If 2020 was the year for changing plans and putting things off; 2021 must be the year for a change in your career so you can achieve your goals, says Amy Downes.
Covid-19 has forced us all to adjust to last minute changes of plan, we’ve gotten used to cancelling holidays, postponing weddings, changing our plans for birthday parties and each time we’ve done a good job of making the best of a bad situation.
We have become masters at ‘putting things off’, but when it comes to our careers: this has to stop. Because rather than being a time to put your life on hold, ‘lockdown 3’ could be the perfect time to start working towards new dreams.
Over the last 10 months, have you been thinking about switching jobs? Perhaps you want to start a new business, perhaps you want to find a new job, or perhaps you want to ask for flexible working in the role you already have.
You wouldn’t be alone. According to recent research by workingdads.co.uk, four in five workers say they are now more likely to request flexible or remote working. And three quarters believe their employer is likely to approve their request.
But it feels like it’s a terrible time to be taking risks like that, right? Everybody’s really struggling. 80% of freelancers told workingdads.co.uk that they’ve had no financial help in 2020. While a quarter of employers have still not explored flexible working according to another survey.
It’s easy to see why you might be tempted to stay put. Perhaps you’ve been furloughed again and are on reduced wages, or perhaps you’ve lost your job (my heart goes out to you).
For you, the temptation will be to get straight into work and take whatever comes your way, particularly given job vacancies are reported to have plummeted at the end of last year. But I want to say to you: Take a breath. You will never get another chance like this again.
Five years ago, whilst 10 weeks pregnant with my eldest child I was made redundant from my job in PR and marketing. I was forced to take 18 months out of work, which was terrifying at the time. But looking back, I’m really glad I gave myself the space to figure out what I actually wanted to do, for work and for my family.
Having originally trained as a journalist, I had always wanted to work as a freelancer but had got caught up in the cycle of applying for jobs and focusing on full time work. Losing my job gave me the opportunity to do that and the chance to try out a field I really wanted to work in: social media management.
I’ve proven to myself that, whilst I’d always just seen full time employment as ‘the way’ to work, this different way of life is achievable and it suits me so much better because of the variety, the control over what work I do and, most importantly, the flexibility it allows around my family.
Whilst you might at first think now is not the time to go self-employed or to start your own business, it actually could be the perfect time because there is so much support available. There are grants and programmes to support and there has been a boom in the number of business coaches clamouring to offer their help.
While working on a new online magazine to promote small businesses in the north, I’ve been boosted by the number of online coaches who have actually seen their work (and profits) increase in the last 10 months because of the number of people taking a chance on their business dreams.
There are so many excuses you can give yourself to put off doing what you really want to do. And I understand that it’s a scary idea. But if you don’t do it now, when will you?
When things get back to ‘normal’, it’s going to be even harder to break away from the grind of everyday life; it’s going to feel even more daunting to take a leap of faith away from your ‘safe’ employment.
Lockdown has brought disruption to that daily routine and the chance to review what is most important in our lives. As working dads.co.uk editor James Millar has said, the pandemic is a hinge moment for the world of work and working mums and dads in particular.
We have had 12 months of spending more time with our families, of fitting work around that and proving that it’s okay to make our personal lives our priority. I love this quote from the workingdads.co.uk survey: “The bond with my son is the strongest it’s ever been. I have become more capable of juggling work/housework/schoolwork.”
There is never going to be a perfect time to ‘go for it’ with our dreams, but we can’t put these things off forever.
So, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one New Year’s Resolution you need to make: to make your life better in 2021.
I ask you, if not now, when?
Amy Downes is a self employed social media manager. If you’ve recently started a new business or you’re thinking of setting one up and you’d like help with the social media, you can contact Amy Downes: The Content Planning Wizard on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.