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Second Acts: A career change roadmap in challenging times

NEW YORK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Judie Saunders had her Second Act all planned out.

After raising two boys and doing part-time legal work, she started a law firm focused on holding authority figures accountable for abuse.

Then came 2020, when courthouses shuttered nationwide.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster,” Saunders said. “I have to hold onto my superpower of being resilient. I’m positive I’m going to come out of this.”

The country has many Judie Saunders, people primed to reinvent their lives and careers, who discovered they had to stop amid the biggest public-health crisis in a century.

Some people launch Second Acts for personal reasons, finally starting their own business or pursuing a long-held passion. Others are forced into it by their employer.

In fact, one out of four women are considering a career change, according to a new survey by financial services giant MetLife.

“It can be very challenging to do a career transition, especially when you’ve been in one job or industry for a long time,” said Judy Schoenberg, who co-founded EvolveMe, a professional development company for midlife women undertaking career reinvention.

“But this can actually be a really good time to reflect and think about making that big transition. Do I really want to go back to my old job, or do I want to do something more meaningful?”

Second Actors can succeed under challenging economic conditions, but they must be more creative about navigating obstacles and be hyper-dedicated.

Here are a few thoughts about career reinvention during what may be the most challenging year of our lives, personally and professionally:

DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

Be flexible instead of fixating on only one career outcome. “What I recommend is pursuing three simultaneous experiments,” said Jenny Blake, host of the Pivot podcast and author of the book “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One.”

“One channel is some form of self-employment like consulting, another is job searching, and another is networking and connecting,” Blake said. “This strategy is more empowering ... because if one of those paths gets blocked, you can still make progress on the others.”

JOIN A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY

Launching something new can be extremely lonely, especially this year. A group of like-minded strivers can help advise and motivate you.

“Usually people stay in their own professional silos, like lawyers hanging out with lawyers,” said Schoenberg, noting that EvolveMe holds eight-week group training intensives for women tackling career change.

“But if you interact with people across different industries, it will open up new opportunities and bring things out you didn’t even see in yourself.”

SHOW UP ONLINE, AND STAY ACTIVE

In normal times, a career change might involve a lot of trade conferences, industry cocktail parties and networking coffees. Since most in-person events are off, direct your energies online in industry summits, reaching out on LinkedIn, asking key contacts for Zoom sessions.

Do not be inactive for long periods, which could stall momentum toward a successful career transition. Fill up slow periods with volunteering, advisory boards, project-based work and online courses.

“Just like you used to show up in person, now you need to develop your virtual presence and show up online,” said Schoenberg.

DON’T ACT OUT OF PANIC

If you have been pushed into career change by a furlough or a layoff, the natural instinct is to jump at the first job that comes along just to pay the bills. That is a big mistake.

“It doesn’t make sense to start a job search in earnest until you have spent enough time upfront on who you are, where your strengths lie, and what success means to you,” said Blake. “If you could design your life and work totally from scratch - what would it look like? Now is the time to reimagine what’s possible.” (Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)

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