How to Manage a Career Change During a Global Pandemic

by Kathrin Schmidt | May 25, 2021
Sina Warnecke recently started her new job as Executive Assistant to the Management Board at Mister Spex. Her former employer was hit by the pandemic, leaving her with some unexpected time to think about a career change. We talked to her about seizing opportunities and navigating change.

Interview with Sina Warnecke, Executive Assistant to the Management Board at Mister Spex

Sina Warnecke recently started her new job as Executive Assistant to the Management Board at Mister Spex. Her former employer was hit by the pandemic, leaving her with some unexpected time to think about a career change. As an alumna of the part-time master program, she reached out to her HHL network, getting in touch with alumni who were happy to share their experiences with her.

Pandemic encouraged a change in career

Looking back on her career, Sina has always enjoyed growing with new challenges and using her many talents to embrace new career opportunities. The first eight years of her career were spent working at the BLG Logistics Group, where she was responsible for the management of operational projects, specifically the planning and roll-out of new warehouses or the optimization of logistics processes for clients operating in diverse industries.

Travel industry hit hard by pandemic

While her job let her travel to exciting places like Tuscaloosa, USA, she was eventually ready to move on. Driven by the desire to broaden her understanding of strategic and holistic business contexts she enrolled at HHL in 2016. After finishing her studies, she joined Invia Travel Germany – an eCommerce company running portals such as “ab-in-den-Urlaub.de” – and supported the Management Board as Executive Assistant.

New chance in eCommerce industry

When the pandemic hit in 2020, she took the opportunity to follow her wish to combine her logistics background with the experiences she had gained in the field of eCommerce. Her search finally led her to Europe`s leading omnichannel optician Mister Spex, where she now supports the Management Board by working on strategic projects.

The part-time master’s program at HHL was the perfect opportunity for me to deepen my knowledge in management methods.

We talked to Sina about changing careers during a global pandemic, what role HHL has played in her career and what advice she has specifically for women in business.

Sina, why was a part-time master’s degree at HHL the right choice for you?

In 2016 I joined the part-time master’s in management program at HHL. As I had already taken several business classes during my bachelor’s degree in logistics, the master’s program at HHL was the perfect opportunity for me to deepen my knowledge in management methods. Overall, it was a combination of four factors that made studying at HHL the perfect choice for me:

  • I wanted to pursue a master’s degree at a Top Business School in Germany
  • To finance my studies, I wanted to stay fully employed and therefore searched for a program I could join part-time
  • I was looking for a weekend-based study program
  • When I participated in one of HHL’s information days on campus, I simply fell in love with the beautiful city of Leipzig. A few months later, I moved from Bremen to Leipzig, which I have now called home for almost 5 years.

How has studying at HHL shaped your career?

During my studies at HHL, I was lucky to be selected as a Coachee in the New Leipzig Talents program. My coach and I mainly worked on my FOMO (fear of missing out) that I found myself exposed to in a world full of infinite learning opportunities and millions of potential career paths.

Transferred to my career, the learnings from New Leipzig Talents helped me to focus on my individual energy fields to develop my strengths purposefully. But most importantly, New Leipzig Talents stopped me from comparing myself with others and made me feel totally fine with the status quo of my personal career.

New Leipzig Talents Program

About the Coaching Program

You recently switched jobs and now work at Mister Spex. How did you approach the job search during Covid-19?

Due to the pandemic, the eCommerce industry is booming, which leads to many well-skilled professionals applying in this field. I perceive the employer side to be rather careful when it comes to hiring new employees during the crisis.

Consequently, I found it quite challenging to switch jobs during Covid-19. That is why I approached HHL Alumni working in companies of interest for me, which moved my job search ahead quickly. Their shared first-hand insights helped me to safely navigate through my job search and enabled me to apply in a very targeted manner.

Rejection always should be interpreted as redirection towards something better. In some cases, rejection even means protection.

What has 2020 taught you about success and career goals?

In 2020 I was working for Invia Travel Germany. As the company sells holidays online, it has been hit hard by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the travel bans that went along with it. Consequently, the whole workforce has been set to short-time work.

Being used to working full-time and managing additional workloads like a part-time study program on top, I suddenly found myself with a lot of idle time on hand. Somehow, I felt as if someone had taken away my basis and definition of existence. Who am I without a job? What is my worth in our society? Asking myself these questions marked the first steps towards a new, important self-discovery.

2020 taught me that it is not just my career that defines me as a successful human being. I am defined by so much more. I am actually a much better version of myself when my focus is not always on my work.

What experience has left you feeling empowered in your career?

During my dual bachelor’s degree, I wanted to really challenge myself and spent one semester abroad at ITESM in Chihuahua, Mexico. Chihuahua State is located at the border of the United States and is known to be one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Seeing myself being able to navigate in such an environment, to adapt to cultural differences quickly and to express myself in a foreign language left me feeling empowered in my life and my career. My time in Mexico equipped me with a large portion of self-confidence, which encourages me to embrace new challenges regularly and forge new paths fearlessly.

2020 taught me that it is not just my career that defines me as a successful human being. I am defined by so much more.

What advice would you like to pass on to other women?

#1 Be an active networker! Don’t hesitate to contact people working in companies or industries of interest to you. Ask them what you would like to know, share your ideas with them. Contrary to the assumption that one could be annoying, I have learned that most people feel honored to be contacted. Mutual exchange often marks the starting point for new opportunities!

#2 Make yourself visible! Men who post about their achievements on LinkedIn are perceived to be “good networkers”, Women who do the same are perceived to be “needy”. We should change that by working out loud and show our successes with confidence!

#3 Don’t take rejection personally! Being rejected in application or promotion processes can be painful. However, please be aware that rejection always should be interpreted as redirection towards something better. In some cases, rejection even means protection. Learn to trust that everything will happen at just the right time!