Pivoting in the COVID-19 Era

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by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

If you’ve already identified a career-change goal, now’s the time to make a plan. And if you’re ready to make a move, this could be a prime time to act, says Annie Kondas, Dickinson’s director of career development in the Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development

“It depends on your target industry,” she says, “but in general, if you’re changing careers during an uncertain time like a pandemic or a major  shift in the economy, employers  may be more willing to consider nontraditional interviewees and more likely to understand why you’re making a change.” 

Here are Kondas’ career-pivot tips for the COVID era and beyond:

  1. Do the research. If you don’t have a specific direction mapped out, try to narrow your options to two target industries and/or locations and begin researching. A career advisor and Dickinson’s career resources can help. If you’ve identified a goal, find contacts in that field through your personal network, Dickinson’s LinkedIn alumni network, a LinkedIn search or AlumniFire. Ask what skills you need to break in, whether you can pivot to a midlevel position and who makes hiring decisions. Scan job descriptions to learn what skills are in demand and which skills are negotiable.  
  2. Monitor the job market. Major shifts across the workforce have eliminated some jobs and created entirely new fields. Keep up to date by talking with people in your network, reading business news and subscribing to professional publications and memberships. Try candor.com to learn how specific organizations are performing now. Keep in mind that some industries are hard hit by COVID-19 and that others, including law and online sales, are flourishing. Many professionals are dramatically changing the way they do their work.
  3. Make a plan. Break it down into actionable steps and develop a timeline. Be specific about how you’ll accomplish your goals. “You may need to take a series of pivots toward your dream job—such as an internship or accepting an entrylevel or volunteer position in your desired field or workplace,” says Kondas. 
  4. Build skills. You can’t control the economy or the pandemic, but you can brush up on jobsearch and interview skills, update your resume and optimize your online presence, like with an online portfolio though GitHub or Wix. Grad school and volunteering can help you shore up your knowledge and experience. And there are more online opportunities than ever right now. For instance, Dickinson offers audited classes and workshops. If you’d like to try other extension courses and online certificate programs identify field-specific options.
  5. Network, network, network. Remember to grow and authentically nurture your network. Referrals, niche sites, professional associations and college employer-recruitment systems are more likely to lead to a job interview than applying cold through LinkedIn or Indeed. 
  6. Eyes on the prize. To combat stress, set specific goals—such as two informational interviews each week—and follow through. Remember that you are in excellent company; many Dickinsonians before you have pivoted successfully, and you can too. 

“It might not be tomorrow or a month from now. But you will get there if you create a plan and move forward.” —Annie Kondas

Read the feature "Taking The Leap" to learn how six alumni executed career shifts, and read more from the winter 2021 issue of Dickinson Magazine


Published February 15, 2021