In 2020, you baked bread, learned to needlepoint, and ordered takeout more times than you can count—you probably even perfected the art of a stylish mask. But there’s one thing you might not have realized should be on your to-do list for this next year: reinventing your career.
We’re all just trying to survive right now, and the “new normal” is now just our normal. But whether you’re stuck working from home just to collect a paycheck, facing dangerous decisions as you reenter the workplace, or have found yourself unexpectedly back on the job hunt, this is the year to reinvent your career. And, no, it’s never too late. Here are the first steps you should take to spin your experience, create opportunities on your own terms, and make 2021 your year.
1. Utilize the time you have right now
First things first, most of us are going to be home a lot this winter—no endless brunches, no weekend getaways, no girls’ nights. Of course, you should spend some of those hours on Netflix binges and taking care of yourself, but also recognize that you may have far more time on your hands now than you (likely) will next fall and use it. Now is the time to set aside a Saturday afternoon to polish up your resume. Use Monday night to update your LinkedIn and connect with old colleagues and professional acquaintances. Dedicate 30 minutes each morning to catching up on job postings. Utilize this time wisely because—hopefully—at some point in the near future, you won’t have all this free time at home.
2. Think about where you want to go
You’re using that time you have at home as best you can, so it’s time to make a vision board. Maybe it’s a paper and scissors kind of deal, or perhaps you take to Pinterest. Whatever feels right to you, use this opportunity to think about where you want to go in 2021. Could you find fulfillment in a variation on your current role, or is it a total overhaul that you’re looking for? Do you enjoy the skills you use daily and just need a change of industry or company? Or is it the industry you love, but you want to transition teams? Think about what these answers mean for your next role… and the next.
3. Check out what others are doing
When I was transitioning my career from non-profit marketing to the for-profit world—first at a creative agency, now in tech—I spent hours scrolling through LinkedIn looking at the journeys that others took to get into roles that sounded like they might be my dream job. I scoured their portfolios, picked apart how they might have gone from Company A to Company B, and saw that I wasn’t the only one who went from a non-profit into the corporate world.
But, most of all, I got ideas! I discovered both the positions I wanted to pursue and how to spin my experience. I found roles and startups I’d never even heard of. While there is no one right road map, sometimes seeing a road that’s already been paved can add some guidance and clarity to your own search. Start with people you know who are doing cool things. See how they describe themselves and their own experience and then go down that LinkedIn rabbit hole and see where it leads you. Want to know more? Reach out! Find something relevant in their resume that you want to know more about or something quirky you two have in common. Add them as a connection and ask a specific question to strike up a conversation. Remember, there’s a human on the other side and most people want to be helpful where they can—but you need to give them a concrete ask from which to work.
While there is no one right road map, sometimes seeing a road that’s already been paved can add some guidance and clarity to your own search
4. Take stock of your experience and how it might apply outside of your role
When you look at your job description, does it encompass everything you do? My guess is no. If there’s an area you’re eager to explore, it’s probably because you’ve been exposed to it somewhere in your day-to-day responsibilities. How can you convey that on your resume? Can you add a bullet or two that emphasizes those pieces of your roles that you enjoy most, even if they aren’t what defines your position?
A job description isn’t static. You’re not just regurgitating what was on the listing you applied to three years ago. Think about what you’ve learned, what you’ve enjoyed, and how you can spin your experience to fit the roles you do want.
Feel like you still don’t have the experience? Consider how roles you have outside of work might apply. Do you volunteer with an organization and work on their magazine? Do you organize events? Volunteer work is still very much work and you’ve earned the right to use it on your resume.
5. Map out your next steps
Once you’ve looked at the paths that others took and assessed your own experience, map out a tentative plan for your next role. If you’re making a huge career shift, it may not be an immediate switch, but rather a two, three, or four-point turn. For me, I wanted to go from fundraising to marketing at a tech company. That jump could have happened… but, realistically, it would have been a big one that might have required falling back to entry level. Instead, I took gradual steps, moving from non-profit fundraising to non-profit marketing to agency marketing and, eventually, to tech marketing. I’d mapped out a general plan and, as a result, fortunately did not have to take a seniority cut.
If you’re making a huge career shift, it may not be an immediate switch, but rather a two, three, or four-point turn.
6. Find where you can make a big impact in your current role… for your next
Companies right now are facing a turning point as positions face long-term remote realities and market needs have been turned on their head. Things are changing quickly and constantly, so if you feel like you need a big win on your resume—something you spearheaded and ran with—now’s the time. See where you could add in efficiencies or save dollars at your company. Think about how you could bring people together. Pitch something new to your boss. Now’s your opportunity to make your mark—and it will give you an accomplishment to brag about on your resume.
An added bonus? A big win could reinvigorate your energy in your current role.
7. Enroll in an online course to learn a new skill
We’re back to that extra time but, seriously, it’s your biggest asset right now. Utilize those down hours at home during the week to identify skills you might be lacking or areas that could be holding you back from transitioning to a new role or shifting your career entirely. Feel like your marketing career could benefit from Google Analytics? Get your certification. Always wanted to pursue web design? Find a course online. If all else fails, YouTube it. Now’s the time to teach yourself the skills that might be holding you back from pursuing your next big role.
8. Lastly, keep updating your resume and be persistent
We have no idea what 2021 holds for us or the job market, but you’ve got the motivation and the drive to make this the year that you reinvent your career. And, whether or not it brings your dream role on Jan. 1, you’re positioning yourself to find fulfillment in the moment and gain new skills along the way.
Keep that resume updated, and remember, it’s never the wrong time to make a pivot or total 180-degree transition—particularly when it feels as if the entire world has been turned upside down. What better opportunity than now to take a step back and flip your career script on its head?! You’ve got this.