Taking A Leap of Faith: Why did I make a career transition during a pandemic and how can you do it?

If you are following VoicePoints and my blogs, you would have read an open letter to my mid-20 self, which I published last 31 December 2019. I revealed that I was in a mid-life crisis. I wasn’t sure where would life bring me. I didn’t know what direction to take.

More than two months later, pandemic happened. The first months were a struggle. I felt unproductive, even asking my team that I would be taking an every Friday timeoff. From being an introverted person since day one to my early years in the industry, to being a social impact advocate, and now my environment has changed again. My daily routine has changed. Twenty per cent of my day was dedicated to travelling from my apartment to the office, office to universities, to conventions and conferences. Thanks to pandemic, the current environment has given us all pause to look deeply into how we spend our time. My time, for example, for reading books has increased. My passion and purpose were redefined.

During our 2020 virtual yearender, I was asked what were the lessons I learned about myself during the pandemic. I answered two words – thankful, grateful. The pandemic allowed me to think clearly about myself, my career and our family. I am a career-oriented man, my career is next to my faith and family. I would always choose these three, in that order. When going back to office was uncertain, I decided to leave my life in the business district and went home in the province. My perspectives changed. From being an introverted person to a professional, I saw a perspective that I have never seen before – being grateful and appreciating even the smallest things. After more than a year of watching people I love and care about suffer the effects of the pandemic I’ve gained an appreciation for the fragility of life and how quickly it can be taken away from us. It puts things into perspective.

Accounting was not a thing for me until after my first year in the industry. I was passionate about science, technology, journalism and laws. I joined the public practice of the accounting profession last 2015. Back then, I was firm about my decision that I would only experience it. After one audit busy season, I decided to leave but it didn’t push through. I realized I was happy, and I was in the process of developing my passion. I found it. In 2018, I decided to move to another Big Four firm. They asked me to lead their Data Analytics Group that they are trying to establish. I already received the contract, but two weeks before my start date, I decided to decline the offer. On my supposed first day, I changed hat as an auditor and moved to our firm’s professional practice department. I became part of the consulting group of auditors and other firm professionals, my training facilitation load increased, handled special projects, the Audit and Assurance leadership asked me to lead the Audit Innovation and Data & Analytics local network, and the Firm leadership me asked me to sit as a member of the People Committee. During this time, I found my purpose. I loved my role and the profession. That’s why you would always hear me in talks that my definition of passion is not about doing what you love, but loving what you do.

During the first quarter of this year, I had to make a decision. It was a product of a year asking myself what I would want to do. Six partners in our firm, including our Head of Audit and Assurance and Risk Management Partner, asked me if I am not interested of becoming a partner because they see me as a professional in that role. I was firm to say a negative answer because I don’t see myself in a leadership role, but as a mentor and coach. I presented the reasons why I am leaving our local firm – environment, challenge and growth. Being with our local firm for six years, I felt that I was too comfortable about myself and my environment. I’ve seen the larger picture and when I saw that, I didn’t feel the challenge anymore. I no longer feel the excitement. I no longer feel that I am growing. I felt that our local firm has given me all the challenges and growth that I needed so like a fish in a small aquarium, I needed to jump to a bigger one or to the ocean.

Enough of my story. I want to give you advices and post questions to you. Mid-life crisis is a big deal and a process. Career transition has to consider everything. Are you ready to take on that challenge? But the more important thing is, are you ready to make this kind of decision and how can you do it? It’s hard to come to this conclusion. It’s even harder to reinvent yourself and start all over again.

Don’t make big career move just to simply address your current career issues

Maybe one of your issues is that you feel unhappy working from home or dealing with other factors related to COVID-19. These concerns are tied to the realities of the pandemic rather than your role. Another example – if you’re a teacher, you may find yourself struggling with remote learning, but you’ve always loved teaching, so you may decide to stay. On the other hand, if you were already frustrated or dissatisfied with your teaching career and the pandemic has brought those feelings, you might decide that this is a good time for you to explore new career path.

Do you feel unappreciated? Do you have struggles getting along with your superiors and even became harder when you are working from home? Do you feel unhappy with the direction of your team or the firm? Do you have issues on your workload? Be honest with yourself about whether the issues pushing you away from your current job are likely to crop up again in another company. However, if you don’t like doing the kind of work you’ve been doing or don’t see a future in the company as a whole, you might be looking for a bigger change.

Assess if you are making a decision out of emotion or out of rational thought

You may be making decisions in the middle of an event where emotions are high. Be honest with yourself about how you are handling things. Do you feel unproductive, unmotivated or stagnant because of the current situation? Are these the reasons why you are planning to leave. Separate your thoughts and feelings – it’s difficult, yes, but important. Think clearly and rationally. Wait and think more before making any moves.

Be prepared to deal with two life-altering events at the same time

Living through a pandemic and making a career move are both major life events. If you think launching your new career now might be too difficult or stressful, you might decide that this isn’t the right time. For example, you accepted an offer in a startup company and everything is virtual until everything gets better. This means you might only work with your teammates virtually for a while. Is this what you are expecting?

What are you looking for in your new career

As mentioned in the first part of this blog post, when I decided things – I focus on environment, challenge and growth. The offer package was secondary. Instead of being motivated by money and status, I would always seek out opportunities that offer meaning and a sense of purpose. Last March, I had global opportunities to take roles in global and central teams of our network in the US, UK or Germany. I was also offered an accounting head role in a multinational company with operations in the Philippines. But I didn’t choose them. When I was having discussions with the representatives from those teams, I told myself that I belong there. But the offer in the Middle East region came. I felt the challenge to accept it as I will be joining a regional team that they organized two years ago, building their system of quality management, taking part in their audit quality transformation initiatives, and providing learning and development programs to the professionals around its region. I accepted the offer and left our local firm in the Philippines.

When choosing an organization, I would always ask myself if I’d be making a difference. Ask yourself if you’re making a difference in your current career. If not, instead of stopping there, ask yourself what career path would make you feel that you are making a difference and whether you can envision yourself being fulfilled in that type of role.

Get creative about your options

Obviously, talents have a lot of opportunities because demands are high, so you need to stay competitive and think about which industries are thriving right now. For example, if you are looking into a career in accounting in commerce and industry, you probably will look into groceries and hospitals or pharmaceuticals.

Know your non-negotiables

When you’re searching, know which factors are must-haves. If you are planning to work abroad, for example, you would choose a firm that would allow you to go to your home country twice or once a year. When it comes to salary, do your research first prior to the interview and know the salary range for the position and industry you’re interested in. Know the cost of living and know to ask for the top of the range by making an argument for why you deserve that. That’s why it’s really important to invest on skills and for yourself, not just titles. Titles will give you, just titles. But for every profession, skill is king. You need to stay relevant by learning new things.

Make yourself relevant

A professional can make him or herself relevant by reassessing one’s skills and acquire new ones. For example, I started my career as an external auditor in our local firm and diversified my portfolio by exploring data science, essential skills and speaking engagements. Maybe you feel stagnant because you are not growing yourself. Always go out of your comfort zone.

Assess if financial resources are enough to support a career change

Can you build your savings for a few months to give yourself a cushion to fall back on during your transition? Ask yourself if it could be wiser to wait before making a change.

Maybe it’s time to do what makes you happy

For six years, I have devoted my life showing my best and progressing my career. Now that I’ve redefined my passion and purpose, I realized it’s time to do what makes me happy – exploring the world again, writing and telling stories, coaching and mentoring younger generation of professionals and dreamers.

Seek the help of a career coach

In trying times, it’s entirely possible to doubt yourself. You may also think that your career switch is unrealistic or too ambitious. If you are feeling cynical about the career change, seek professional help from a career coach. This will help you gain a fresh and reliable perspective on your experience, skills and career goals.

Environment continues to change. Be adaptable

When you apply for a job, you need to convey adaptability. Show how your abilities adapt to the your new environment.

Source: tvn

You may have other things to consider in your list. Assess, take your time, then decide. Seo Dal-mi of the Korean drama series ‘Start-Up’ said that “You don’t regret your choice the moment you make it” but after you chose it. So think carefully and be firm when you already have taken a choice. You lose credibility when you don’t put full commitment to your decision. But when it’s firm, people will respect you and will respect your decisions. Don’t be afraid to seek advice or to share the result of your decision-making process. If you are a leader, don’t be afraid when you lose a member in your team. A leader supports a member whose intention is for growth and challenge. A leader builds a leader, not just for a team but for the larger community. If you are still exploring your career journey, be a driver. A driver is willing to wait for the go signal and knows when to stop and take a rest. Be a driver of your own motivation. If it excites you, do it. If it challenges you, explore it. If it makes you happy, make it your destination. But always know that when you want to be in a certain place, you’ll face struggles and roadblocks. Enjoy every pace of your journey until you get to that destination. You can be happy even if you haven’t reached your destination yet. It’s a choice. 

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About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloChief Executive Editor
PJ is a CPA, writer, storyteller, environment and youth advocate. As a writer, his articles on national development were published in a Spanish newspaper and local news network Rappler. As a storyteller and environment advocate, his documentary films on mining and environment were featured by ABS-CBN News and GMA News. He launched his career as a CPA at KPMG in the Philippines in 2015. He started his professional journey as an external auditor of a global workspace provider (the largest audit client of KPMG in the Philippines), global bank, leading MFCG in the Philippines and a number of shared service centres. As an auditor, his team won the KPMG Asia-Pacific Data & Analytics Challenge and coached the Philippine team that placed third to the KPMG GlobalRunner Cup. More than two years later, he led KPMG in the Philippines’ Network of Audit Innovators and Data & Analytics Champions and its academic arm, while serving as a member of the KPMG Asia-Pacific Audit Digital Transformation Workstream. He has a strong background across the full life cycle of data and analytics (D&A) and audit methodology. He served as a member of the Audit Methodology Group and Root Cause Analysis Team of KPMG in the Philippines. He was a regular training facilitator of KPMG on audit methodology, innovation, data and analytics, professional standards and regulatory updates. He also served as a coach for newly promoted supervisors. PJ was also the Firm’s System of Quality Management Implementation Manager and a Workforce of the Future Champion. He was also a Sampling Specialist of the Firm. In 2019, PJ was a member of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)’s Technical Working Group on Audit Methodology. PJ led in developing some of the innovative solutions of KPMG in the Philippines. Above all, PJ is a people investor. He invests on people who have potential and talents. That makes him a coach and mentor to some young professionals in the profession and served as a People Committee member of KPMG in the Philippines. He leads advocacy projects that help communities. He produces vlogs thru his YouTube channel, PJspirations which features stories of different individuals. Currently, he is the Academic Master and Head Coach of PREMIERE Professional Development Center, which provides coaching, mentoring, training and learning programs and platforms that promote growth and development in every individual’s life and career. He is also with the Middle East region of KPMG as a member of its Professional Practice group, providing subject matter knowledge and guidance on audit methodology, and learning and development programs to its offices. He is a proud Ilocano and a graduate of Northwestern University.