COVID-19 has hit certain areas of the marketplace harder than others. For many salaried knowledge workers, it has meant a temporary transition away from the office to a home-based workspace.
Millions of others, particularly those in the service sector, have been faced with shockingly sudden, overnight job loss. In many cases, they will not have a company or a job to return to after the pandemic is over.
While the impact of COVID-19 in the short-term may vary among sectors, there can be no doubt that ultimately, we are all in the same economic boat. In fact, some larger companies are “running fat” - hiring beyond their need – to ensure they won’t be short-staffed if employees start getting sick.
This could mean we are in a bubble right now for knowledge workers, which may well burst when economic factors kick in. The IMF predicts we will be entering the worst global recession since the 1930s, and are forecasting a downturn on par with the Great Depression.
All of this can lead to anxiety. But it is going to be important to manage that, and there is hope.
Here are 10 practical ways to stay engaged, minimize anxiety, and be ready to take the right steps in a post-pandemic job market.
- Above all, be flexible and adapt. Now we are hearing some sweeping generalizations about how “remote working is going to be the new normal”. I do not agree with that entirely. Remote work simply will not work for everyone, and I think that’s true across a number of fields. While many people can work remotely - and more are becoming used to it now - there will always be those who perform much better in a face-to-face, team environment. The truth is, without a crystal ball we don’t know exactly what the “new normal” will look like - which is why flexibility and adaptability will be even more desirable traits than ever. Think about how the business model of your industry is likely to change over the next 6-12 months. What skills and capabilities will be required during this transition, and how you can adapt accordingly?
- Explore seasonal opportunities. As a result of the restrictions in movement across national and state borders, seasonal opportunities will spring up in areas such as agriculture and logistics. Recognize it will be an employer’s market in the short-term. However, a lot of seasonal opportunities will be created locally. Be open to temporary/seasonal work and take the opportunity to develop new skills.
- Master digital skills. COVID-19 has expedited the move towards technology-enabled, remote delivery of services. To keep up, we all need to be upgrading digital literacy skills and mastering digital platforms as much as possible.
- Tap into to your networks, and let people know your situation. There is no shame in letting people know you have been impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and you are available for work. Communication is key. Make and refresh connections with people and companies.
- Be online-interview ready. Expect to not only do your job search online, but your interviews as well. Figure out the best camera position and lighting to use for Zoom calls. Have practice chats with friends so you can check and troubleshoot any connectivity or sound issues. Be prepared to make a good impression remotely.
- Be persistent. HR teams will be overwhelmed, so don’t wait by the phone for them to call you back. It will be up to job-seekers to take action and pursue the opportunities.
- Engage locally, where it is safe to do so. Many firms are suspending their usual centralized hiring practices to allow local worksites and managers to hire staff directly. Being available and present makes it a lot easier for time-pressured managers to make an instinctive hiring decision.
- Consume less – of everything. Be realistic about what you can manage financially and find the areas where you can do with less. What subscriptions and services can you let go? What products can you do without?
- Accept the situation you (and all of us) are in: The global economy is undergoing huge shifts that may result in stronger and more self-sufficient local, regional and national economies. Change is the order of the day. Remind yourself you are not alone in this. Acceptance goes a long way toward tranquility and mental well-being.
- Nurture your mental health. Don’t waste energy worrying about “what if...?” Take some time to stop, to settle yourself, and reflect. Research shows that even the busiest person has at least 20 minutes a day to engage in reflection. I recommend Andrew Johnson’s online recordings. These guided meditations can help bring down your stress levels and develop strategies for staying calm and getting focused.
Nicholas Wyman is the CEO of the IWSI America, which is a global enterprise, committed to apprenticeship, skills and workforce development in today and tomorrow's workplace. He also is a future work expert, author, speaker and President of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. He has written an award-winning book, “Job U,” a practical guide to finding wealth and success by developing the skills companies actually need.
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