The last year-plus could have meant huge life changes for you, whether you lost your job or started seriously considering a new career path. Maybe you moved or lost loved ones or relationships. It can be daunting to completely start over.
The job market changed drastically because of the pandemic. One study showed that one in four women have been considering a career change since the crisis began (the percentage of career changers is always quite high for women, which we discuss here), and there were over a hundred million jobs lost in 2020 because of COVID-19. Job losses were 5 percent higher for women.
How do you begin again, especially when the job market isn’t exactly certain right now?
Let’s talk about how to start over.
But first...a reality check. How old is too old?
Lots of us give up dreams because we think we’re too old. We should have started right after college, we got the wrong graduate degree, we’d be embarrassed to be the oldest intern in the room, etc.
This mindset should be turned on its head. Sure, you may not be able to be the next star Olympic gymnast in your 50s, but most careers don’t include youth as one of their requirements. Sometimes pride is the only thing getting in your way of taking that course or applying for a different kind of position.
No matter how old you are, what stage of life you’re in, it is never too late to start over. Challenging ourselves as we get older only makes us more adaptable, open-minded, adventurous, and even satisfied with life.
Now, you may have motivation out the wazoo, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel stuck or have no idea what you should do to turn things around. Next we’ll cover a few steps you can take now to start over.
7 steps to rebuild your life and career
Finding a fresh start doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it’s definitely not impossible. Here are a few steps you can take to start rebuilding now.
1. Start small
The great thing about starting over is that you can do whatever you’re comfortable with, even if that means doing one small thing at a time that points you in the right direction. What’s one step you can take without much effort, right now? Maybe you will reach out to a school for more information about a certificate program, or create a list of goals you want to achieve by switching career paths or beginning again. Just do something that gets the wheels turning.
2. Embrace your fears
Starting a new career path or rebuilding your professional life completely is no small feat, so it’s understandable to experience fear and uncertainty. It might be weirder if you didn’t feel these things. When you become afraid, treat that fear like a friend you’ve been waiting for, something you’ve been expecting. Say to yourself, this makes sense, I’m doing something scary. (Or test drive a mantra.)
You may feel afraid that you won’t have the right skill set for a new job, or that an employer will want you to account for the months or years you were out of work. Maybe you love your coworkers and don’t want to mess with getting to know a new workplace. Just remember that, in the grand scheme of things, it only takes a short amount of time to master a new job or make new colleague-friends. It will be worth it if a year or two from now you’re in a position you find rewarding.
3. Consider education or training opportunities
Sometimes going back to school just isn’t an option, whether you don’t want to take more time away from family or you can’t afford it. And it’s not always required for a career change. But, if you can swing it, taking a course, getting a certification, going for another degree, or doing online training can help you build more confidence and get hired in your desired field. Additionally, some programs will help you meet people and network so you’re more likely to hear about job opportunities. Remember that with any new educational endeavor you take on, you can move at your own pace, even if it means finishing in five years.
4. Leverage your skills
As mentioned, sometimes you won’t need to take a course or get another degree. You may already have all the skills you need to rebuild or change your path. Maybe you’ve been working in a field that’s totally unrelated to your college degree, and you want to get back to that. Think of ways you can leverage the job experience you do have into transferable skills. There is likely going to be crossover in areas like communication, technology, and teamwork. Think of unique ways that your experience lends itself to what you want to do moving forward.
5. Address job gaps
If you lost your job and have a gap on your resume, know that this is not a deal-breaker. First of all, with the other millions of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, you’re not alone, and employers should be aware of the significant career impacts over the last 18 months. Also focus on things you’ve learned. Maybe you were able to take on a new hobby or learn a new skill. Perhaps the time away from work allowed you the space to figure out what kind of career you want to build when you return to work. Focus on how you turned a layoff into a pivotal life moment.
Read more: How to Make Any Employment Gap Sound Good
6. Set yourself apart
It’s no secret that the job market is pretty competitive right now, especially in certain fields and geographical locations. This may take some extra patience on your end, but there are steps you can take to stand out. Start with the application process. Make sure you have a fresh and shiny resume. Study best practices for cover letters and get help with writing these documents if needed. Do lots of research about the company and the person you’d be working for. You may even be able to contact someone at the company directly, letting them know how interested you are. In interviews, show confidence that you are the right person for the job, and be honest about why you want to change career paths or what happened with your last job.
7. Accept uncertainty
One of the most important lessons from the pandemic is that nothing is certain. It may benefit you most to approach rebuilding your career with the attitude that you don’t know what will happen. Maybe you’ll hate your new job or field. Maybe it will be the best decision you’ll ever make. But remember—you’ll only know for sure if you take a chance.