5 ways to find ideas for your next career

Many of us have been furloughed or laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic shutdown, and for some of us this might be the perfect time to pursue something else and make a career change. If that’s what you have been wanting to do, if the option is available to you, now may be the chance you’ve been waiting for.

Also, you might not have a choice. The future is uncertain, some people who have lost their jobs might not get them back, and those who work in hard-hit industries might have to look for opportunities outside of their industry and experience.

If you already know what it is you want to do, that’s amazing. If you don’t, you’ll need some ideas. Here are some strategies and ideas for increasing your creativity and discovering new opportunities that are available to you.

1. Talk to people. This is a good place to start. Many of us do not do our best thinking in silos. We need input from other people. If you’re stuck for ideas, ask around. Ask your friends and family what they think a good career move for you might be. Ask your social media networks. In normal situations I’d suggest getting out into the world as much as you can, meeting people, and just absorbing information – asking them what they do, if they enjoy it, how they got into it, etc. (Usually without saying why you’re asking or talking about yourself. I prefer getting strangers to talk about themselves when possible). This gives you the 411 on careers that are out there, and even if you don’t find one for you, you’re meeting new people and learning about them. At the moment, however, we’re still social distancing, so you’re a bit limited. But you can still talk to people, and see what you learn.

2. Read and learn. It helps to learn new things when you need new ideas. Read books on subjects that interest you, and on job searching, careers, business and creating change. Take some online courses to learn new skills that, when combined with your existing skills, will set you up for a new career path. Learn, learn, and learn some more. It’s always the smartest thing you can do and will lead you to new places.

3. Make a list of your skills. Write down everything you can do, including your soft skills (communication, problem solving, team building, adaptability) and hard skills (coding, accounting, bookkeeping, sales, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, social media). Write it down, even if you’re not sure if it’s a job-applicable skill (cleaning, organizing, remembering song lyrics), because you can sort it out later, and that skill might lead you to remember another skill. You can then search for jobs that match those skills and cross reference them. Someone with excellent organizational skills might make a good virtual assistant or department coordinator, for example.

4. Make a list of your accomplishments. Write down everything you have ever done that you’re proud of. Include that time you developed a new app or won the Salesperson of the Month Award, and also include the time you organized a co-worker’s surprise baby shower or baked a rainbow layer cake (seriously, those cakes are hard). Ask yourself if any of the skills it took to accomplish those things might be applicable in a role or industry other than the one you’re currently in or just left.

5. Get exercise. Few activities will get you motivated and get your creativity flowing like exercising. Exercising releases endorphins and gives you a sense of accomplishment that carries over the rest of the day. And that “I can do it” feeling is something you need when plotting a career change. Also, creativity is very useful when looking for possibilities, and a 2014 study at Stanford University found that walking improves creative thinking. If you are mobile and able, get out and run, walk, or cycle. Or just dance around the house. Motion begets motion.

A career change can be a scary prospect, but it’s also an exciting chance. The new job or career for you is out there. You just have to find it.

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