For many, the events of this disruptive year have acted like a circuit breaker in our lives. Living and working through a pandemic has muddied the waters for professionals everywhere. Industries are being upended, layoffs are plentiful, and people are questioning the career rules they’ve always played by.
As more friends and colleagues mention that they’re considering a job change, I’m reminded of my own career pivots. I’ve been making twists and turns in my professional life for more than 20 years, and I’ve picked up a few tidbits of inspiration along the way.
One of the best pieces of advice came from Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake. When I was considering a transition from financial services to technology, and leaving NYC for the West Coast, I found myself paralyzed, sometimes by the options, other times by fear.
He suggested thinking about my next career in the order of “geography, industry, role.” Too often, he said, people think about it in the opposite order, getting wrapped up in the relative merits of a given employment opportunity without first being clear that the job was where they actually wanted to live and in their ideal industry.
It was good advice then, and even greater wisdom now. First, for many of us, Covid has made us rethink what we need from our location. Is it necessary to live in an expensive, urban area or near the “office?” Or is being close to family who can help with childcare a higher priority?
Further, Covid has given us the opportunity to prioritize geography in a way we’ve never been able to before. As businesses nationwide announce they’re not going back to the old office routine, and will instead offer some remote or hybrid work options to their employees, companies you may never have before considered, because of where they’re based, might now make the short list.
The industries on that short list might also look different than they have before, as we’re witnessing the alarming upending of entire industries. Sectors that once held confidence—travel, hospitality, retail, luxury—are struggling, whereas others, including healthcare and education, are undergoing massive disruption that’s opening up all kinds of interesting possibilities. Making wise career choices in the post-Covid age must involve considering which industries offer not only security in the short term but also, within them, which organizations have the proven ability to go from “good to great” and not “good to gone.”
Which brings us to the “role” component. Slootman’s view was if you got the geography and industry correct, the exact position became far less consequential. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once said, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on!”
Of course, there are other personal priorities each of us must consider. If the geography-industry-role formula doesn’t ring true for you, make your own set of parameters. But keep it brief. Slootman also reasoned that if you have ten priorities, you have none. Rather than trying to meet a laundry list of desired job criteria, pick out the most important two or three and park the rest.
This is not a time for being wishy-washy or indecisive. Overcommit to your top criteria and be prepared to completely sacrifice other variables. Most importantly, be intellectually and emotionally honest with yourself. After all, with a wider aperture of options in terms of location, you may find yourself fitting into a lot of potential organizations’ plans. The only question that matters, though, is whether or not they fit into yours.
Above all, don’t fear change, even if you’re examining options dramatically different than those you’ve considered before. Covid-19 altered many familiarities in our lives and gave us permission to challenge all kinds of assumptions. Times like this show the degree to which our fears are a mass-produced item: Yours is no different than anyone else’s. Often when fear knocks, doubt answers. When it comes to your post-Covid career though, let opportunity open the door.