As we wrap up 2020, let’s take a moment to think about what an unprecedented year this has been in our professional lives. Many of us have shifted our work from our offices to our homes, juggling family responsibilities with work and project deadlines. Some of us have seen co-workers depart in mass lay-offs, while others have learned to do more with fewer resources and even less time. Above all, we’ve felt the stress and pressure that comes with uncertainty about our economy, our health, and our future. 

Every year brings with it the opportunity for a fresh start, and 2021 is no exception. While we don’t yet know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us, we do know that there are still areas of our lives under our control. This article will talk about 4 key ways that we can plan for new career opportunities and possibilities in the year ahead. 

Take time to think about what you want from your career. When faced with external stress, many of us funnel our energy into our work. But if we’re not fulfilled in our careers, this can feel like treading water or running in circles. While our career paths evolve over time, one constant we should aim towards in every role is a sense of motivation and passion around our work. If you’re feeling burnt out, take a moment to think about why you chose your career path in the first place. How can you get back to those feelings of excitement and ambition that you felt when you first started? This may mean finding a related field that inspires you or learning skills that allow you to advance in your current role. 

Change your attitude about work. Especially during a global pandemic, work can simultaneously feel like an added source of stress and a lifeline. For our mental health and professional performance, though, it’s important to reframe the way we think about work. Experiencing too much work stress risks burnout, while feeling desperate to keep a job can impair our performance and career path. Instead, we recommend a middle path: view your current role as an asset and a stepping stone along your journey. Think about how you can learn, grow, and evolve within your current role to help advance your career, not simply hold onto a job for the short term. 

Review where you are and where you would like to go. Though taking time for reflection can be difficult in uncertain times, it’s important to assess your career path to ensure you’re on the right track. This can be as simple as setting aside some time each quarter to evaluate your career progress on your own, or as in-depth as working with a recruitment and placement consultant. Whichever path you choose, make sure you’re focused on what matters most: finding fulfilling, rewarding work that capitalizes on your personal strengths and beliefs. A period of reflection doesn’t just help identify opportunities for the future, but can also show you gaps and possibilities within your current role. 

Look for industries that are growing or holding steady. No one can predict with exact certainty what tomorrow’s powerhouse industries will look like. We can, however, make informed predictions based on trends we’ve seen in recent years. When thinking about a career path, consider industries that have proven to remain stable (or even grow) during times of uncertainty. These traditionally include healthcare, financial services, Software as a Service (SaaS), and IT and telecommunications. Within your field, there are likely “safe bets” that are worth considering as you think about a career shift. 

We may not be able to control the progress of a COVID-19 vaccine or a return to “normal,” but we can control the way we think about and approach our careers. Use the new year as an opportunity for rethinking, reinventing, and renewing your professional path forward.