There’s no doubt that the last few years have changed people’s attitudes toward work and left many considering a career change.
While it may be intimidating to take the plunge into unknown waters, the Gallup State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report showed that 71 per cent of workers in the U.S. and Canada say it’s a good time to find a job. After all, job vacancies are high in Canada and many employers are offering flexible work options and other perks to be competitive in a tight labour market.
Calgary-based career specialist and HR professional Katia Segal agrees, saying it’s “the best time ever” to change careers.
“This is happening because people want to feel more fulfilled in their lives,” says Ms. Segal. “We deserve to be happy in all areas and our career still has a big impact on our day-to-day [lives].”
Ms. Segal, who often works with newcomers to find roles in Canada, says people are looking for more than just a paycheque. People want more purposeful work and they are seeking companies that provide better work-life balance and flexibility.
How to make the leap
Usha Srinivasan is the director of Brampton Venture Zone by TMU and an expert in career pivots. She has made many career pivots herself, from working at a market research firm to building venture programs for startups and eventually running her own startups.
“If you are having trouble getting out of bed, anxious at the thought of meetings and [feel] stressed, it’s time to rethink what you should be doing,” she says.
If you do decide to take the plunge, here are four tips from Ms. Srinivasan and Ms. Segal on making a career change:
- Get started. “Life is happening now, don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do now,” Ms. Segal says. You can invest in yourself by developing a new skill, creating a robust career plan, getting feedback on your resume or doing research to ensure you’re moving into a field that will still be around for years to come.
- Marry your different strengths. Look at what you’re good at or passionate about – both inside and outside the workplace – and see if you can bring your skills together to create a new career path. “People just need to consider the possibilities,” says Ms. Srinivasan.
- Be your own advocate. Ms. Srinivasan says it can be scary to take a risk, and some employers may be hesitant to give you a chance, whether you’re applying to a role at a new company or trying to make an internal move. “If you want to switch careers … show an employer that you mean business and distinguish yourself as a candidate,” she says. This could involve taking a course or working with an expert to overcome your own hang-ups about making a career move.
- Have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is embark on a career change and have everything derailed because of a lack of planning. Be sure to have enough funds to get you through any career-change growing pains. “Challenges and last-minute situations will come your way. Having a Plan B will be helpful if you need more time and money while transitioning,” Ms. Segal says.
Career risks worth the reward
Experiencing fear or anxiety around a career change is completely normal. That’s especially true now, when there is so much uncertainty with a potential looming recession and when the long-term impacts of the pandemic are yet to be seen.
However, Ms. Srinivasan says the risk can be worth the reward.
“Life is short, take a risk – a calculated one,” she says. “Have a one, two and five-year plan and execute on your plan. The best kind of work is when it does not feel like work and you are excited every single day to show up and contribute.”
Ask Women and Work
Have a question about your work life? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.
Question: I have been settling into a new role in management – my first – and I’m very much enjoying the new responsibilities. But I’m having difficulty with a team member who hasn’t been completing their tasks properly or on time. I have always been a people-pleaser by nature and so I have been letting their performance slide, but I know I need to handle this. Are there some steps or guidelines to addressing the situation with a staff member who is underperforming?
We asked Amanda Hudson, Toronto-based founder of A Modern Way to Work and a double-board certified HR expert with 20 years of experience in people management, to field this one:
Congratulations on your new role! You were likely promoted because you were the best at the work you do, and the real challenge ahead is now ensuring other people are productive, which is no easy task. It’s very common for managers (new and old) to be in a situation where someone isn’t meeting their expectations. It’s even more common for managers to avoid dealing with it for so many reasons, including not wanting to upset someone or rupture a relationship.
The good news is there are a few questions you can ask yourself, and actions you can take, before you ever need to have a difficult conversation directly about the performance issue.
First, assume your employee wants to show up and do great work – almost all people do. If they aren’t doing great work, your first question as a manager should be, ‘What is getting in the way?’ Start by asking yourself, ‘Are my expectations clear? And how have I communicated my expectations?’ Most difficult conversations about a lack of performance can actually be avoided when the manager starts with these two questions. What you’ll often find is that there’s room to further communicate or convey your expectations in a different way.
Next, ask yourself if the employee is new to the task. Often, ‘people-pleasing’ managers are afraid of micro-managing, but when an employee is performing a new task, they actually require a lot of direction. If they aren’t meeting expectations on a task that is new to them or they haven’t done it before, engage in more directive behaviours. These can include breaking down major deliverables into smaller milestones, setting deadlines and checking in along the way, sitting with the team member and showing them how you would approach the task and helping them prioritize the work.
Lastly, if this task is not new to them or if they’ve done it successfully in the past but now the performance has started suffering, it could be because they’re not feeling challenged. Employees need to feel like they’re growing and developing. In this case, you can think about how to expand the task so it has more purpose and challenge for them. Or, add in a new responsibility that will re-engage the employee in their role.
As a new manager, keep in mind that when you’re not getting what you want from others, the simplest solution is often to change your own behaviours. The above strategies should help you avoid those difficult performance conversations in the first place and set up great working relationships with your employees.
Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback on the series? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.