Why Covid is the perfect time for a career change
Traditional logic would state that if there are two times most unwise to quit a job one would be during a recession and the other, would be a recession caused by a worldwide pandemic. However, rather than discouraging young people from delaying a possible career change amid rising unemployment and career uncertainty, the COVID pandemic has propelled many
young people to reassess their career and life goals.
Reasons for young people to quit their jobs are numerous. Firstly, there is a simple and often overlooked explanation arising from the recent pandemic. Covid and the ensuing working from home (WFH) have given many office workers used to early morning commutes a lot of free time to consider the nature and meaning of their careers. Whereas WFH was often seen as a corporate perk which granted some workers the ability to work remotely every Friday, enforced working from home and with it its reduced hours commuting, significant savings on travel expenses and less time spent in soul destroying corporate meetings (perhaps Zoom calls are recompense for this) have caused a significant amount of traditional office workers to reassess if their careers are both meaningful and fit into their overall life goals.
Secondly, the traditional graduate dream of graduating university, securing a graduate scheme job and grinding through ten years of corporate boredom before being able to afford a mortgage for a one-bedroom London studio one hour’s commute away from the office no longer seems as appealing in a post-Covid world. Young people appear to be turning an otherwise negative situation into a positive by realising that the existing model for career development benefits their employers much more than themselves. What is more, young people increasingly value career satisfaction and a sense of purpose over titles and a corporate lifestyle. As opposed to as recently as 30 years ago, research shows that there has been a 40% decrease in young graduates who view title and position within the office as markers of a successful career. Young professionals viewed job satisfaction and having a sense of purpose as significantly more important than the reputation of the company they worked for and their position within the office.
Career changes are of course nothing new. Trying a particular sector in your twenties and then moving on after a few years, especially for humanities graduates with non-vocational degrees has always been very common. Millenials are often berated by their parents or the media for flicking between jobs and being unable to settle down. Rather than attributing this to a fondness for avocado toast, those who criticise this flexible career approach often disregard or are simply unaware of the fact that the jobs market is significantly different in 2020 than it was thirty or forty years ago. It is perhaps the reasons for a career change and the way this is viewed by society, especially generation Y and Z that have evolved. With mass lay-offs accentuated by the end of furlough schemes in a vast array of sectors, the shame of losing your job has greatly diminished. The sense that one’s career is a result of hard work and one’s professional ability has been similarly worn away by arbitrary lay-offs within different departments decided by a computer generated algorithm.
Most importantly, it is important to remember there is no shame in changing career. Four-year liberal arts style degrees in the American university system place much more emphasis on producing a malleable, well-rounded graduate able to be absorbed into many different career paths. Similarly, there is a greater emphasis on producing a well-rounded individual able to respond to changing labour market demands and a rapidly evolving jobs market. After working for two years in management consultancy, Anabelle decided the corporate life was simply not suited to her overall career ambitions and life goals. “I just felt like I was a cog in a machine with little career satisfaction, I always wanted to work in journalism so I decided it’s better late than never” says Annabelle after finding a job as a journalist covering young people’s issues for a national newspaper for over a year now. “The pay might be less than my previous corporate role but my own personal happiness far compensates for that aspect of it”, she says as she researches an article on student stress – something I’m sure we can all relate to. It should be noted that career changes are not solely the reserve of arts and humanities students. After having completed a degree in chemistry, James decided he wanted to pursue a career in maritime law. “After having studied Chemistry I realised that career options specifically concerning chemistry did not match my own personal interests. I had always been interested in the maritime industry and the chance to work on the specificities of a rapidly expanding industry is incredibly exciting to me”, he exclaims. This is not to say Chris feels his time studying chemistry was pointless. “I learnt a lot about academic discipline from so many hours spent in the lab but more importantly I studied a subject I love and at the same time I was able to enter a career in a totally different field”.
Research has shown that arts graduates can boost their career prospects by having mathematical and scientific qualifications and skills alongside their arts degrees. Far from being down and out however, research also shows that arts graduates are paid comparably to their non-arts peers and were considerably more satisfied in their current jobs1. If you are unsure what subject you truly want to study, doing joint honour degrees and courses, for example studying a language alongside economics or studying a science alongside a language can make you stand out in a competitive jobs market and demonstrates to an employer your ability to multi-task and use many different parts of your grey matter. It appears that studying what you really love produces a much more employable candidate as opposed to someone who has slogged away four hard years studying something they have no interest in or passion for.
Similarly, rather than dismissing arts and humanities degrees as redundant in a world where so much emphasis is placed on STEM subjects, humanities graduates should see their analytical and creative skills as an asset which can provide a unique perspective in a professional environment. It can often feel demoralising to enter a jobs market which appears to place so much emphasis on STEM subjects with a humanities degree. However, soft skills such as communication and interaction are often cited as the most important skills sought by employers. The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is a skill too often ignored and cited by employers as one of the most important skills they seek in new graduates2.
With many young people laid off or having internships postponed as a result of the Covid pandemic, using the spare time to learn a new skill applicable to employment or gaining a foothold onto a different career path could be a valuable investment. For instance, taking an A-level this year in a subject which interests you can demonstrate to employers your personal interest in the specified field of work and your initiative in gaining experience in a field you have not been working in.
In conclusion, history has shown that major upsets often produce ultimately positive results and learnings. Discounting the numerous downsides of lockdowns, it has exposed the fragility of today’s jobs market which in too many cases has not kept up with young people’s changing career aspirations. It has also taught millennials and generation Z to be resilient in the face of adversity. It is easy to feel overwhelmed or stuck at a time of such change. Young people have never had it so hard in terms of student debt, a weak jobs market and the feeling of being lost and stuck in jobs that do not match our own life goals (who can blame us for wanting the occasional avocado on toast?!) Let us therefore use this time to reflect and take actionable steps into making our dream job a reality. If there can be a take-away from this past year, on top of realising how terrible pubs closing at 10.00pm is, it should be that it is never too late to consider for a career change.
Given the unique demand for career changes, Carfax Education is offering special packages for traditional 2 year A-level courses for mature students to be taken within a 1 year time frame with constant support and exam preparation from professional tutors. Carfax’s bespoke consultancy service can also advise on the best steps for entering specific careers as well as facilitating these moves. For more information on it’s A-level tutoring services and career consulting services please visit Carfax-education.com for further contact information.
1 Wall Street Journal research
2 UCAS careers