The COVID-19 shutdown is affecting workers across the country differently, but there is one common thread running through our various work-related experiences: What do we do next? At some point, the pandemic — and its economic implications — will subside, so what can workers do to prepare for that day?
Here are several suggestions on how to prepare yourself for the transformed job market that will emerge after the pandemic passes.
1. Keep learning
“To remain marketable throughout their working lives, workers need to become lifelong learners, returning to education as they upskill and change careers,” says Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. “The shelf life of today’s ‘hard’ or technical skills is only two to seven years, so many individuals are finding themselves in need of up-skilling or re-skilling in their early 30s.”
In other words, take advantage of your extra isolated time and take online courses, gain credentials and certifications and continue improving your craft.
2. Offer solutions
Want to increase your opportunities once the pandemic passes? Then help your employer find new ways to overcome current economic struggles. “Workers can prepare for tomorrow’s changes by helping their organizations lead after the pandemic by identifying ways to shore up their companies while identifying new ways to serve customers,” says Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Workers that adapt to the moment and proactively identify how to serve customers will be well-suited for whatever happens after the pandemic subsides.”
3. Collect your benefits
If you’ve been laid off, apply for unemployment immediately to collect your money. While some providers of goods and services are offering lenient and flexible repayment terms until people begin returning to their jobs, there’s no guarantee those terms will last forever. And “loan forgiveness” hasn’t been part of the conversation, so if you’re eligible for unemployment, be sure to collect it. As the economy rebounds, you want to put yourself in a strong position to make a career move that works to your advantage, not a decision made out of desperation just because you need the money.
4. Research what’s next
“Focus on gaining the skills that will be valuable when the economy starts rolling again. That is going to differ depending on the field you’re in, but online learning is probably going to be the way to go, whether you are looking to gain skills that will be needed in your industry or if you are looking to transition into another field,” says Matt Sigelman, CEO, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, Massachusetts. “Project management skills, for example, are going to come in handy whether you’re a hospitality worker affected by the downturn in travel, a construction worker whose project has been suspended, or a manufacturing worker whose plant is idle. Another way to track this is to look at job postings from leading-edge companies in your field: what skills have they been seeking as they hire? That’s a good indication of skills that will give you a competitive edge in regaining employment and moving up.”
Erica Groshen, a senior faculty member at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Ithaca, New York, agrees. "[Those still working] while on the job, should take every opportunity to acquire new skills through training and work experience," she says.
5. Gear up
Anyone currently working from home should make sure they’re ready for another potential shutdown by improving their remote situation. “Once this pandemic subsides, they’ll already have the idea what to do when another crisis arises in the future,” says Kenny Trinh, CEO of NetBookNews, a resource for mobile computing. “Workers must invest in themselves and invest in reliable tools or infrastructure at home which they could use in any work-from-home scenario.”
6. Think beyond technology
Your remote-work setup relies on strong Wi-Fi and more, but don’t forget to take care of yourself while creating an effective plan to work from home, says Scott Swedberg, CEO of The Job Sauce, a career-services company in San Diego. “Today’s workers need to be prepared by creating a work-from-home game plan, including an effective work-from-home environment, guidelines for working hours and work-life compartmentalization, land a routine for their mental health,” he says.
7. Network now for later
Take advantage of the numerous hours you’re currently spending in front of your computer to expand and improve your network. Target the companies you’d like to work for and then match up your contacts. Do you have friends and family members who work there or friends and family members who know people who work there? It may be a good time to check in on some of your contacts to see how they’re doing and to offer any assistance. Don’t wait until you need a job to track down the people in your network who may be able to help. Instead, reach out now, but only if you’re genuine and sincere. People will be able to see through your earlier communication if you come across as an opportunistic clod.
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