As the economy and labor market heal in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are trying to assess what comes next. For some, the pandemic reframed their views on their current career trajectories. For others, this scary and anxiety-ridden period has prompted reflection about what's next. Whether you are sidelined from the labor force and are considering getting back in, or are lucky enough to have a job but need a change, consider these steps:
1. Conduct research: While the labor market is recovering, some industries are faring far better than others. Tech, health care, online learning, e-commerce and digital entertainment have revved up hiring, and many have opened up opportunities in areas that don't necessarily rely on technical expertise. One tech executive told me that her No. 1 priority is filling open sales team roles, not engineering ones.
2. Assess your strengths: While it is easy to focus on technical skills or educational attainments, many employers are also focusing on the harder to quantify "soft skills," like the ability to communicate, empathize, work with others or solve problems. This is also a good time to figure out where you need to improve and whether you need to acquire new skills. While you are at it, identify what moves you. What jobs or tasks have you enjoyed doing? Most of us can find one or two things that we liked doing, even if the overall job wasn't a great fit.
3. Review and update your resume and cover letter: Make sure that these annoying, but necessary documents reflect who you are today. Then update your online presence, including cleaning up your social profiles so they are professional and networking-ready. This may include changing settings, so they are private.
4. Figure out why you're jumping ship: If you are considering a departure, what is motivating you to make the move? Are you seeking more money? While a pay raise can be great, would it require longer hours, days or a loss of benefits or vacation time? Do you want to feel more connected to the mission of an organization? Are you burned out from the pandemic or from your job itself? This has been a grueling year for so many, which may cause some people to conflate the general period with the jobs they hold.
5. Network: You may cringe when you see that word, but all you really need to do is to talk to people that you know and with those with whom you share a connection. Contact those people whose jobs have always seemed interesting to you — just send a quick note and ask for time to chat. One positive aspect of the lockdown is that we have all learned how to communicate more effectively through a screen. If you're still rusty, practice with friends or family and try to be clear and concise.
6. Consider a side hustle: Whether out of necessity or desire, the pandemic has spurred Americans to become more entrepreneurial. There have been more than 4.4 million new businesses started since the pandemic began, a more than 40% increase from the prior year. When people ask about starting their own businesses, I advise them to start with a side hustle. Doing so is a good way to test a concept and see if it gains traction, while enjoying the stability of a full-time job and benefits. If you do decide to go the full-time route, don't forget that you will need to investigate health insurance, life and disability insurance, as well as retirement plan options.
Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. She welcomes comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.