NEW YORK If you knew Assane Savadogo before the pandemic, you might not recognize him now.
The 39-year-old worked as an Uber driver for years in New York City after fleeing an uprising in his native Burkina Faso. But after a conversation with one of his riders, he enrolled in a part-time coding course with Flatiron School.
Once the pandemic hit last spring, Savadogo decided to step back from driving and focus full-time on his studies. After graduating, he got a job as a software engineer in Seattle with Liberty Mutual.
He is entering the summer of 2021 as a new, relaunched version of himself: Savadogo 2.0. “The pandemic motivated me, and helped me double down on making a change,” Savadogo said. “It really opened my eyes.”
You may encounter a lot of people like Savadogo as we begin to emerge from this pandemic.
Turns out there is good reason for that. This whole difficult year made us rethink a lot of things about our lives, including career paths – and some workers are coming out very different from how they went in.
“This is actually an amazing moment for making change,” says Katy Milkman, professor at The Wharton School and author of the new book “How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be”.
“We tend to think of ourselves as protagonists in a book, with our lives unfolding in chapters," Milkman adds. "Each chapter break feels like a new beginning: ‘That was the old me, this is the new me.’"
Whether by choice or by force, many Americans have been reevaluating their careers and whether they are on the right path.
In one survey from Indeed.com, 27% of unemployed jobseekers are looking to switch fields. According to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, 25% of respondents said they were planning to search for a new employer after the pandemic subsides. Among Millennials that number is even higher, at 34%.
In short, the nature of this year – the extended isolation, the revised goals and priorities, the sense that our time is limited – may see you emerging from your cocoon in a different form.
But change is never easy. Here are four tips to upgrade yourself without crashing the system.
CREATE DETAILED PLANS
“You can’t just define a big goal and expect it to magically happen,” Milkman says. “You need to be strategic in how you achieve those goals. Be a tactician about it.”
A corollary of that: Do not take on so many big goals that they overwhelm you, and you end up achieving none of them. Instead, identify one goal as the major priority, and then start defining the action steps to make it happen.
ESTABLISH NEW ROUTINES
It is notoriously hard to break old habits, but the mass disruption of the pandemic era may have done that for you. That is why research shows that people are most successful at creating change in fresh environments, such as moving to a new home or transferring to a new college.
“If you haven’t been to the office in 14 months, then you don’t have all those old habits in your schedule,” Milkman says. “You can build them from scratch. Now you have all these opportunities to create new routines.”
BUILD ADVICE HUBS
On your own, career change may seem like a steep hill to climb. When paired with others who are intent on achieving the same thing, your odds of success are much higher.
“Surround yourself with peers who are striving for similar goals and making progress,” Milkman says. “It shows you what’s possible, helps you become more confident, and you can emulate strategies. Learn from each other.”
SET A DATE
The reason why New Year's Day is popular for making resolutions is because it is a powerful anchor for our psyches.
The pandemic is a little trickier, since our recovery has been so gradual and fitful. But you can still remember key dates from this year, that will help seal off the past and propel you forward.
“Everyone probably has their own independent landmarks,” Milkman says. “Maybe when you went back to school, or got your vaccine, or first got on a plane, or saw a relative again."
Each one of these moments is a fresh start, the more the better.
"Each marker is a huge opportunity for change,” Milkman adds.
(Editing by Lauren Young and David Gregorio)