- Three workers told Insider why they started new careers in software development during the pandemic.
- A former bartender said the pandemic made him realize how little time he spent with his wife.
- An ex-chef still does part-time restaurant work to “scratch that itch” to work in a kitchen.
Massive lay-offs, remote working, and caring responsibilities have forced thousands of Americans to consider switching their careers during the pandemic.
Some were forced out of their roles because their employers downsized or even shut down during the pandemic. Others have been “rage quitting” in search of better pay and conditions.
People were suffering from work fatigue too, according to Shaun McAlmont, president of career learning at lifelong-education company Stride. The pandemic gave people the opportunity to change “their entire work circumstance,” he said.
Insider spoke to three workers about why they swapped their jobs in the hospitality and entertainment industries to get into software development during the pandemic.
The Disney dancer
Melanie Anderson had been working at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as a parade dancer, and her career path was “pretty much set.”
Then the performing-arts sector collapsed during the pandemic, and it became clear she needed to look for other options.
So she enrolled in a bootcamp from Tech Elevator, which consisted of live remote classes alongside careers support.
After graduating in February 2021, she was “at a crossroads again” because the vaccine rollout had given her hope that the performing-arts sector would bounce back. But she wanted a job with security — and started working for the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Anderson said mass layoffs and furloughs across the industry had forced former colleagues to make career changes, too. Some taught classes online, while others got retail jobs or made their side jobs full-time.
Anderson said she hoped to return to performing arts part-time: “In their hearts, everyone is very much hoping for the performing arts to come back.”
Before the pandemic, Aaron Kolatch had been working as a bartender in New York City, most recently at the NoMad Hotel in Brooklyn.
“I made a really good living as a bartender,” and was “hyper-qualified” in the industry, he said.
But he had got married in December 2019, and found his job at odds with married life. He told Insider that he worked evening shifts and often went to bed at 4 a.m. — making it difficult to spend time with his wife, who worked in an office.
“When all the bars in New York shut down, it was probably the first time in the five years we’ve spent together that I’d actually got to see her on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
“I think a lot of people in hospitality for the first time got to experience what the rest of the world experiences.”
When lockdown first started, Kolatch looked into alternative careers, and stumbled upon software development while learning how to modify a video game.
He decided to sign up for Hack Reactor‘s bootcamp. He’s now looking for a job in software development while working for Hack Reactor.
The pandemic “made it easier than it would have been” to switch careers, Kolatch said.
Drew Hall had worked in the restaurant industry in Philadelphia for 18 years, including 10 as a chef, before the pandemic struck.
He sometimes worked 80 hours a week, and had even missed vacations and weddings for work, but said: “I loved what I did, even the hours.”
Hall had considered changing jobs before the pandemic, but wasn’t sure how he’d find time to return to education.
But his restaurant shut down during the pandemic and he had “tons of time” to take part in Tech Elevator’s bootcamp.
Hall now works as a software developer for PNC, but spends three days a week working as a butcher at a restaurant. “It scratches that itch that I have to still be in a kitchen,” he said.
He has no regrets about switching careers and is already planning three summer trips.