COVID-19, a powerful force for organisational change

Boardroom cartoon: 'Change can be ruf'

By Katherine Wiid of Career Ambitions

Who could have predicted the course of events that we’ve seen over the past 12 months? Some might say Bill Gates, or even The Simpsons! A global pandemic was certainly not factored into my plans. Was it factored into yours? Or has the pandemic prompted an unexpected level of change for your organisation?

If you work in the world of people, then 2020 was probably the most challenging year of your career! Challenges were thrown at you from all angles - including helping your team adapt to remote working, supporting employee’s mental health from afar, dealing with the furlough scheme, possibly making redundancies, and more.

How did it change what your organisation had planned for the past 12 months?

All that change will not just have had an effect on you, but also on your team. Career transition is something that many are now grappling with - whether they’re taking on additional responsibility or having to look for a new job opportunity as a result of redundancy.

How are you supporting your employees through this period of change?

Being prepared for change can put your employees in a more positive mindset. If you’re making team members redundant, then many will offer the obvious support - such as coaching or help writing a CV or updating a LinkedIn profile. The practical stuff. But it’s not just these obvious things that your employees (or ex employees) would appreciate your help with. How can you (or an outplacement specialist) help them, whether they are staying or going,  really future proof their careers? If they’re leaving, offering this support will ensure a positive reputation for your organisation. And if they’re staying, it will build a more robust team who can bounce back from times of uncertainty and periods of change.

As a career management coach I have increasingly in the last 12 months been working with career professionals who say they feel they are in limbo. They were accustomed to being in charge of their careers. They knew where they were heading, had a plan on how to get there. Even when the future is fairly predictable, career change can be scary. It is even more so in a global crisis and UK job market that’s seriously shaky. Many people are now facing an unplanned career change. Whether that’s seeking a new role following redundancy, deciding on a change of direction after having had time off on furlough to reevaluate their career, or having been forced to change industry following multiple lockdowns.

Since the pandemic hit, over 11.4 million jobs have been furloughed under the UK Government’s job retention scheme (you can read the full stats here if you’re interested). If you were impacted by the last economic recession in 2008 / 2009, you will remember what a shock wave that had on so many of our careers.

For me personally, 2008 meant having to make my six staff redundant, sublet our offices (eventually) and reinvent myself. That did not happen overnight – in fact it took five years of experimenting and trying out new identities. I was grappling with questions like:

“I don’t know where to begin”

“I’m not sure which choices are the right ones”

“What if I fail?”

It was a stressful and extremely uncomfortable time. And this is exactly what many of your employees might be facing currently, as a result of COVID.

Now I am so much better off than the thousands who now find themselves going through what I did. And I am grateful that the soul searching and discomfort I went through has allowed me to bounce back and use my experiences to coach and mentor others.

Three tips to help your employees face career change head on and turn it into a purposeful experience, while future proofing and strengthening their career.

With feelings of panic and fear taking over their minds, how can you help your people go from being a rabbit in the headlights to being able to confidently take that first step towards a new career?  Feel free to pass on the following tips to your team (or get in touch, I’d love to help!)…

1. Get to know yourself first.

The first stage is to understand that our careers are an extension of who we are. They’re not just a job we show up to, get done and leave. We are emotionally attached to them! They give us a sense of identity and purpose. So making a career change is far more than just changing what we do. To make a successful career change, we need to change ourselves first.

2. Ask yourself forward-thinking questions.

Instead of those questions that make us look backwards when we are feeling panic and fear, ask yourself:

“Who could my possible selves be?”

“Who do I know and dont yet know? Who do I need to know?”

“What do I need to DO? What should I test and try out to discover new possibilities?”

Asking these questions will allow you to learn so much about yourself - and open up new directions for your career go in. Be honest with yourself - what risks are you prepared to take in this new COVID landscape? Then figure out who can help you get where you want to go.

3. Don’t rush the process.

You might want to throw your CV out into the job market quickly and get a job just so you are doing something and earning some money. Don’t! That would be a waste of time and energy and put you at risk of extending the uncertainty of your career in the months ahead.

Think of this unexpected career change as an opportunity to reevaluate and redefine you. Savour it. We have long lives ahead of us, and many more hours to work. We owe it to ourselves to become someone we are proud of, rather than someone we feel we ought to be.


Need someone to help guide you, or your employees, through a period of change?

Katherine Wiid helps her clients through the limbo land of career change and guides them through the tricky thoughts and feelings that come with it. She knows that changing career is not easy to do on your own. She encourages people to test the waters, step outside their comfort zone and ultimately secure a career that they look forward to going to work for.

If you'd like to get in touch please take a look at the Career Ambitions website or call Katherine on 01223 633535.


Based in Cambridge, Career Ambitions has a strong reputation for enabling highly-trained and talented individuals to get through major career change, redundancy and/or indecision to realise their career potential and meet their ambitions.

Career Ambitions