This is not the year to take the summer off
If you are currently unemployed and planning to get by on unemployment benefits while you take the summer off, you might want to reconsider how that will play out. That type of scenario may have worked for you in the past, but I think it is safe to say that this year things will be very different. If you think you have dodged a bullet because your contract was already set to end or you were part of a “temporary” layoff, think again. The decline in our economy is not over yet, and we still don’t know how far down it will go or who else will be impacted. These are exactly the reasons why this is not the time to sit back and cruise.
It’s easy to see why some people have already made the decision to postpone their employment pursuits until later. Shelter-in-place requirements have understandably been difficult and probably inconvenient for anyone who had never considered working from home and wasn’t prepared for it. It has required considerable adjustments and has tested relationships. And although many people haven’t experienced the severe economic losses that people in the hospitality or entertainment sectors have, they have experienced strains on their family’s routines and sense of normalcy. For some, focusing on the changes at home has obscured the extent of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the economy overall and the toll it will continue to take on jobs that have not already been decimated. Adjusting to all the changes at home may have made it hard to consider the potential for greater impact on your career or future employability, but it really needs to be considered.
Now is the time to be looking ahead, reassessing your goals and determining new priorities.
We’ve heard reports that our unemployment levels will rise beyond those seen during the Great Depression. Even if that turns out not to be the case, it is very likely that more jobs will be impacted than what we see now. An assumption that the economic havoc we’ve experienced over the past several months is leveling out and you’ll go back to work in the fall after everything settles down is probably unrealistic. Getting around to looking for work later, instead of creating a plan now, could end up prolonging your unemployment well beyond the summer months you were expecting to relax through. Now is the time to be looking ahead, fully assessing your goals and determining new priorities. If childcare has become a new issue or other lifestyle demands have changed, then adjustments to your work options may need to be made for the longer term.
Even if you are preoccupied with all the changes impacting your home, it’s important to stay in tune with the market and be aware of the changes as they happened. It’s better to know what your real options are along the way than to make assumptions about everything miraculously being “fine” later. When considering your next move after a layoff, it’s necessary to examine the factors that will continue to influence your career or your ability to bounce back. Some industries will be hit later from a ripple effect by those already shut down or severely cut back. Those workers will try to be first in line for other jobs. We can’t yet predict actual timelines for our economy to recover, but waiting to see is risky. From past experience, it is safe to say that the longer a person stays out of the workforce, the harder it is to compete and the lower their value in the market becomes. Unnecessarily prolonging a reentry — without a plan — can create bigger problems later.
That said, it may be time for you to consider a pivot and change your plans. The following checklist can help you to take steps toward being prepared now for opportunities that can surface at any moment or to be able to work toward your longer-term goal.
- Consider your changed/changing family’s needs. First and foremost, evaluate what has changed about your family’s needs. Is homeschooling a condition that may need to continue? Has working at home been an option or could it be a better option for the longer term? Of the changes you have made, what has worked well over the past few months and which have been colossal failures?
- Reevaluate your budget and income requirements. Have you altered your spending habits sufficiently to correspond with earning a lower income? Are the changes sustainable? Is moving an option that would make a difference?
- Reassess your skills, abilities and interests. What you were on track to do may no longer seem appropriate or relevant. Be realistic about your previously chosen career path. If you were less than satisfied before a layoff, then now is a great time to consider making a change in an entirely new direction. That said, you’ve got to research what a change will realistically require. If you are considering going back to school, then make sure you create a complete plan for gaining experience along the way. New skills can be a great start, but they don’t guarantee employment. Making the decision to further your education and believing you’ll be employed immediately after completing it without connections or experience is a bad assumption.
- Create a “Master” resume. Even if you haven’t completely determined what your next move is, you can compile data about your most recent work experience and update your resume. The more information you can add to this “Master,” the more you will have to select from when it is time to narrow things down and tailor it for a specific audience. Waiting to record information will make it harder to respond quickly if something unexpected comes up.
- Adjust your image and your brand. If you are starting a business or are taking on an unrelated side hustle, make sure that what the world sees reflects your intent and your interests. Your LinkedIn profile may need to add experience that corresponds more closely with your past if you are continuing on the same path. If you are changing paths completely, then now is the time to start building that experience. Developing the right image for the right audience is critical. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. A separate website or other social media sites may support your side hustle or new creative endeavor. In all instances, you’ll want a presence that matches the audience you are attempting to reach and allows you to present the right image to your network. Most importantly, adjust your SELF-image to match your new reality.
Hopefully, something you’ve read has sunk in and has made it clear that now is the time to get busy. Delaying your personal approach to rebuilding your career until after the economy levels out could be based on naivety and wishful thinking. If your head stays in the sand, you could be buried alive.