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Time to think: how to plan a career change after Covid-19

Change often presents new opportunities for learning. Let us embrace this moment to seek clarity on the direction of our lives.

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For many of us, the very sudden changes that have come about as a result of the global Covid-19 viral pandemic, have sent seismic shock waves through our homes, lives and neighborhoods. Almost nothing is the same. 

Our daily routines, our children’s lives, our jobs, our relationships, have been flipped upside down. Have we ever looked at so many graphs, charts, models and metrics? Have we ever had to consume so much information, or to process so much government-imposed health and societal advice? Have we ever been so fearful for our safety and health, or that of others? 

There is no doubt that this is a major re-set, and that we are faced with the pretty big challenge of working out how to live and how to survive this ‘new normal.’

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Arundhati Roy

Change often presents new opportunities for learning. It can lead to an enforced opportunity to look back and to reflect on what might have been the status-quo before. Hindsight is 20/20 and that may never be truer than now. But be aware of backward thinking; in times of crisis, it is very easy to slip into a mindset of blame, regret or denial.

Whilst there will be some very hard-hitting questions to answer and lessons for the world to learn, on a personal level, we may have time to pause and think. Perhaps we have been given an opportunity to seek clarity on the direction of our lives. Were we really happy before Covid-19? 

For me, my ‘thinking time’ had already taken place about a year prior to Covid and so I know that periods away from the rat-race can be a blessing.

Having trained and qualified as a lawyer after university studies, when our first child was born, I applied for an extended period of maternity leave. My husband had a demanding job, with a long commute, and it was decided early on that one of us should be based at home.

As a stay-at-home mother, I found creative avenues through cooking and writing and later, I took an online course in food journalism. I soon picked up writing work, which was flexible and slotted in and around raising the children. The more time I gave it, the more opportunities came. Sometimes I stepped back, sometimes I stepped up. Three children came along and I with a bit of grit and determination, I landed a cook book deal. My legal career now seemed like another world away.

I learnt early on, never to judge or make an opinion about other people’s life choices. Having one of us at home, at least in the early years, worked for our family and I don’t regret stepping away from my career in law. It gave me time to nest and care for our three children. It gave me time to enjoy motherhood in all its messy, all-consuming, stay-at-home glory. I had a beautiful cookbook to be proud of, too.

Once our youngest had started school full-time, I began to yearn structure. The on-line and off-line food world started to feel very crowded. I suddenly felt very directionless. I knew that I was at a turning point and that a major shift was necessary. Would I be able to return to law? There are only so many re-runs of The Good Wife that a former lawyer can watch without wondering whether she has a comeback within her, too, even with a tasty piece of cake in her lap.

Image by Sang Hyun Cho from Pixabay

A number of people had told me that a return to law after such a long break would be impossible, but instead, I quietly looked for roles and courses, hoping that perhaps, after a period of re-training, I might be taken back on. I looked at all the skills I had gained at home and how I might re-deploy them in the field of law. 

First, came the decision about which area of law to return to. State or private practice, criminal or civil. This early decision was relatively easy because I knew that I didn’t want to go back to being a Prosecutor and that my time in the field of criminal law had been served. I had an inkling that I would make a compassionate and intuitive family lawyer and a niggle that I hadn’t explored family law in greater detail. So I went on instinct and looked closely at family work.

Next, I simply looked for jobs. I searched online, locally. I signed up for alerts. Within a couple of weeks, I bit the bullet and applied for a role that I was overqualified for, with the aim that I would learn and absorb. I chose not to put too much pressure on myself for it all to be perfect. I had faith that salary and status would resolve itself in time. This was not about climbing the ladder, or picking up from precisely from where I had left off, but rather, that I had something to offer and that I was ready to learn and assist. A lot of women talk themselves out of returning to jobs and professions they have stepped away from because they don’t have a strong enough belief that they have something to offer, but of course, they do.

It worked. A local, specialist family law firm hired me right away as a paralegal. I signed the children up to a breakfast and after-school club and dusted off my law books. It was a good move. The firm I joined were incredibly supportive of my comeback and encouraged me sign up for an intensive refresher course. I attended online seminars and consumed every bit of professional training and development I could squeeze in. After six months, my confidence grew and I was back to taking on casework with partner support. My colleagues have all been a breath of fresh air. We fight for freedom and fairness every day for our clients. I am also part of a flexible working environment, so much so, that within a week of the U.K. lockdown, we had all been set up to work from home remotely and calmly carried on with the administration of law. 

For many, a career change or a return to an old profession after Covid-19 may be a leap too far into the unknown. Some may simply crave a return to normality and to a sense of what they already know works best for them. Some may get used to being at home and wonder why they ever worked so hard, or travelled so far to an office. Some may be fearful that if they don’t go back to a job that has been left open for them, that they may risk being unemployed. A lot of people are being laid off, furloughed and made redundant. Workplaces and entire industries are collapsing. There is no doubt that the virus will affect every single industry, business and profession out there, from lawyer to laborer, and from hospitality to healthcare.

But I am certain that there will be opportunities, too. A chance to soul-search and to answer that deep question: were you really happy before Covid-19? A chance to try something different, perhaps with the new-found skills you have acquired during isolation. A chance to make a fresh start, in our brave new world, battered and scarred, but resolute to learn and evolve. 

What opportunities to think and find clarity has the current situation brought up for you? Let me know in the comments below.

For family law matters in the UK, you can reach out to Ren at Rayden Solicitors.

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