Everything You Need to Consider When Planning a Post-COVID Career Change
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about the world, and about our lives. Some of these things are starting to return to normal due to the vaccine, but there is definitely the feeling that some parts of life, and some industries, will never be the same again. This is particularly the case for people whose careers stopped being viable during the lockdown periods, or who work in fields that are likely to continue to suffer economically for several years. As a result of this, more people than possibly ever before are considering career changes, and looking into how to retrain for a completely different job.
Changing career paths is not only something that people are having to do in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis either. As technology moves forward, many people have concerns that their current professions may soon become obsolete, and want to seek out a second (or even third) career in a more ‘futureproof’ role. And then of course, there are people who just want a change, or who decide they would like to retrain for a different career path after starting a family.
With so many reasons why you might want to start looking into changing careers, here, we’re going to look at all of the things you need to consider in picking out a second career and planning how you are going to become trained and qualified for it:
Weighing Up Your Options
When it comes to switching careers, the first decision you need to make is whether you want to seek out employment in a new role, or whether you want to start your own business. Starting a business naturally carries more risk, but if you have a good idea and are able to test its viability with some good market research, it can also be extremely rewarding – both personally and financially. If you decide on this option, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t benefit from some further training and education. Even if the service you want your business to provide is something you are already an expert in, there are so many things involved in running, marketing and scaling up a business, that it may still be beneficial to consider doing a course such as an online business degree or even an MBA.
If you want to seek out an employed career, it’s wise to weigh up things like whether the career you have in mind will offer better long-term security than the career you are leaving. There are some jobs that will always be in high demand, such as teaching and nursing, which also offer quite flexible options when it comes to retraining. You can look into online degrees including accelerated programs for people with an existing degree in another field. A lot of highly regarded online colleges offer excellent programs for fields like education, such as Marymount University. We’ll look deeper into your retraining options later in this article.
If this kind of career doesn’t appeal to you, careers in STEM are also a good choice. Working in technology means that rather than being replaced by AI, software and robots, your job will be in the industry that creates them, and there are all kinds of roles for both technical and non-technical professionals in the IT industry – from development and data analysis through to project management and admin.
Creative careers, such as in graphic design or advertising, can also be a good option if that sort of work appeals to you, and these types of jobs generally give you the option of working for a company or working for yourself on a freelance basis once you have developed the right skills. This type of work didn’t take too much of a hit during the pandemic due to the fact it can be done remotely, and creative work is also thought to be among the last things AI will be able to do just as well as humans, so it has that futureproof factor.
As you can see, there are lots of viable options, and it really comes down to where your interests and talents lie which you should choose. It can also be worth considering whether the second career you choose will allow you to bring over skills from your previous career, which will not only make retraining easier but also make you more employable when you are a new graduate in the field. You can think outside of the box a little here. If you were previously a beautician who had to close your salon during lockdown, there are skills there that could carry over into nursing. If you were the branch manager of a shop, you likely have some skills that could carry over into logistics, HR, or even accountancy. Taking an inventory of all the things you actually have experience in may surprise you, and make it clearer which types of job you could be considering.
Planning Your Career Change
Unless you happen to already have all of the skills and qualifications you need for the career change or business venture you have in mind, you are probably going to need to go through a period of retraining. There are a few ways to approach this. If your current career is still providing you with work, you could consider carrying on working and studying part time. This will take longer, and will mean you will need to be careful about time management so you don’t get burnt out from working and studying at the same time, but it will mean you won’t have to go through a period without an income while you retrain.
If this isn’t an option because your previous job no longer exists, or because you want to change to your new career as fast as possible, then you will need to plan and budget for full time study. The first step is to look at what qualifications you need to enter your chosen new career, or, if you are starting a business instead of seeking employment, which skills you need to learn. You can then investigate what training options are available to you, what the costs involved are, and how long it will take.
You may also want to check your eligibility for things like accelerated programs, which are available for some professional degree courses if you already have a degree in another field. Equally, you will also want to check you are eligible to enroll on the course you want. In some cases, you may need to do an initial course before you can meet the enrolment requirements, and so this will need to be factored into your plans.
Once you know the costs and timescale, you can start to think about the practicalities. With COVID still very much an issue, more courses than ever are available to do from home, though online degrees were actually prevalent for most professions even before the pandemic.
Online study not only keeps you safer during the current situation, but also means you don’t have to budget for things related to attending a physical college, like commuting or relocating. Some online courses do require some time spent on campus, however, due to the need for some hands-on training or the use of special equipment, so make sure you know if this is the case for your course when you are planning.
Additionally, you should have a look at the job opportunities in your chosen new career, and get an idea of how long it might take you to find a position once you are qualified, as well as what kind of salary to expect in a graduate level job. Remember to factor in whether you need to do a work placement as part of your course.
Planning the time and budget for you to retrain is only part of it when it comes to strategizing for a career change. You should also look into routes for financial support if you need them. In most cases, people taking online degrees are eligible for student loans, but you may also be able to secure funding from other sources like local government initiatives, depending on the type of career you are looking to train for, and your personal circumstances.
Financial support is not the only kind of support you may need to secure before you commit to retraining for a specific job, though. If you have a partner or family, you will want to make sure they are fully on board with your plans and ready to help you as you return to studying. It may mean a big shift in lifestyle for all of you while you are completing your course; for instance, you may need to set up a work space somewhere in your home, and ask your family not to disturb you during your study sessions.
The support of the people you live with may be even more important if you are studying part time while continuing to work, because this will undoubtedly mean you will have less time to spend with them and may need more help than usual with domestic duties you normally take care of, so that you can study as much as you need to when you aren’t working.
The Practical Side
Once you have considered all of these things and know the career change you want, the courses you can take to make it happen, and you’ve worked out the budget and timeframe you need, you are essentially ready to get started and enroll. You should know from your research what the enrolment periods are for the course you want to take with the college you’ve chosen.
Now it is time to start thinking about the practical side of where and how you are going to study to complete your program within the timeframe you planned. If it is a long time since you actively studied anything full time, be aware that it may take you a few weeks to really nail down a routine that works for you, especially if you have never studied online or from home before. Don’t be too ambitious with your goals and schedules for the first couple of weeks, then, and wait until you have found a way of working that is productive for you before you start pushing things hard.
It can be good, however, to begin thinking about what a typical day will look like when you are studying full time. Where will you incorporate exercise into your day? When and what will you eat? Will you study during normal working hours, or do you prefer to start in the afternoon and work through into the evening? How will you schedule your studying around things like childcare commitments? Having an idea of the kind of routine you could fit around your life without overdoing things or neglecting other commitments can help you shape an initial schedule, which you can then tweak as you begin to discover what does and doesn’t work for you when you actually start doing your course.
One other thing you will definitely need from a practical perspective is a comfortable working environment, with a proper office chair and a good desk. While one of the advantages of an online course is that you can effectively study anywhere, including on your phone when you are out and about, you will be spending several hours of most study days sitting at your computer. This can lead to all kinds of health problems if you don’t have a good ergonomic working set-up, so if you need to invest in this stuff, get it before your course begins. You will also need a reliable internet connection and a decent computer, so if you need to upgrade these things, now is the time to do it.
Hopefully, once you have tackled all of these questions and considerations, you will be feeling positive, motivated, and ready to get started on your path towards an interesting new career. Good luck!