Coronavirus and Your Career: Protecting Your Profession in the Time of COVID-19

I think I speak for many of us when I say I never expected to see a global social health crisis of this magnitude in my lifetime, where Disneyland, March Madness, SXSW, and New York’s St. Patty’s Day parade would be called off in one fell swoop. Yet here we are – watching the world adapt and socially distance ourselves as coronavirus takes center stage.  

As a “Xennial” who falls smack dab in the middle of not Gen-X yet not Millennial, I was early in my career during the 2008 economic downturn. A 28-year-old civil engineer at the time, I was fully aware of the impacts the Great Recession had on my industry, but these times bring new perspective. Twelve years later, I can say I have an even deeper appreciation for those who navigated the substantial losses of income, investments, and businesses during that time.  

I’ve spent the last two years (and then some) building a business focused on inspiring confident professionals, helping people across this country successfully navigate job searches and the challenges of the workforce today. A

s a whole new set of challenges begin to present themselves, I feel compelled to leverage the knowledge and insights I’ve developed as a career and job search expert to ease concerns and instill confidence, helping both job seekers and employees remain productive during these rapidly changing times.

Protect Yourself and Your (Mental and Physical) Health

You can’t support yourself and others if you can’t work; maintaining your physical health and stamina is critical. Take the recommended precautions and know what the symptoms of CO-VID-19 look like (and DON’T look like), so you know when to take appropriate measures.

Perhaps even more importantly, maintain your mental health. Interacting with constant social media commentary and the never-ending news cycle can take its toll on your emotional well-being. It’s crucial to stay informed, but I encourage you to avoid the temptation to be overly tuned in.

Make Remote Work Effective

Many people are finding themselves working from home for the first time, at least on any long-term basis. Remote work can be wonderful yet challenging at the same time; distractions and loneliness get real once the no-commute novelty wears off.

Set yourself up for success by:  

  • Dedicating a “permanent” workspace in your home, so you don’t have to break out everything when it’s time to clock-in (*bonus points if this space has a door).
  • Replicate your office desktop as closely as you can, so it feels familiar and efficient.
  • Maintain office hours.  Whether they’re the same as when you’re in the office or slightly altered to accommodate your at-home needs, establish a routine. Consistency will help productivity.
  • Stay connected with co-workers by setting regular times to check in; when you’re remote, picking up the phone to talk through something becomes much more desirable than an email!
  • Now that home and workplace have become as one, set boundaries with your workday so you don’t end up overworking yourself.

Lastly, remember when working from home that social distancing should not equal isolation.

Ask anyone who has had a remote job for more than 6-months, and they’ll likely tell you that the cons can often outweigh the pros. The lack of physical human interaction can take its toll, and constant video communications can be draining.

In short, it can feel isolating, so be sure to get exercise, spend time outside, and gather in safe and healthy small groups (perhaps refraining from hand-shakes and hugs) when you start to feel the need for some literal face-time.

Managing Work – and Kids – at Home

If your schools haven’t already extended their spring breaks, it might be only a matter of time. Juggling kids at home can be a real challenge when you have conference calls, work meetings, and deadlines.

Remember the routine suggested above? Get your kids in on it, too. If you have a spouse who is also working from home, divide and conquer by setting complementing office hours to tag-team parenting, overlapping hours when the kids can entertain themselves, and then collective family time.

If you’ve got fellow co-workers or moms who are having the same struggle, consider teaming up for rotating childcare and playdates, if everyone is healthy!

Prepare for the Worst (Professionally)

I’d be a horrible career coach if I didn’t tell you an influx of layoffs is possible, and that having your application package prepared and ready-to-go is an excellent idea. I’ve long been of the mindset that having a current resume is always a good idea, but it’s even more important now.

Proactivity will help avoid the paranoia should your employment status change, so dust off your documents and make sure they’re up-to-date, compelling, and competitive.

What About My Job Search?

Perhaps the most common question I’m seeing from clients right now is: “What About My Job Search?” – and with just cause! I expect my answer to this question to evolve as we see the virus, it’s containment or spread, and the market’s reaction to that continue to play out.

This past week, I saw six, yes SIX, clients receive and accept job offers, so we know there’s still activity.

Particularly, I expect the technology, supply chain/logistics/shipping, and healthcare (duh) industries to maintain close-to-normal activity with a possible uptick in hiring for the latter two categories as hospitals try to keep up. I anticipate Amazon (and the likes) will ramp up to accommodate expanded shipping demands as people shift to even more online purchases, now for daily needs and basics.  

Marketing, communications, and sales positions will likely slow down across all industries as businesses consider what areas of their budgets to protect and larger companies deal with restricted and cancelled events and promotional activities.  

If you’re job searching, my advice is to stick with it. Depending on your career history, it may be time to consider some alternative tactics or roles (listen up event professionals!), but otherwise, I expect we will still see consistent hiring activity albeit slower processes.

As businesses try to anticipate their changing needs, you can expect to see applications “sit” for even longer than they already do, and the overall selection process will lengthen as every hire becomes more scrutinize.d  

Competition will be higher than ever, as potential employers not only evaluate who to hire but WHETHER to hire. Ensuring your resume, application, and (video) interview skills are dialed-in will help you rise above as positions condense and hiring becomes even more selective.

Interviewing During Corona

Speaking of interviewing, be prepared for fully remote interview processes as companies continue to hire and onboard critical positions. Connecting via phone or video can be hard, so work on your interview skills and know how to leverage the applicable technology to your advantage, so it doesn’t become an unexpected hindrance to your hire-ability.  

Use This Time for Goal Setting and Career Planning

The daily grind is coming to a halt, as we see our normal hustle and bustle slow. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing? Most of us are over-programmed, overcommitted, and overworked anyway. You’re about to get some long-needed forced quality time with yourself, your spouse, your family, and your dog, so look at it as a gift!

Some time away from the office can help with reflection on your career goals, so take this time to do short, mid, and long term planning and goal setting.

Take that online class you’ve been putting off, jump into a certification program you’ve been interested in; research the career change you’ve long considered; play Scrabble. Whatever it is, take this gift of time and use it for productivity, reflection, and restoration.

We’ll all be back on the subway, back in the office, and back in our rink-side seats at the Pepsi Center before we know it!

Angie Callen, Founder

I created Career Benders to inspire confident professionals. In just three years, we have helped nearly 500 professionals navigate job searches, nail interviews, and find satisfaction in their careers. We’re here for you!

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