How to Transition Careers During a Pandemic

Hear what tips three Kogod alums and the assistant dean of career services have for transitioning careers during a pandemic.

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On September 17, Kogod’s director of alumni relations, Jim Waite, hosted another installment of Kogod Connections, a monthly conversation with different alumni from around the world who provide insight into contemporary topics in the business world. This time, the discussion centered around career transitions during a pandemic with moderator Raina Gandhi, Kogod’s assistant dean of career services.

Gandhi began by explaining three ways that professionals can leverage what they learned and experienced during the pandemic as a tool for discovering what the best next steps are in their careers.

First, determine your ideal working environment. “This pandemic has been a vehicle for understanding what we need to do well in our jobs, thrive, and what mode of work is best suited for each of us,” says Gandhi. “Maybe you’re most productive if you’re working from home, maybe you miss the social company of your colleagues, or maybe you need both of those things.”

Second, think about how your employer has approached the pandemic. “Evaluate how you view your company and leadership. Did your employer treat you fairly? How did they navigate uncertainty?” poses Gandhi.

Third, decide where you want to be. Gandhi stresses the importance of professionals not being so limited on physical proximity to specific companies anymore, making it easier for people to identify organizations that share their values regardless of where they’re located in the world.

After identifying these three points, Gandhi interviewed three alums who recently transitioned to new careers during the pandemic. Steven Paige (MBA ’18), Deborah Ostreicher (MBA ’90), and Troy Cornell (MBA ’18) each spoke about the strategies they used and lessons they learned during the transition.

Paige switched from his long-time career as a consultant in healthcare to focus full-time on his own business, Delta Hollywood Productions, which he had been running on the side for years. After witnessing a lack of communication between higher-ups at his company, he decided it was time to move on. “Understand the signs that your career gives you,” says Paige. He was previously able to move on from a company just before it collapsed because he took notice of missteps from above.

Ostreicher, who worked in the airline industry for over 20 years as the assistant director at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, now owns her own business, Distinguished Communications, where she helps individuals and teams communicate effectively and make the most of their time with their audiences. “Over the years–even though it wasn’t my job–I was asked to teach people how to get their message across in a presentation. I trained hundreds of people, and when they would move to new jobs, they would call and ask me to send them more trainings,” says Ostreicher. “When the pandemic hit, I realized travel was going down the tubes for a while, and I was eligible for a pension, so that was the impetus for me saying, ‘ Let me transition to my own company full time.’” The pandemic provided not only a natural time of transition, but it also allowed Ostreicher to help others communicate over Zoom and reach a worldwide audience.

Cornell worked for a global economic and financial consultancy, the US Congress, and the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington before moving into his new role as the business development manager for the company Aronson. He focused on the way he felt about his career. “Who I surround myself with and the culture that I am within has become equally as important to me as how I am being compensated for my time,” says Cornell. “I want to feel welcomed when I go to work.” Cornell stresses the importance of looking at suboptimal experiences and allowing these to guide you as much as optimal work experiences.

These three alums shared the common tactic of using their past work experiences to help them piece together the right combination of environment, approach, and location.

Gandhi explained that as people feel more comfortable congregating again, those looking for a change in their career can be early movers.

The panelists agreed that it is important not to underestimate your resources, especially as Kogod alumni.

Reach out to the Office of Career Engagement for advice, guidance, and to connect with current students, faculty, staff, and other alumni.

Check out the webinar to hear more from Gandhi and the Kogod alumni about their career transitions and for more tips on successfully navigating a career change during the pandemic.