I have been working abroad for several years now and returning to the US and living with my family in my childhood home was certainly not what I envisioned when I initially left the United States. My plan had been to stay until my contracts ended (while using that time to find a job on the East Coast) and relocate directly to the DC area.

Needless to say, the pandemic got in the way of that plan.

As I’m sure anyone who has lived abroad can tell you, coming back home is strange. Although I can’t speak for everyone’s personal experience, I do know that I felt (and still) feel like the same person, but on another level, I know that I am not.

While my goals of relocating to the East Coast and working within international affairs haven’t changed, the pandemic has prompted me to re-evaluate my career and the way I am job searching. Here are some things I’m doing in order to re-evaluate my career.

5 Things I Am Doing As I Re-Evaluate My Career In The Midst of a Pandemic

I Am Assessing What Is it Exactly About My New Target Field that Excites Me

It is important to be able to explain pivots in your career trajectory. Any potential employer (or connection) is going to want to know a bit about your background and why you are interested in the field.

Moreover, the ability to fully articulate what it is about a particular field that excites you and the sort of position you are looking for allows you to craft an effective elevator pitch to a potential connection. It also allows you to narrow down your list of potential employers.

In order to determine what it is about international affairs that excites me, I have had informational interviews with people in the field, continued consuming relevant media, attended virtual events hosted by organizations I find interesting, and read job descriptions online. While I am aware that these are not the only things you can do to determine what it is that excites you about a particular industry, they are a start.

I Am Identifying What my Values Are and Searching for Companies that Align

I often compare finding a company that resonates with your values to working in a restaurant; you will have a much easier time explaining and selling the product you are selling if you like the food.

Reflect on your past professional experiences. Each of those experiences highlights what you like and didn’t like, which is a great way to identify your values.

It is highly unlikely that you will find a company that ticks every one of your boxes, but it is still important to ensure that you resonate with what the company stands for. Interviewing current employees (through informational interviews) is a great way to get a feel for how an organization runs and what they value. 

I Am Networking with People Who Are In The Field (Or Have Made A Similar Transition)

Networking with people who have made similar (or identical) transitions gives you great information (what to expect in a specific position, for example), hope, and new ideas.

This may mean sending cold LinkedIn connection invitations on some occasions. While it is obviously best to be introduced to someone through mutual connections, sometimes that isn’t an option. In my experience, being clear about why you are interested in connecting with them is key. Keeping the communication courteous and (relatively) short is also effective.

I Am Networking with People I Already Know

Networking with people you already know is key to maintaining a strong network. Reaching out to people you know who have experience in the field is a great way to learn more about a particular industry without the initial awkwardness of meeting with someone you are meeting for the first time.

After I returned to the US, I’ve made it a point to keep in touch with people that I met in Japan while simultaneously reaching out to people in my network stateside. 

Taking the initiative and reaching out to people has generally been received positively. People are usually pleasantly surprised to hear from you, and willing to answer any questions 

Look at your contacts’ LinkedIn profiles; you never know what sort of experience your contacts may have gained since you last contacted them. For example, I reached out to someone I knew from high school because I discovered that she has since gained a lot of experience in the field of international development. 

Listening to her experiences gave me hope. She also generously provided me with various suggestions and avenues I could explore, which was helpful. You never know what your existing contacts may know or even who they know.

I Am Spending Time Improving My Skills

Amidst applying for jobs, I have been taking the time to brush up on past skills and retain the ones I have gained while abroad. In my case, this means improving my language skills and actively searching for volunteer opportunities to brush up on my social media copywriting skills.

While it is important to search for jobs, it is equally as important to spend time brushing up on your skills.

Improving your skills, regardless of what they are, is a great use of your time, and good way to give yourself a break amidst all the applications.

Patience is key in any job search process; in the midst of a pandemic, it’s even more so. The people and companies you are reaching out to are all going through the same thing. Finding a job during a pandemic is difficult, but it isn’t impossible.