How I Changed Careers During the Pandemic

by Angela Araujo on September 14, 2021

“What will you accomplish during quarantine? What is the version of yourself that you want to see when we get past this?” 

This is what I saw and heard through my phone as I was on minute 27588442 of scrolling on Instagram in March 2020. A life coach I had followed for a while was metaphorically “screaming” this message at me and her hundreds of thousands of followers, asking how we will be using all our “free time” now that we were locked in our homes due to a global pandemic.

To most of the world, including myself, the global lockdown caused well-justified anxiety. 

But - it also did the opposite. It gave me time to really listen to my thoughts, I was motivated and fired up to get out of my comfort zone and reach for a professional life that was more fulfilling, meaningful and true to myself. 

2020 started as planned. In January, I had left the comfort of working for my family’s business and began my first semester of the Human Resources Management program at McMaster University. I was embarking on a major life change in pursuing a new career. The plan was to complete all my courses, begin job searching in September, and by December, secure a new entry level position at a company as an in-house Human Resources professional. 

That was the plan.

But just like for many of us, all my plans for 2020 went out the window. 

March through May of 2020 was kind of a dream. I woke up early every morning to work out and did my coursework while the kids completed their schoolwork. We were very fortunate that when my husband’s work shut down for six weeks, they paid all their employees their full wages. This left us with the ability to just enjoy some much-needed downtime. This was only going to be temporary, right?

With no plans or anywhere to go, every weekend I’d try my hands at a new dessert recipe for family movie and game night. I baked bread, made cinnamon buns, and even found a recipe that recreated Wonderland’s famous funnel cakes. Outside of my tight-knit family bubble, all of my social interactions moved to Zoom. My book club meetings and girl’s night get-togethers were now done through a screen. 

By June we realized that our vacation overseas to see family was definitely not going to happen. 

But it was OK - we knew we were doing what we had to do.

Day-to-day life slowly became more stressful knowing that Covid-19 was not going away any time soon. The realization of everything that was bad in the world was getting very heavy. However, with all those thoughts and feelings spinning in my mind, I also realized I had to stick to my plan and stay consistent with the goals I had set out to do.

I still grappled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome about switching careers. Anyone who has embarked on a major career change can tell you that it’s not easy. You have all these amazing transferable skills from your former career, but you’re still in an ‘entry-level’ position.  

Still, I can tell you that I’m living proof that transitioning into a second career is very possible and completely doable. Did my plans pan out as I wanted? Nope, not at all. But I believe that things happen when they’re supposed to, and that is exactly what happened to me in 2020. 

While more than half-way through my studies, I started job searching in August of 2020. I also joined an amazing networking group and started reaching out to friends of friends who worked in the HR field. I even made new connections on LinkedIn and asked them if they knew of any open HR roles in their network.

Ready to start my career in HR, I applied to at least 5 job postings per day, with little to no response.

Did I get frustrated? 

One-hundred and fifty percent. 

Did I give up? 

Nope. As I completed more and more networking calls, I realized that I was envious of those people who had worked in-house as an HR professional for several years and who had since gone into consulting. 

I started wishing I could go back in time to choose HR as my career path just so I could now be in a better position to apply for a consulting role. 

Fast forward to today.

I have a consulting role at an amazing HR & growth firm, ScaleX. 

I met ScaleX’s founder & CEO Maysa Hawwash in the networking group I had joined earlier in 2020. After I landed the role, I jumped right into ScaleX’s operations. As soon as I joined, things got busy very quickly. In my first week, I held meetings with the CEO of one company and the HR director of another. Before I knew it, I was using everything that I learned about recruitment to source for a very technical niche role in addition to several growing responsibilities. 

And to say it was intimidating would be an understatement. 

It took a lot of mental energy to block the imposter syndrome trying to take over my thoughts. I was determined to be successful and earn my place at the company, and it paid off because I became ScaleX’s first full-time hire. 

Since then, our team at ScaleX has grown to seven members and we’re still expanding. I feel very fortunate to work with a team of amazing and knowledgeable individuals who have helped me to broaden my professional skills and experiences. 

This journey to become an HR professional has taught me so much. I had to learn on my feet and figure things out much faster than before, but here I was - having accomplished my goal and proven to myself that yes, I can achieve great things.

So, what did I do with all my free time during the pandemic? I completed my certification in Human Resources and landed a kickass HR consulting job. 

Moral of the story? 

Anything is possible. It’s never too late to try, no matter what stage you find yourself in life.

If you want something, even something as big as a major career change, just know - you can and will make it happen.

Topics: COVID-19, Leadership, Scale Up