Covid-19 brought big-earning industries like aviation, tourism and retail to a sudden standstill.
Government support helped save more jobs than had been forecast, but not everyone survived.
RNZ spoke to three New Zealanders about how they found a silver lining in a pandemic pivot.
Kimberly Eyles was coming to terms with being made redundant six months ago during lockdown, after 15 years working with Virgin Australia.
"It was a really, really difficult pill to swallow, far more than I could have ever imagined. My brain was struggling to even fathom that I was permanently un-packed."
She had since landed on her feet, transitioning from flight attending to customer services management on the Interislander Ferry.
"I have now managed to challenge myself and go from aviation to maritime. So now I have a wee cabin onboard the Interislander and I manage a crew of staff that operate the shop, bar, food court, cinema... It's actually a more senior position than I had in my old job as a flight attendant."
She said the role allowed her to do seven days on, and seven days off, which suited her "gypsy" lifestyle and felt somewhat similar to what she would be doing in the air - but on the seas.
Meanwhile, former radio producer, David Rooney, had moved into radio sales in Melbourne when Australia essentially shut down.
"If Covid didn't happen I would still be working from home in Melbourne that I wasn't a big fan of... I was like I need to get out of here, I need to do something different."
Working eight-12 hour days from home and having no social-life caused him to yearn for home.
He's now back in New Zealand self-employed, and planned on launching a skin-care product mid-next year.
"I moved back home to Hamilton, I am working on a business idea with a friend who is based in Melbourne and we work on that everyday and I do a bit of writing on the side."
Another massive career change happened for 20-year-old Aucklander Tane Mana, who is a licensed funeral director-turned nurse (in training).
"Studying nursing was triggered by hearing about the Covid cases overseas on my travels after I quit funeral directing. I came and started prepping for my first practical at a Covid station in Wiri (Auckland)."
The year 2020 helped him build resilience and grit, he said, and to date he had helped contribute to testing 36,000 people for Covid-19 at Wiri in Auckland.
"Initially it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Throughout the middle of the year it started getting quite stressful and tiring with all the numbers coming through."
But, he said it was a "blessing to be able to help people and learn how to provide for people's needs from different cultures."
Despite not coping well with change his entire life, he said: "This year has pushed me to learn how to cope and deal with it."
Eyles said the key to moving forward following a redundancy was to "network" and persevere.
"Don't put your head in the sand... New Zealand is a village... be continually researching."
Rooney passed on this advice to anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur and give business a go.
"Do something just start something. You don't have to work for someone else... it has never been easier to start a business, you could start with $200 in your bank account. And if you don't have $200 - spend a day busking to earn that."
"Life is short and if you are not doing something you enjoy, than you are not living life to the full," he said.