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Finding a New Career During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Finding a New Career During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

by Kathy Seaton

There is an upside to working during COVID-19. You might have been considering a career change for quite a long time now, or perhaps you’re now challenged to do it right now because of furloughs and layoffs due to the pandemic. In any regard, this situation has caused all of us to re-evaluate our priorities.

Some businesses have downsized, or have unfortunately, closed shop. In September, 3.8 million people surveyed by the Labor Department said they had permanently lost their jobs, up from 3.4 million the prior month.

Not to anyone’s surprise, the most impacted industries have been restaurants, retail, and travel. And we’re in a bigger and broader downturn than any recession that we’ve faced before. It’s been published that 30% of American’s have had to change careers due to a COVID-19 related layoff. 47 million people have filed for unemployment since March 2020, and in addition, our college graduates are not able to find work. 

However, there might be an upside here. The statistics about displaced workers and career outlook projections have been documented time and again over the last few months. According to industry news, 63% of workers who lost jobs because of the outbreak have changed their industry and 4% have changed their field or overall career path, according to a Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY. Considering these times, this might be an encouraging percentage, perhaps indicating that business as usual might return in short order. 

There are industries that are thriving based on the necessity for economic recovery. And not surprisingly, those are technology, healthcare, real estate, banking, and warehousing.  

In an interview with Fast Company, Jenny Blake, author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, explains that employers will be more understanding about mid-career changes because of the crisis. “The snow globe of the world has been shaken up,” Blake says. “No one is judging anyone for making a career change.”

So, here’s the question. Are we now forced to look for new career paths or opportunities? And importantly, do we have the financial resources to support such a change? And considering this, what are we looking for in new careers and can we make a difference in a new industry? I personally think that the answer is yes. 

We have to look for the silver lining here. If we’re now trying to make a career move, we need to consider what the long-term outlook is for the industry that we’re looking at. In addition, we need to determine how our acquired skills make us fit for a potentially huge change. 

I think that it’s safe to say that in crisis there is an opportunity. And control and empowerment come from trying something new. We need the confidence to realize that we can own what we’re good at and apply our skill set to any new challenge at hand. It seems uncomfortable, but there is good reason now to go outside of our current comfort zones. And thinking critically about it, we might not have the choice to do anything else. 

Hiring is happening. But now we have to figure out how to insert ourselves into a most likely huge pool of desirable job candidates.

Don’t let the uncertainty of the pandemic paralyze you. Put yourself out there and you might find that a better, more prosperous opportunity awaits. 

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Communicate your Transferable Skills.

When developing your application package (cover letter and resume) make sure that you illustrate to a potential employer how your specific skills can help their business navigate during a recession. Make it clear that you are capable of developing strategies and tactics that can impact the bottom line. And make sure to include that you’re a team player, that you can make decisions, and react quickly. 

2. Identify Employers that are Seeking Your Skill Set.

Executive and upper level positions (or in fact any position) are going to take some finesse to find. Hiring is a large investment right now for businesses, and of course, HR managers are looking for a great corporate fit. So, tailor your message accordingly to the position requirements. Target employees that are a good fit for you so that you don’t go into a position that is too challenging or might result in failure. Note that employers are now hiring outside of their traditional job pool, so this is your time to shine because the opportunity is there for the taking. 

3. Understand that a Pay Reduction Might be in Your Future.

The traditional corporate package, along with benefits, might not carry the same industry standard right now. However, that shouldn’t discourage your move, unless of course it doesn’t meet your financial needs. But it’s reasonable to think that a pay reduction might be necessary to enter into a new role, field, or industry. So, manage your expectations and weigh your options against what might be in store for your current job under the financial constraints of the pandemic. You don’t want to lose your job and not have a back-up. A reduction in pay is much more beneficial than no paycheck at all. 

4. Invest in Continuing Education.

Financial risk is obviously a huge concern during the pandemic, which will result in more selective hiring practices on the part of employers. Businesses are looking very closely at the people that they hire to make sure that they are able to jump in to make immediate and meaningful contributions to the company. Again, remember, you need to stand out in a crowd of applicants, so to enhance your resume you want to consider taking online continuing education courses to supplement your current role or to gain the knowledge necessary to be successful in a completely new industry. Certificate programs are a good place to start. You can complete courses online in a short period-of-time, at a more affordable cost. And the benefits are immediate, which means you can apply what you learn today on the job tomorrow. It’s safe to say that the investment in education and coursework looks fantastic on a resume, especially during these times. 

5. Rely on Your References.

Develop a comprehensive list of references, who of course know you well. Request letters of recommendations, however, vet the job description and have your references tailor their letter to the requirements of the job and how your qualifications meet those criteria.