jobs. However two out of ten Canadians reported significant wage decreases since June. Other furloughed workers have been unable to return to their place of work and are left uncertain of their next steps.

Of those that maintained their employment through this pandemic, many are struggling to navigate entirely new working environments. From home offices, to new health and safety protocols, and added occupational hazards, it seems that employees are facing new stresses and challenges every day as we transition workforce models.

As an employer, an educator, and a community leader, I am having conversations with people that are facing these challenges head on. Some have decided to stick with their new environment and course-correct over time. Others have more urgent concerns or are battling with their new reality. Regardless of their immediate situation, it appears that many in my network share similar concerns during this time.

It brings to light a more critical question that most Canadians will ask themselves at least ten times throughout their professional lives: Is this still the right career path for me? Where do I go from here?

“When is it the right time to make a switch?”

According to the Workopolis database of 7 million Canadian resumes, Canadian children of today will expect to hold nearly 40 different jobs, in 10 completely different career paths throughout their lives.

As a mentor, I have helped people work through this question countless times. Here are some of the more common drivers for a career switch, and some of the ways my connections have worked through these changes.

I am currently unemployed

A total or partial loss of income, may come with immense consequence in the face of on-going expenses. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians earned, on average, $4,383 per month at the start of 2019; those on Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will bring in $2,000 a month and those now on the new Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) will bring in even less. Even with support from the government, debt is rising in our country and households are feeling that pressure. However, unemployment and financial loss does not have to mean a complete stoppage in your professional development. If you are awaiting the end of a furlough, or living through CRB and considering next steps, upgrading skills, acquiring certifications or simply taking interest in a new career path is a viable pursuit. Volunteerism, soft skill development and upskilling courses are practical and worthy pursuits.

1. Build a greater understanding of your more transferable skills. How can you upgrade these skills? Where can they be applied once the health of our labour market improves? This is something that I repeatedly encourage our students at Computek College to reflect on.
2. Identify businesses and individuals that will benefit from these skills.
3. Determine ways to apply these skills to their needs. Volunteer positions and temporary contracts are ideal however providing people with feedback, advisory or consultation in our various social forums, is also a good way to get noticed for your skills and knowledge.
4. Follow up with these people. Follow up with prospective employers – keep the pressure on.
5. Take practical steps to protect yourself and your family. Assess your expenses, cut costs, address debts, seek government support and speak with a financial planner.

3 million Canadians have lost their jobs at some point in 2020. The fairly unprecedented reality of COVID-19 makes it challenging to draw from our history on how exactly we will recover. However, if you’re following various dashboards like Deloitte’s Economic Recovery Dashboard, there is hope for an economic rebound by 2021 and a full recovery by 2022, with Canada’s GDP currently on the rise. As we wait for recovery, in the face of this existential crisis, consider ways to look inward, recalibrate and prepare for the future.

I am dissatisfied with my current job and/or seeking greener pastures

In November of 2019, Indeed Canada randomly surveyed 1,023 Canadians on career satisfaction. The goal of the survey was to better understand the key motivators for changing one’s career path. Not surprisingly, money mattered most. 63% of career changers said that they left their old roles for higher pay. Among those who were planning to make a career change, 70% cited a higher salary as the main reason.

Happiness was a close second. 59% of career changers, as well as 59% of those planning to switch, say being unhappy in their current role is a driving factor, and 52% of respondents planning to make a career switch said they’re unhappy with their current industry.

The same report indicated that most workers will spend 11 months considering a change either in response to an undesirable jobs or in consideration of a brighter future. Ultimately Canadians don’t make career change decisions on a whim, however 87% of those that decide to make the move, reported greater happiness in their lives overall.

1. What do you value most in your career? Are you earning enough money? Are you happy?
2. How will a career change benefit your personal life and/or the lives of your family?
3. How long have you been thinking about making this change?

I want to pursue entrepreneurship

I have always been an advocate for new enterprise and self-employment. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur and have embraced the life of creativity, risk, challenge and reward that comes with entrepreneurship. For those considering their own business endeavor, the post-pandemic environment may open up some new opportunities.

When other businesses close, we are not only presented with the potential to fill those market gaps but we are also given a chance to reassess the successes and shortfalls of others. There is an opportunity to step into a market where others have moved on. By no means do I suggest profiteering on the misfortune of others. More so, consider how you can improve on old models or transition business practices into the post-pandemic market or turnaround businesses entirely. Observe changes and gaps in the marketplace – COVID-19 has given us the chance to reconsider the status quo.

Anticipate stimulus funding for economic recovery. In 2008-2009, economic recovery in our country was largely based on Government investment into infrastructure. Our COVID-19 recovery plan will continue to be updated to likely include similar stimulus programs. Keep an eye on how the Government of Canada and our Provincial and Territorial Governments are supporting our economy.

Lastly, check for absences. Who is not represented in the market? Are there voices that you can amplify? Are there people left unserved? We’re at a critical time in human history when we have a chance to align social issues with business. Who can you serve that have been left to the sidelines – there may be a critical market opportunity here.

I have heard people refer to 2020 as a precipice year. In popular culture, there have been musings that 2020 is as close as we have come to an apocalyptic year. For some facing unemployment, environmental disaster, political and social unrest, that sort of stress and fear is understandable. However, even in this sort of dark humour, I believe there is something pertinent to unpack. The etymology of apocalypse comes from ancient Greece, which does not refer to the end of days. The word actually refers to an “uncovering” or an “unveiling” to a world we were unable to see.

No matter the situation that COVID-19 has left us in, there is at least one opportunity amidst the chaos of this pandemic that we all share – the chance to observe, learn and grow.

What have you learned about yourself and your career? What changes are you noticing and what will you do with this new information?

What are you taking forward with you? What is next?

Five important soft skills for your next career switch:

1. Second Order Thinking: The ability to consider the consequences of consequences. I have written about the power of Game Theory and the anticipation of trends and changes. It requires observation, strong information sources and creative visioning.
2. Adaptability: I believe that this is an inherent strength for Canada’s immigrants, Global Citizens and Third Culture Kids in particular. The ability to be agile, to quickly synthesize information and to adjust according to external conditions.
3. Fluency of Ideas: The capacity for creative problem solving and the speed and frequency to which you are able to make connections and provide answers.
4. Communication: Your ability to network, connect with others, articulate your strengths and contribute to a community context.
5. Confidence: Believing in yourself as a contributor, a leader and a provider. It also speaks to the confidence you have in your partners, your family members and your environment. Develop ways to assess each of these factors and more. With that information in hand, learn to speak and act with conviction.

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