How has the pandemic changed the way you view your job?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

First I stared at him and was at a loss for words. And then I gave it a stab.

These are important questions.

But the short answer is that the pandemic has made me feel vulnerable about work in a way I’ve never experienced, as well as forced me to look with clear eyes at the future of the kind of work I’ve done for decades.

In addition, it really has made me pause and think deeply about my priorities, what matters to me in the kind of work I do and how I do it.

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I’m working harder than ever. I’m grateful to have great clients, and fortunately, I have been able to continue to sock away funds for retirement, and I’ve not had to dip into savings.

It has shown me that it can all go away in a snap, and you need to be nimble and curious and open to creative ways of working without being stuck on what you’ve always done.

You have to be willing to say yes, take a chance and keep your mind sharp with learning new things and taking classes that will keep skills up-to-date and relevant.

I admit, I’m relieved that I’m not someone who lost a job in a layoff or was swayed to retire early as many colleagues in my age cohort have in recent months. That’s an upside of running your own shop. I treasure the independence of feeling in control that being self-employed provides.

When pressed, many of those workers I’ve interviewed who accepted a package admitted that the pandemic spooked them to grab it because they were worried that if there was more downsizing to come, the package might not be an option for them down the road. They felt their age created an unspoken target on their back.

(This isn’t uncommon. Check out this MarketWatch column I wrote on accepting an early retirement package.)

Most of the people I know who accepted an early retirement package aren’t really done working. The package may be called “early retirement,” but they aren’t thinking retirement.

Their mind-set is one of renewal. They’re looking for a chance to shift to something new with the security of their buyout package to ease the way with a financial cushion while they take the necessary steps to transition to being their own boss or stepping into a new field.

Even if they didn’t grab a package or get laid off, the Great Resignation or Big Quit is real for droves of workers. As much as 65% of employees said they are looking for a new job, according to  PwC’s latest U.S. Pulse Survey, survey, conducted Aug. 2-6, of 1,007 employees and 752 executives in the U.S.

Meantime, 88% of executives said their company is experiencing higher turnover than normal.

For employees looking for new opportunities, schedule flexibility, expanded benefits and compensation are top incentives, according to PwC’s findings. “Companies should expect candidates to negotiate hard for what they now see as table stakes: competitive packages and perks coupled with flexibility and expanded benefits such as career growth and upskilling opportunities.”

Moreover, career transition is certainly one of the big movements emerging in the new workplace. A recent FlexJobs survey of more than 4,600 workers found that although many individuals stepped away from the paid workforce due to the pandemic, they’re poised to return, but not to the same line of work.

Nearly 70% of respondents said they would consider changing careers. The No. 1 reason people want to change careers is to be in a job or field with a better work-life balance (56%), which is ahead of a higher salary (50%).

Other reasons included: Wanting a more meaningful or fulfilling career (49%); To expand their professional skill set (43%); Lack of advancement or growth opportunities in their current career (27%); Approaching retirement and looking for a career change as a “second act” (19%); To pursue a passion or hobby (17%); Wanting to turn a side hustle into a full-time career (10%).

While many of these studies don’t specifically separate out workers over 50 or 60, this is a common theme I’ve found in my reporting with experienced workers in the past few months. They say this pandemic period, even if they haven’t “retired” or being laid off, has given them permission to move in a new direction, to get excited about work again, to follow a passion or pursue a field that they had put on the back burner before or start their own business.

For those considering a career transition, research shows training is particularly nonnegotiable. The report, “Meeting the World’s Midcareer Moment,” published by Generation, a global employment nonprofit, found that 74% of midcareer workers who have successfully switched to a new career see the skills they learned in training as being critical in landing a new position. And 3 in 4 employers report that when hiring they view training and certifications in line with having germane experience in a job when hiring.

As for my friend’s second question: Where do I see myself in 10 years? I’m taking some time with this one.

How about you?

Readers: Let us know how the pandemic has changed the way you view your job.

By Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is an expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From HomeNever Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneurs Guide To Starting a Business Mid-LifeGreat Jobs for Everyone 50+, and Money Confidence. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

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