Workers can take heart from the economic outlook for 2021, which keeps improving the further into the new year we get.
The Covid pandemic forced businesses across the globe to re-evaluate their strategies, methods of operation, and values to stay relevant. Individual workers should do no less. That’s true whether you are actively looking for a job or carefully navigating a turbulent time.
Here are 10 ways you can set the table to advance your career now or at some point in the future.
1. Get clarity
Many people find themselves in the throes of a career change as a reaction to some event in their lives – your company merges and your position is eliminated, you’re passed over for a promotion, or maybe you have a family crisis. Others are victim to slow-growing dissatisfaction – perhaps due to new management that takes the company in a direction you disagree with or boredom.
Whatever the trigger, being on your heels is never an optimal way to start a job search. Periodically, it’s good to step back and reflect on your career and life before something makes you head for the door.
Take time to re-evaluate your accomplishments, values and goals. Understanding what you want from your career and your life offers invaluable clarity on your next steps. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.
2. Make a plan
It’s shocking how many people fall into their careers by accident, not by design. Once established, even fewer think much about where their career paths are taking them. But identifying your goals and then creating a roadmap to realize your vision is a simple, yet excellent, way to advance your career.
Once you have considered where you want to go, take the time to figure out the steps you need to take to get there. There is no more effective way to get to a destination than to make a plan.
3. Play to your strengths
Students of economics understand that companies that can make a product or service more cheaply, more quickly, or more appealingly than rival companies enjoy a competitive advantage in the market. In the same way, workers have a competitive advantage in the labor market when they play to their strengths.
If you know you’re driven and competitive, for example, you may thrive in a sales role where you can let your ambitions run loose. Naturally, you need to know what your strengths are and tailor them to your employment circumstances.
This all might sound obvious, but playing to your strengths is sometimes tricky. Take Matt Fretwell, who knew his strengths and interests: community outreach, public speaking, strategic organization, and leadership. He found fulfillment exercising these strengths in various jobs throughout his career – but he did the jobs simultaneously.
Before he turned 50 years old, Matt was burned out.
To resolve the situation, Matt found a role at one company where he does incredible work by channeling all his strengths. Today he is thriving – and so is his company.
The critical skills required to compete in today’s rapidly evolving business world are numerous, and new ones appear all the time. The importance of upskilling has been ramping up for years, and the pandemic put it on steroids. So, beefing up areas of weakness and learning new skills is not only an effective way to advance your career, it’s also a means of future-proofing your career.
What skills should you improve? That depends on you. They might range from hard skills, like video conferencing and collaboration software, to soft skills like adaptability or emotional intelligence – all of which became high demand skills during the pandemic.
5. Build, nurture and leverage your network
As many as 85% of all jobs are landed through personal contacts. That fact alone makes your personal network your single most indispensable tool during a job change. But a network is so much more valuable than a mere job-seeking resource. Your network represents a body of relationships that can also offer mentors, advisors, and bridges to any number of career-boosting opportunities.
No matter what industry you are in, developing a strong network is the most important way to advance your career because you never know where a new opportunity might arise. The more lines you have in the water, the greater your options.
Where many people falter, is maintaining their networks. Relationships develop over time and must be nurtured. Sometimes reviving old relationships turn out to be the golden ticket to a great new opportunity, as it was with Kwasi Asare.
Get in the habit of deliberately helping others when they need it. The day may come when you need help, and paying it forward to people before that day will prompt them to be there for you when it’s your time of need.
6. Become the go-to person for something
An excellent way to advance your career is to become a go-to person, especially for people senior to you. How? By knocking it out of the park on everything you are asked to do. By raising your hand when additional jobs come up, especially the dirty or hard ones.
People will come to think of you as the person that gets things done and, eventually, your name will be the first one that pops to mind when someone you know is contacted by someone she knows who is looking for an excellent candidate for something – a role that could be a promotion or a great new job.
Emotional intelligence is a valuable asset in the workplace an increasingly critical skill by employers.The World Economic Forum even ranked it as one of the top 10 skills in 2020 in The Future of Jobs report – a skill that didn’t even make the top 10 list for 2015.
Emotional intelligence is the intersection of emotions and intelligence – the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others and to use the information in a way that is productive and beneficial to relationships and circumstances. A majority of employers value it over IQ in employees. Why? Because hiring managers know that people with high emotional intelligence make good decisions, handle change well, respond well to feedback, and are able to effectively solve problems. They stay calm under pressure, support their co-workers, and cultivate relationships that help to create productive work environments.
Unemployment is sometimes an easier time to take a risk – to consider a transition that you might not have before. That’s exactly what happened to Tracy Katz, who went from her role as a senior operations manager at a regional bank to a fulfilling career as a trainer of bank operating systems, or Chris Burger, who went from being a global director of sales at a large company to a small startup.
A simple, but often overlooked way to advance your career is to regularly record your achievements at work. It’s a small action, but more useful than you’d think. People are busy. It’s hard sometimes to recall what you had for lunch the day before, let alone what you did six to twelve months ago. So, logging your achievements serves to help you remember them – and remind your supervisor of them – when your performance review comes around. In addition to making a case for a positive review, you also demonstrate to your supervisor great organization skills.
Investing in yourself means recognizing and mastering new skills and strategies that can give you a competitive edge. It might also mean bringing in professional help, likea career coach. Yes, you’re smart, talented, highly educated, and you have years of professional experience behind you. But consider that even professional athletes use trainers and talented writers use editors to stay at the top of their games. So, why not you?
Strategic investments in yourself, as in business, yield increasing returns which can be measured as a successful career.
It is painfully evident that the Covidcrisis has been a sort of crucible for the business world. It has imposed incredible stressors on companies, revealing their core strengths and weaknesses. While some have adapted and thrived, others will take years to recover.
The HR aspect of the crisis has been unprecedented. Even companies indirectly affected by the crisis are struggling to keep employees engaged and feeling appreciated. One consulting firm reports that57% of companies anticipate “major” changes to their culture as a result of the pandemic.
As with companies, thisis a transitional moment for workers. Millions have lost jobs. Others have jobs but face a high burnout rate. For many, the uncertainty of the situation has brought into sharp focus personal or professional dissatisfactions that, hitherto,were swept under the rug. No wonder, then, that so many are now open to a change.
Naturally, there are always risks in making career changes, but if you risk little, you gain little.The trick is in determining when the upside outweighs the downside.
Why take the risk?
If you are thinking about a career change, the first thing you should do before anything else is to understand what you want from it. Do you want a change because you’re unhappy? You don’t make enough money? You’re not progressing? You want routine? You hate routine? You feel unappreciated? You’re bored? You’re stressed? Your values don’t align with those of the company?
Professional restlessness is often just part of the progression of a normal career cycle. But sometimes, there is a specific catalyst, like a corporate merger, a pass-over for a promotion, a major family event…or a pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
If you are unemployed, your first priority is probably to find a job. But don’t overlook that unemployment is an ideal opportunity to consider a big transition that may not have made sense before.
Whatever the reason, if career change is on your mind, be clear and honest with yourself about your dissatisfaction and what you hope to achieve with a change.
Noone measurescareer risksin the same way because so much depends on your individual risk appetite.How much risk are you willing to accept for a potential reward? The answer hinges on your personal situation – your age, where you are in your career, and your financial situation. So, this exercise begins with researching all aspects of the risks you face, then being honest with yourself.
Gather as much data as possible. Research prospective industries, companies, and roles.
Talk to people who can offer insightfulperspective, and be sure to factor in all risks, both measurable and immeasurable, such as:
What is the compensation structure?
How do base pay and bonus compare with your previous compensation?
Will you be changing health plans?
What will the commute be like?
Will you be comfortable with the culture of the new work environment?
If a career change involves a relocation, you have more homework. A position in New York City at a higher salary might sound good until you factor in the high cost of living. Be sure to weighthe potential for career advancement against the cost of moving, thenew cost of living, not to mentionthe loss of your localsocial support network.
If you have dependents and family commitments your calculations will be even more complicated.For example, the prospect of a low salary butunlimited sales commission potentialmight be unpalatable if you’re the breadwinner. In this case, it maybe better to limit your upside in order to limit the downside.
When it comes to weighing risks, there is no right answer. So, be introspective. Make sure to ask the right questions of others – and yourself – to ensure you know your comfort level with the risks of any career change before you make it.
A good risk model is predicated on severity and likelihood. It begs the questions: What is the credible worst-case scenarioandhow likely is to happen? Once those answers are clear, steps can be taken to mitigate the severity and likelihood.
Consider Mara, who relocated from Boston to Florida for a job to be near family before she was 100% sure that it was the right move for her. She hedged her bets by maintaining her house in Boston and living with her parents until she felt convinced that she was ready to move her household.
Another example is Bruce, who hated his six-figure job and wanted to quit totry to make a living as the drummer of his buddy’s rock band. Being a successful rock musician was his dream come true. Realistically, however, the chances were slim they’d make it big and, if the band flopped, he could end up penniless.To mitigate this risk, Bruce created a backstop – he saved up enough for a year’s worth of living expensesand gave himself exactly that long to make it. If he was unsuccessful, he determined to hang up his drumsticks and find a new desk job.
Not everyone has the option to go backwards in his or her career. But there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful career change. According to Herminia Ibarra, author of “Reinventing Your Career in the Time of Coronavirus” (Harvard Business Review), and Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, major career changes are likelier to succeed if you test them out first. How? By volunteering, consulting, or doing short-term contract work in fields and roles that interest you.Also, it makes great sense to explore more than one career path before making a big transition to make sure you have chosen well.
Career changes aren’t always the right decision, but don’t forget that sticking with the status quo is not without risk. So, when is the right the right time to risk a career change? Well, there is no time like the present. Just think before you take that leap of faith.
Many might argue that the greatest thing to look forward to in 2021 is the end of 2020. Between record-breaking Australian bushfires, a rampaging pandemic with over 1.5 million deaths, a tanking global economy, U.S. racial unrest, and political convulsions following a U.S. presidential impeachment and then a contested presidential election –2020’s miseries were numerous.
Even those who weren’t directly affected by these calamities were very likely indirectlyaffected, not least of which the millions of people who lost their jobs. Those who didn’t lose their jobs were either forced to work in potentially hazardous conditions or sequester themselves at home to work remotely – in many cases sharing the dining room table with a remote-working spouse and remote-learningchildren.
No matter what happens in 2021, it’ll likely be a better year by anyone’s estimation.
Butthere are also some objectively good reasons to look forward toit from a jobseeker’s standpoint, not to mention some interesting new developmentsabout a Covid-changed work landscape that offer a useful perspective for all workers, whether they’re employed or hope to be so soon.
1. An economic rebound!
Covid devastated the global economy this year, but the U.S. economy, at least, seems to have been surprisingly resilient. Many economists forecast a huge bounce in 2021. Morgan Stanley, with one of the most bullish positions, predicts a V-shaped recovery delivering as much as5.9% GDP growth in the coming year.
Of course, any economic recovery will rely greatly on a successful and speedy distribution of the promised Covid vaccine.But once the vaccine arrives, hiring is expected to take off and unemployment to fall by the end of the year.
The ThinkWhy team is one of many labor market analysts that expects businessesoverall to boost hiring nationwide in 2021. It forecasts the labor market to be back to pre-pandemic level by the first half of 2023. “The absolute number of hires in many markets could be staggering relative to historic averages,” assertstheThinkWhy’s recent U.S. Job Market Outlook Report.
The pace of jobs recovery, however, could vary considerably by industry and location. While, many types of business will have recovered all lost jobs before the end of 2021, others will lag for years until normal social behaviors return.ThinkWhy predicts that the industries best positioned to rebound quickly are Retail Trade, Health Care, Construction and Financial Services – in fact, they may even face talent shortages. Leisure and Hospitality, however, which took the biggest drubbing in 2020, isn’t expected to fully recover until 2025.
When it comes to location, the healthiest markets in the near term for job seekers are Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Phoenix, cities where many businesses are already in expansion mode. Other markets, like New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Orlando, which suffered bigger job losses, will see delayed job growth until the pandemic eases.
3. Remote work is here to stay
For better or for worse, Covid has ushered in many transformative changes to the workplace. One change for the better that is unlikely to go away is a business culture that accommodates remote workers. Workers love it and, it turns out, so do employers.
A survey of more than 9,000 knowledge workers in six countries found that most were happier working remotely than in an office. What they most valued was saving money, an improved work-life balance, and an, um, “shorter” commute. Just 11.6% of those surveyed say they wanted to return to full-time office work.
That’s not to say that 100% remote working will become the new norm.
First of all, only about a quarter of the workforce can actually execute their job function from home– mainly highly skilled employees who trade in, process, or communicate information or knowledge. (Think finance, management, professional services, and information sectorworkers.) But those who cando socould work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office, according to a report by global management consulting firm, McKinsey.
Over 70% of knowledge workers prefer a hybrid remote-work model. In response, many executivesare signaling plansfor a hybrid model at their companies, whereby employees work part of the week in the office and part from home. This solution makes for a happier workforce – and it is a huge cost-savings for the company.What a win-win!
Notable workplace trends
In under one year, the acute, widespread pressures imposed on the world by Covid have accelerated many workplace trends that were already underway. Below are a few notable ones that could affect you.
With remote working on the rise, some people foresee a population shift from large urban areas to smaller cities and suburbs in the wake of the pandemic. A LinkedIn reporton workplace trends identifies indicators suggesting a great dispersal of urban workforces, including dropping rental prices, climbing vacancies, and worker sentiment surveys. Even before the pandemic, population growth in big cities was stagnating, but Covid-19 may well be the catalyst that permanently drives people away from high-cost, high population centers to other locales. How this trend plays out post-pandemic remains to be seen.
If your job function allows for it, the trend towards remote working means that your future job opportunities will be less limited by geography – in other words, the world is your oyster. The downside, however, is that your competition will also no longer be limited by geography – it could be global.
The million-dollar question asked by businesses in the Covid remote work experiment is how working remotely impacts productivity.A studyof 12,000 professionals by the Boston Consulting Group before and during the pandemicfinds a positive link between productivity and remote work,but notes that productivity hinges on four key correlating factors: social connectivity, mental health, physical health, and workplace tools.
Many companies are already stepping up their efforts to support workers in these areas, offering wellness packages and workplace tools to staff in their remote offices. Arguably, recreating social connectivity in virtual settings will be most challenging, but to the extent that employers can support this and the other important drivers of productivity, their businesses will have an edge.
So, expect to see exciting new opportunities to gather around the virtual water cooler going forward.
Real improvement in diversity in the workplace, especially at the executive level, moved at a snail’s pace until 2020. Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement amplified the inequities of diverse workers. Diverse groups – largely defined as people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ employees –suffered the most in 2020.
This year, more than ever, American workers are demanding better from employers. In a survey, 70% of job seekers saidthey want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
They’re smart to do so because McKinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for diverse leadership teams outperformed less diverse peers on profitability.McKinsey finds this year that employers are well aware of the challenges facing employees and that nine out of ten of them are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion despite the business pressures they face during the pandemic.
What will that look like? It could mean that we will see the creation of new roles, such as chief diversity officer, or new diversity initiatives that improve equality for job opportunities and salary.
Women under stress
Women, it seems, have become an unfortunate workplace casualty during the pandemic, especially those with children at home. Women are more likely to have been either laid off or to have dropped out of the workforce during Covid-19 as they struggled to balance increased childcare and home-life demands. They’re also more likely to have suffered mental health issues.
A Workplace Trends 2021 outlook published on LinkedIn reports that two-thirds of women are planning a major career change post-Covid-19, and McKinseyfound in its Women in the Workplace 2020 report that 25% of women are consideringdownshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely in response to the added burdens.
Once can’t beat the drum too much that upskilling is crucial in the digital age, especially in the Covid world. Technological innovation is reshaping the work world top to bottom and new skills will be in constant demand. Making upskilling a small part of your daily routine is ideal – those incremental efforts will add up over time and ensure that you aren’t left behind.
You may find that carving out time for this important habit becomes easier in 2021. Employees are increasingly responsive to employee demands for more support, so look forward to increased training opportunities, flexible work schedules, paid and unpaid leave and other perks.
It has been a tough year, but there are lots of solid reasons to look forward to 2021. In fact, count one more – Covid or no Covid, the post-holiday season is the best time to get a job.
Everyone knows the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” This maxim offers a great lesson to people who are trying to navigate the demands of the modern executive job market because it’s no longer prudent to leave the task only to recruiters.
There is an endless supply of people who don’t know how to find an executive job. If you’re smart and capable, you can easily manage the succession plan of your career up to a point. But at a certain level you won’t go any higher if you haven’t learned 8 key lessons on what it takes to get tapped as an executive.
1. Understand that executive positions are filled predominantly by word of mouth – as many as 75% of them. Really!
When hiring managers need to fill an executive role, the first thing they do is blast out a note to everyone they know to ask if they know someone who might be a good candidate for the job. Professional contacts and networking are THE most used tools to source executive candidates.
Most people wrongly think that third-party recruiters account for the bulk of all placements. They used to have a much bigger share than they do today, but when LinkedIn came onto the scene in 2003, it democratized the recruiting process. Today, third-party recruiters are responsible for filling only 10% of executive job openings.
A tool used even less frequently than recruiters is job postings. If they’re used at all, job postings will simply fulfill a regulatory obligation after a candidate has been determined. Why? Because hiring managers want to hire someone they know and respect or someone who is recommended by someone they know and respect.
2. Always be looking for a job before you need one
Good career change skills aren’t limited to when you are actively looking for a job. It begins way before you are thinking about a transition and it extends well past it, too. In fact, a good career transition in the short-term hinges on good career management in the long-term.
You should never miss an opportunity to increase or enrich your network. The essence of this lesson is: Who do you know? and Will those people advocate on your behalf? If it seems like a chore or too time consuming, remember that networking is a core function of any executive job. It’s very important to build time to network into your work week. If you lack the time management skills to do this, put it on your calendar until it becomes a habit.
In addition to building relationships, networking helps you stay abreast of industry trends and know what the competition is doing. It is a way to keep your ear to the ground and keep yourself in people’s minds. You never know where your next opportunity will come from and networking keeps your options open. Executives who learn this early are most successful.
3. Pay it forward
Many job seekers get the importance of networking, but might miss the equally critical step of building up social capital first. The only time they think to reach out to people is when they need something. That is a huge political mistake. It’s a lot harder to take from the pot if you haven’t contributed to it.
People are far more inclined to help you if you’ve already put something into the relationship. People who pay it forward have learned this crucial lesson. Paying it forward has a way of paying us back.
If your career seems to have plateaued, it may be that you’re not doing enough to nurture relationships with people. You should be responsive to requests for favors from others – even better, you should proactively help people who aren’t asking for it. The more you do, the more likely it is that people will think of you when they learn about opportunities.
4. Learn how to verbalize your value proposition
Lots of people can be extroverts in their work and in everything they do that relates to their competencies, but when it comes to talking about themselves and marketing the value they bring to the table, they hide in the corner. They aren’t comfortable verbalizing their value proposition.
The best way to understand what value you offer is to talk to people – that is, to network. Solicit feedback from people about the work that you’ve done so you can understand how your efforts contributed to the success of your projects. Log your achievements regularly in a book so that you can refer to them when you need to.
5. Ask not what a company can do with your experience, tell them what you can do for the company
A lot of people lean on the traditional measuring stick of academic credentials, experience, and time served in a job to demonstrate their value during a job search. But thinking about recruiting in terms of function and credentials is old-fashioned. Much more important to hiring managers is: What specifically can you do for me?
Hiring managers want to hire an executive who can change the company for the better.
They look for someone who can minimize risk, drive revenue, improve efficiencies, innovate new practices, and so on. In the age of Covid, this is especially true. Some industries are in big trouble and need leaders who can lead in times of crisis. They may need to reinvent how they do business. In their mind, it’s far better to hire someone with a stellar reputation for demonstrable achievements than someone with an impressive pedigree or with the right number of years of experience.
To boost your appeal as a candidate, it is incumbent upon you to tout your abilities to meet a company’s known needs. Don’t know what they are? Ask! Ask hiring managers what keeps them awake at night or what opportunities they wish they had time to pursue. Explain clearly the value you will bring to the company if they hire you.
6. Recognize the opportunity to create an opportunity for yourself
In today’s world, it is common for savvy people to convince hiring managers to create a position for them that didn’t otherwise exist. If you’ve saved business partners millions over years and you are actively interacting in the job market, people will learn of your amazing qualifications and realize that they can’t afford NOT to hire you.
How does this work? It starts with a conversation with a hiring manager about the challenges her company faces and the opportunities in the business that need to be addressed within the year. If you articulate your value proposition well enough, they will find a place for you in the business.
Your value proposition rests on the results that you’ve produced. Therefore, it is important to do a really good job in your current position so that people are enthusiastic about supporting you. But that’s not enough.
Upping your game has become a must just to stay competitive. According to a Pew Research Center survey 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace, and 54% see continuous training as essential to career success.
A great, non-traditional way of honing your executive chops is by doing board service for a nonprofit organization. Doing so gives you valuable experience, demonstrates your social responsibility, and builds your network – often with some pretty impressive people.
8. Hire a professional
Job search tactics change over time, and during the Covid crisis they have accelerated. How can you stay on top of market changes? When in doubt, consider hiring a pro. There are many benefits to professional assistance:
Because pros are constantly working with job seekers, they have the most up-to-date information on current hiring practices and hot button issues
Pros are best positioned to help you identify any blind spots or unknown needs that are holding you back
Pros can help you consider career options you encounter from an objective perspective
Pros can offer new tactics to try when you just can’t seem to reach the golden ring
Pros keep you motivated, on task, and are your best cheerleader
Growing professionally is an ongoing process, and your route will likely change over your career. To maximize your potential as an executive and optimize your options, use these lessons to manage your career, and you will see the payoff.
Most people considering a career change know that LinkedIn is THE place to start a job search. But few fully understand the richness of the tool. Sure, they are “on” LinkedIn, they re-create their resume on their profile page, they create a job search, they add suggested contacts to their network, and they “like” posts in their feed. But there is so much more you can do.
LinkedIn is one stop shopping for leveraging your network for so many aspects of your career. That is true whether you’re actively job hunting or simply want to maximize your potential for opportunities not yet on the horizon. But it’s especially powerful during a career change. If you are preparing for one, there are a several ways to harness the power of LinkedIn to make the most of your career change.
1. Reverse engineer your job search
Pros know that the least useful way to get a job is to apply to a job posting. The most successful job searches begin with reverse engineering the process. What does that mean?
Reverse engineering means to take something apart to study how the individual components work together to enable you to duplicate it. In the context of a job search, this means identifying the job that you want, figuring out the prerequisites of that job, remaking yourself as the perfect candidate – and ensuring your resume reflects it – and positioning yourself in such a way that hiring managers recruiting for that job will easily find you.
Easier said than done, you say? It’s not as hard as you think – and it’ll be worth every minute you spend.
Consider how a typical job search plays out. You go to a job search platform, plug the desired company, job title, and location into a search engine, see what pops up, and apply to the most attractive opportunities. There are significant problems with that approach, however.
First, resumes submitted to online job postings invariably get screened by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) before they are ever seen by human eyes. ATS offers hiring managers numerous filters to quickly scan thousands of resumes for keywords that match the job description. If your resume doesn’t reflect the keywords sought by the hiring manager, you may as well throw your resume into the trash.
Second, a ridiculously high number of job openings are never even posted online. Rather, they are available only in what is called the “unpublished market.” Anne Lipsitz, senior career consultant at The Barrett Group, estimates that the unpublished market represents over 50% of the job market. In other words, half of all available positions are never publicly advertised. (Click on image below to listen to Anne’s podcast.)
You can solve for the first problem by studying the keywords of appealing job postings. Make sure your resume mentions all the required experience and skills. Note whatever gaps there might be and upskill if it makes sense to do. (You may even find a course on LinkedIn Learning that meets your needs.)
The trick to solving the second problem is to access connections in your network and, in turn, their connections. The more you plumb the reaches of your connections, the better your chances of locating hidden opportunities in the unpublished market. Doing so calls for strategically managing your network.
The first rule of thumb in a successful job search is: the bigger the network, the more the opportunities. According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two. By some estimates, 85% of all jobs are landed through networking.
So, if you are looking for a job and your LinkedIn profile doesn’t show 500+ connections, get busy! Get in the habit of sending a connection request to everyone you meet.
3. Leverage your social capital
Most people understand the concept of using first-degree connections in LinkedIn. But the real magic happens when you open up your second-degree connections and reverse engineer companies and roles.
“It can be a real game changer,” said Lipsitz. “We are finding that a LinkedIn member with just 150 people in their first-degree circle can access up to 250,000 social capital contacts through their second-degree contacts. It’s fascinating to see the explosion of opportunity when we move from one circle to another.”
LinkedIn allows you to creatively and strategically navigate your networks – whether it’s alumni networks or former colleagues that now work at company where you want to work. Ideally, you will connect with people at an organization that are close to the gatekeepers of your target position to create the groundswell of support that you need BEFORE you apply.
A great way to connect and participate in discussions with new people in your target industry, job function, company, and so on, is by joining groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. This is a fantastic way to build ties, especially if you’re trying to trailblaze a career in a new industry. Once you’re in a group, make your presence known by actively engaging in discussion threads. Inviting key players from these groups into your network can have a powerful impact on your career opportunities according to Anne Lipsitz.
“I have some clients who have seen triple digit increases in the number of people that have viewed their profile after having joined groups,” said Lipsitz. “There is a lot of benefit to contributing content, liking, sharing, commenting, and using hashtags to engage a new audience. Plus, you gain specific subject matter expertise. It’s a brilliant strategy.”
5. Keep in touch after leaving a job
One of the great things about LinkedIn is that it is an aggregator of all your business contacts. Once upon a time, a job change also meant a change of email and phone number – and a risk of losing contact with former colleagues. LinkedIn resolved that problem. Still, don’t neglect your old relationships. Maintaining them is as important as currying new ones. Be proactive about dropping a line to say “hello” to people, especially those “high asset” contacts. You never know when you’ll need to leverage that social capital.
Create Your Personal Brand
Let’s face it, the employment market is like any market. If you want something to sell well, you need to manage the public perception of it. That includes yourself. To ensure you aren’t missing out on opportunities, you need to create a clear personal brand and stand out from the crowd. There are several ways to do it. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit…
The “About” section is underutilized by many LinkedIn users. But this is the ideal spot to showcase your personal brand. Pack the text with keywords of the positions and industries in which you’d like to work, the better to funnel recruiters to your profile page.
7. Manage your personal profile
Be sure to always keep your resume and professional responsibilities updated. List your relevant skills, and keep them current. And remember, “relevant skills” doesn’t mean ALL of your skills. List skills that are relevant to the industries and job functions that you’re focusing on, and omit the rest.
Take the time to edit your personal profile to highlight the attributes about yourself that you want people to notice. Many of these edits can be made in a matter of minutes.
(Hint: Click on “Me” in the top bar, then on “View Profile.”)
8. Customize your headline
Your LinkedIn headline is automatically the same as your most recent job title. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re striking a new career path or just want to jazz up a boring title, you can rewrite it. Don’t feel restricted to using a conventional title, either. Make it specific to what you do, but feel free to make it interesting enough that people will want to learn more about you.
9. Make a statement with your photos
A picture is worth a thousand words. Make them count in your favor. Choose a photo that shows you in good light, not too far away, and with a smile in your eyes. It never hurts to splurge on a professional photo. And while you’re considering your headshot, don’t forget to leverage the background photo to help drive home a message about your personal brand.
10. Customize your LinkedIn URL
LinkedIn automatically generates a URL for you when you create an account – and it looks it! But you can change the extension to anything you want. It makes you easier to find, it shows your attention to detail, and, well, it just looks more professional on your resume and business card. Why have “www.linkedin.com/in/julie-norwell-5600929” when it takes only 30 seconds to have www.linkedin.com/in/julienorwell?
Post content that shows readers that you are a thought leader in your field. This is especially important if you’re in a professional services industry. This includes posting original content, sharing media that might interest others in your field, and commenting on the posts of other members. You can even write and publish long-form articles, create videos and advertise events right from LinkedIn.
12. Show off your creds
Having someone else vouch for your skills is a great way to build up your credibility. Ask people in your network to write you a recommendation or endorse you for something. If making an outright request for an endorsement makes you feel uneasy, consider proactively endorsing someone whose endorsement you’d value. Doing so often spurs people to reciprocate. If you find that the endorsements you are receiving are skewing your image too much in one direction, you can manage which endorsements to show and which to hide.
While the advantages of maximizing your LinkedIn account are greatest during a career change, it makes sense to stay actively engaged during all stages of a professional career. Even after you’ve landed an amazing job, never underestimate the present – and future – value of maintaining connections, building social capital, and just paying it forward on your career.
With no end to the health crisis in sight, it’s clear that using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, Google Meet, and many other video conferencing platforms will be part of the “new normal” work experience for the foreseeable future. For those new to the job market, this trend will include remote job interviews.
Interviewing for a new job is stressful enough in the best of circumstances. It’s especially fraught when you face the double whammy of a health-economic crisis. For one thing, the stakes are higher. With the unemployment rate topping 10%, there are many more job seekers per job opening than there were prior to the pandemic. Adding in a remote interviewing component is bound to challenge job seekers of all stripes because it introduces so many more opportunities for things to go wrong.
But things don’t have to go wrong. If you know how to prepare, there is a lot you can control. And what you can’t control you can manage. If you’re fresh to the job market it is worth reviewing some best practices about remote interviewing to make sure you avoid the most common gaffes and put your best foot (face?) forward.
Before you do anything else, make sure you are comfortable with the technology you will be using. Make sure to download the required app well in advance of the interview so that you aren’t caught needing to update your software minutes before you are supposed to go live. Showing up late to an interview is a cardinal sin – even when the reason for your lateness is that you were struggling to get the video technology to work.
Test your mic, your camera, and your connectivity. Are your voice and image clear? Are you framed well? (The top of your head should be half an inch from the top of the screen.) Ideally, you will be looking neither up nor down at the camera, but straight into it. And make sure your lighting is good. If you’ve got a light source behind or to the side of you, you risk looking like a ninja, like you have a halo, or are the subject of an artistic exercise in chiaroscuro. All of them are distracting. The best practice is to be lit from the front, near a window, if possible. Everyone looks better in natural light.
Ask a friend to help you test things out to be absolutely certain that you are ready before your interview. Attention to these details are the low-hanging fruit of remote interview prep. Failing to do them could signal a fatal lack of preparedness to your interviewer…and first impressions are lasting.
One big difference between in-person and remote interviewing is that you bear all the responsibility of managing the visual perspective that a hiring manager has of you. That’s not limited to your attire, which is still as important as ever, by the way (at least from the waist up). It also includes the backdrop of your living environment.
Many people new to video conferencing have unwittingly displayed their unmade bed, streaking toddlers, family squabbles, or worse during a call.
“I was once in a corporate meeting with several people, including one guy whose roommate began using the toilet behind him without closing the door,” said Anne Lipsitz, executive career consultant at The Barrett Group. “He had no idea what was happening behind him, and it was pretty awkward when we suggested he close the bathroom door during our meeting.
Auditory distractions – like barking dogs, crying babies, and door bells chiming – should also be managed as much as possible. When in doubt, keep yourself muted at all times except when you are speaking.
Many online conferencing platforms have a designated button on the keyboard for quick mute/unmute function, like the space bar for Zoom, or the “M” key for Bluejeans. Make sure you know which button to use during your call and employ it as necessary.
If you like to use headphones during video calls, best to ask permission before your interview, to ensure they won’t divert your interviewer’s attention. In short, the rule of thumb is to minimize any possible distractions lest they become things by which your interviewer judges you.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Controlling for potential problems is crucial, nevertheless, the best laid plans often go awry. How you handle those situations matter. When things go south unexpectedly, make sure you have a contingency plan. If a sudden hurricane comes through and wipes out your power, make sure you have a phone number to let your interviewer know that there is a problem.
In the world of remote working, an embarrassing family interruption is much more likely than a hurricane, as demonstrated by the now famous BBC interview of a man whose segment was disrupted by the hilarious appearance of his two young children bursting into his office, and the even funnier commotion of his wife skidding into the scene to hustle them out.
It’s a very bad interview when no one remembers – or even cares – about your comments because something more interesting has happened over your shoulder. So how to handle it?
“Acknowledge it and absolutely own it,” said Annie Meisels, an actress and public speaking coach whose business, A Powerful Voice, now caters to workers trying to connect with others in a virtual setting. “If you seem embarrassed, it becomes a negative. But if you own it, you don’t look bad – you look human. Introduce your child or your dog to your onscreen audience, crack a joke, then try to move forward smoothly.”
Done right, the situation could end up demonstrating some pretty great characteristics about you, like adaptability, humor, and grace under pressure – all highly valuable assets during the current crisis. It may even help build a human connection with your interviewer – which is much more difficult to do remotely than in an in-person setting.
Try to Make a Human Connection
You absolutely have to work harder to make a human connection through a screen. A number of studies suggest that a huge percentage of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, and during a remote interview you don’t have the luxury of a handshake, a walk down a hallway, or a leisurely lunch. You have 30-60 minutes to be authentic, and small details count more than you think.
“Project your voice! Make sure you are articulating well,” said Lipsitz. “And be mindful of where your eyes are – try to look at the camera and not at the image of your interviewer or of yourself more than necessary. It’s as important to get people at “Hello” in a video interview as in real life, so you need to seem attentive, responsive, and have a smile in your eyes.”
People who aren’t naturally high energy personalities might need to fake it lest they come across as disinterested and lose an edge to their competition. Tricks include leaning in to show interest, deliberately varying your vocal range, and asking conversational questions that can connect you to your interviewer. Try to prepare some appropriate anecdotes that might help your interviewer relate more to you. People who reveal personal information about themselves are more likely to feel a human connection.
By the way, if you want to take notes, ask permission so that your interview doesn’t think you’re distracted, unengaged or – worse – checking your phone. Set expectations up front to avoid judgement.
With luck, the next time you’re planning to change jobs, you will have the option to interview in person. Likelier than not, however, remote interviews are here to stay in some form. Not to worry – with an eye to these basic tips, and a little practice, you can be as successful in your job interviews whether they’re conducted live at an office or remotely from your home.
BLM protests successfully put the issue of racism and racial prejudice front and center in the national debate in the same way that the #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual harassment and gender bias in 2018. In the wake of these protests, employers will surely feel pressure to recruit and promote more Blacks, as well as other underrepresented groups.
As with women, a redress is way overdue for Blacks in the workplace. Last December a significant study about the status of corporate diversity efforts in the U.S. found that Blacks face myriad obstacles to professional advancement and workplace success that Whites just don’t experience – and don’t even see. The report, “Being Black in Corporate America,” which was produced by the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit group focused on workplace diversity, included these key findings:
Blacks, who comprise over 13% of the U.S. population, occupy only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S.
58% of Blacks, on average, have experienced racial prejudice at work, with that number reaching as high as 79% in the Midwest.
Fewer than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black – at last count there were only five. (According to Fortune Magazine, there have only been 18 Black CEOs at the head of Fortune 500 companies in the past 20 years.)
If you’re a jobseeker, lack of diversity is a critical issue regardless of your skin color, gender, or sexual persuasion. Why? Because studies prove that companies that are racially and ethnically diverse perform better than companies that aren’t. They also show that companies with weak track records on diversity have a competitive disadvantage. Can you say “job security?”
The Covid-19 crisis will likely make or break many companies. Finding solutions to the challenges they face will require innovations and new approaches that a diverse workforce can bring most effectively. Therefore, jobseekers of all demographics would be smart to target diverse companies in their job search.
In short, companies that aren’t diverse may not have much of a future.
Diversity to the Rescue
It might seem an inauspicious time – the middle of a pandemic that has sent the economy reeling – for supporters of diversity to be pressing their case. Companies often lose focus on their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals during economic downturns as they face other pressing challenges. That was certainly true during the 2007 financial crisis.
But now is exactly the right time for companies to ramp up their efforts to improve D&I according to global consulting firm, McKinsey.
McKinsey, which tracks corporate diversity, found in its latest report, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, that the business case for diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever. When it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile – up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014. It also found that the greater the representation of women, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.
When it comes to ethnic and cultural diversity, the results were even more impressive. Top quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. That is up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.
On the flip side, companies that ranked low on gender and ethnic diversity faced a steep penalty. They were 27% more likely to underperform on profitability than all other companies.
So, what’s the secret sauce in diversity? Quite simply, diversity unlocks potential. Novel products and solutions are created when people of varied experiences bring new ideas to the table.
Consider the Broadway hit, Hamilton, for example. A highlight of the Fourth of July weekend for many people was the opportunity to stream Hamilton on Disney+. The show, written by a Latino, featured the original cast, of which nearly everyone was either Black or a person of color.
That might seem ironic for a show that features the white men that were America’s Founding Fathers. But very quickly skin color takes a backseat to a unique retelling of the country’s nascence, and the West Indian immigrant at the heart of it, because it is performed in an incredibly creative, unconventional way.
The success of Hamilton is a good example of how diversity, and the fresh ideas that accompany it, can take shake up an institution – in this case, the Broadway musical industry – and create a new formula for success. After all, who would ever have guessed that a historical epic about a White man and his penchant for policymaking told through hip-hop and rap – musical styles that originated with young, urban, Blacks – would become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time?
Another key finding in studies about corporate diversity is that sometimes diversity isn’t enough. Workers in diverse environments won’t give their best performance if they don’t also feel included. Inclusion means a sense of fairness of advancement opportunity, freedom from bias, and an ability to be themselves.
Workers of all stripes who feel a lack of inclusion or belonging will be less engaged in their work, less loyal, and less likely to stay at a company. In fact, they are less likely to even pursue a job at an organization if they perceive that organization to be non-inclusive. Women, LGBTQ+ and racial or ethnic-minorities are particularly prone to feeling a lack of inclusion, but workers in all demographics report a lack of belonging at work.
It’s bad news for everyone at a company when a portion of the workforce isn’t engaged. Imagine trying to execute a project when your team members are thinking more about leaving the company than about their responsibilities.
As a jobseeker, it’s not easy to ascertain indicators of inclusion at a company from the outside. But looking at the diversity of people at all levels is a good start – especially the executive level. Look for processes and policies that promote equality of opportunity and transparency. You should also look at who is accountable for D&I efforts. Ideally, they will be on the plate of core-business leaders and not just relegated to the HR department.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the numerous crises our country faces simultaneously: a pandemic, an economic crisis, and race protests roiling the nation. But it will be a silver lining, to be sure, if the intersection of these events results in employers taking significantly greater steps towards advancing diversity and inclusion goals.
Doing so will benefit not only underrepresented groups, it will also benefit workers of every demographic. Best of all, the innovation and creativity it ushers in will position companies to survive, thrive, and, if necessary, rethink their entire business models.
In short, diversity in the workplace will be a win-win-win.
The employment numbers for May are still ugly, but by this point they shouldn’t shock anyone. Economists have been telegraphing for the past two months that the economic worst of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to come. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed, the economic worst has arrived – with GDP shrinking to unprecedented lows and unemployment stretching to unprecedented highs.
But there is a silver lining to bottoming out. Now begins the upswing.
To be sure, the labor market has borne the biggest brunt of the economic downturn. In just eleven weeks the unemployment rate has rocketed from one of the lowest it’s ever been to one of the highest it’s ever been.
We can all take heart in the indicators suggesting that the second half of the year will be better, and that investors expect unemployment to improve relatively quickly. But, let’s not kid ourselves – business in the post-Covid world is likely to be dramatically different, and some of the hardest hit industries – amusement parks, movie theaters, hotels, clothing stores, and airlines – may not recover for some time, if ever.
Other industries will rebound, however, as will companies that are bold and agile enough to adapt to a new business-as-usual. The employment market, too, will likely transform, with job opportunities growing and declining in unexpected places and ways. Jobseekers who know where to look will have an edge.
The breathtaking speed with which the pandemic swept the globe caught everyone off guard and every sector has been affected. Industries such as Video Conferencing & Software Developers, which enjoyed an overnight surge (growth is up 19.1% in 2020 so far), have even faced unique challenges (think Zoom). Still, the pandemic and the uncertainties about when it will end creates better conditions for some businesses than others.
Top performing industries to date according to industry research platform, Vertical IQ, include liquor stores, fruit and vegetable manufacturers, grocery stores, home centers and hardware stores, internet, TV, and mail order retailers, janitorial services, paper products manufacturers, and pet food manufacturers.
Focus on remote working
Going forward, industries and businesses that support the exigencies of social distancing and the practice of spending more time at home – be it for work, schooling, or entertainment – will make out well, especially in the short term.
According to industry market researcher, IBISWorld, which offers specific analysis of the coronavirus impact on individual industries, technology will be a sure winner, especially software and systems that facilitate remote business continuity, unified communications-as-a-service platforms, and cloud computing capabilities.
Other industries with a rosy outlook will include online furniture sales (for remote workers setting up home offices), and Employee Assistance Program Services (for the anticipated uptick in mental health issues associated with remote working and quarantining).
Because many educational institutions will continue remote learning into the fall, online tutoring services and educational consultants (to help train teachers and administrators in online teaching) are expected to see greater demand.
Retail stores have shuttered, but online shopping has surged – a trend that is expected to grow. Online grocery shopping, in particular, is booming. Compared to pre-Covid days when just 11% of consumers bought groceries online, in the four weeks ending April 7 more than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order – 33% of them first-timers to online grocery shopping!
Besides groceries and tangible goods, people are also consuming all kinds of media online, especially video streaming services and video games.
Business advisory services
Not surprisingly, many businesses will be seeking advisory assistance on whether to maintain operations and how best to do so. Management consulting, accounting services, and other advisory service businesses, therefore, will likely see a boost in demand.
Demand for Janitorial Services and other industries involved with the prevention of infection will boom as state and local economies open and try to stem fears by a wary public.
Industries related to medical instrument and supply manufacturing, medical services, software, medical supplies, and, especially, labor in the healthcare field will see a rise in demand. In addition, many medical providers can expect to see a surge of caseloads by patients who opted to put off discretionary procedures until after the pandemic peaked.
The pandemic has also supercharged the prospects for telehealth. McKinsey recently reported that “Covid-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of telehealth. Consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.”
Industries Likely to Sink
In the post-Covid world there are many industries that jobseekers should think twice about targeting. In fact, when it comes to sinking and swimming, Forbes contributor Stephen McBride minces no words: “For many industries, this crisis will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. [Three] industries will NEVER return to what they once were,” he writes.
These industries are:
Movie Theaters – Why risk infection when you can stream movies at home?
Department Stores – Many first-time online shoppers will eschew shopping in physical stores now that they know how convenient online shopping is.
Office Space Operators – The growing awareness that widespread remote working will be part of the “new normal” means many businesses won’t renew their office leases.
Many industries will take years to regain their former strength, especially if human contact is important to the business. Leisure & Hospitality, for example, was hit harder than any other industry, with unemployment reaching nearly 40% (see graph). And because travel has dried up, demand for hotel rooms and restaurant seats may not rebound for a long time. Individual hotels and major operators are projecting occupancies below 20%, a reality that may force many to close. According to IBISWorld, sector revenue is forecast to decline 11.2% in 2020.
Within this industry are subgroups, such as performing arts, spectator sports, museums, amusement parks and national and state parks. Some will fare better than others, but all will face challenges going forward.
This sector is victim to substantially reduced industrial and consumer spending. According to IBISWorld, revenue for this sector is forecast to decline 18.4% in 2020. The segment of the industry related to medical supplies, however, will be an outlier in the overall decline.
This sector is volatile in the best of circumstances, and pre-Covid it was already facing stagnant productivity, low levels of digitization, and low profitability according to global management consulting company McKinsey. It was ripe for disruption, and the pandemic will force it to innovate if it is to fully recover. The sector revenue is forecast to decline 6.8% in 2020.
On the upside, low mortgage rates and pent up demand will kick in once the larger economy recovers. Moreover, public investment and infrastructure projects are sorely needed in the U.S. Initiative on these is unlikely before the presidential election, but if the government moves forward on projects in 2021, it could offer a lot of employment opportunity.
Automakers have started to reopen plants, but continuing supply chain and health safety concerns, not to mention waning consumer demand, will continue to hamper the recovery of this industry.
The air travel industry will be even more vulnerable. Revenue is expected to decline 6.3% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 fallout. U.S. airlines carried 51% fewer scheduled service passengers in March 2020 than a year earlier – the largest year-to-year decrease on record and the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. Demand is unlikely to recover without a concurrent rise in consumer sentiment and improved economic conditions.
Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts
It’s important to keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t fully responsible for the trajectory of a given industry. New trends in the global order of business have been underway for years thanks to advances in digital technology. Analysts say the pandemic is simply accelerating these trends.
The result may well be a paradigm shift.
“Covid-19 will force a rebirth of many industries…, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity,” writes Mohit Joshi, president of global technology firm, Infosys Limited, in his article, Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is a great time for talented workers to consider a career change. No matter the industry, companies will survive based on the choices they make now, and choosing good talent is paramount.
McKinsey notes in a recent report that “forward-looking companies know that…the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgement, and creativity that people bring to work…This means getting the right people in the right roles to create value.”
This is good news for jobseekers, but they shouldn’t forget that, like companies, those with a healthy combination of resilience, agility and a willingness to adapt to the new normal will be the most successful.
The coronavirus crisis has unleashed a maelstrom of uncertainty about every aspect of our lives. It has introduced concerns as disparate as mental and physical health, financial stability, children’s education, screen time, the presidential election, humanity at the end of life – for heaven’s sake, we even worry about where our next roll of toilet paper will come from!
Paramount for some Americans are anxieties about employment. Just six weeks into the Covid-19 crisis, a jaw-dropping 30 million people hit the unemployment rolls. And that number is expected to climb. Economists estimate the unemployment rate may ultimately hit 20% – a staggering figure that is now being compared to the Great Depression, when a quarter of the American population was unemployed.
For now, there are still way more questions than answers about the uncertainty – especially for those who have lost, or risk losing, their jobs. Two questions topping the list are: How do we get to the other side of this crisis, and what will it look like when we get there?
The short answer to both questions is that no one knows for sure. This crisis presents the U.S. with two equally harrowing alternatives – a modern day Scylla and Charibdis: Reopen the economy and risk thousands more deaths, or keep the economy closed and risk unparalleled economic damage.
How it ultimately turns out will depend on so many variables, not least of which include when a coronavirus vaccine can be produced, and how effectively our leaders navigate us through this impossibly difficult strait.
But Americans are nothing if not resilient. Somehow, we will get to the other side. And the path forward isn’t so bleak if you resolve to prepare yourself well for work life after the coronavirus crisis. Here are a few observations to help set your expectations.
We Are Unlikely to Get Back to Where We Were
When investors tuned into the most recent annual Berkshire Hathaway stockholders meeting, they were heartened by the optimism of billionaire and financial guru, William Buffett, who dispensed with some folksy wisdom. “Never bet against America,” he said. At the same time the “Oracle of Omaha” was realistic about the changes we face.
“We do not know exactly what happens when you voluntarily shut down a substantial portion of your society,” said Buffett.
To be sure, the return to any semblance of “normal” will take time, and it’s unclear whether the timeframe should be measured in months or years. But businesses are already planning for the next phase.
Consulting firm KPMG, for example, has published a useful conceptual model for how organizations might safely restart in a way that incorporates infection testing to mitigate the health risks to the workforce.
They’ve also looked at the struggles American workers currently face to understand how businesses can better support them. A survey reveals that 60% of employees say their jobs have become more demanding – even overwhelming. This is especially true of parents who are juggling work and childcare.
And the higher they are on the corporate ladder, the more likely people are to find work more challenging now. Few managers have experience overseeing an entirely virtual workforce. It requires a special set of skills to maintain employee morale, productivity, and a human connection at a distance.
Again, no one knows for sure what the new normal work life will look like, but it will probably look a lot like what prognosticators were forecasting in the pre-Covid-19 period. The future of work is now standing at the front door.
Most evident, is that there will be a burgeoning role of technology, especially anything pertaining to remote working. Virus or no virus, it will be impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. Now that companies and workers know that remote working works, fewer people will be going to an office.
Instead, business-as-usual will involve working from home, less travel, more video conferencing, and new apps and platforms that enable team communication and collaboration at a distance. In fact, there is a good chance that Covid-19 will trigger a permanent exodus from dense, metropolitan centers to rural and suburban locales. After all, why would city dwellers opt to pay high rents for a small apartment if proximity to an office is no longer a requirement?
Until a vaccine is available, only those for whom it is critical to be in an office will be expected to go. Those that do will find new floor layouts and safe zones in elevators that promote social distancing. Previously open work spaces may have sneeze guard partitions and ramped up cleaning regimens. If they don’t already, businesses will stagger work schedules to minimize contact among office workers.
Some changes may challenge privacy concerns, such as regular temperature scans. According to the Washington Post, PricewaterhouseCoopers will soon launch a contact-tracing tool for businesses. The tool adds an app to workers’ phones that detects the phones of any co-workers that come near.
The Covid-19 Impact on Career Management
To stay competitive in this new work environment, it’s imperative that workers keep up with technological advancements and prepare themselves for imminent changes to conventional modes of work. The rise of the Gig Economy was well underway before Covid-19. In the short term it will expand even more because companies concerned about their bottom line are likely to hire people on a temporary basis until the dust settles.
“In the past month and a half, we’ve had more clients landing than ever before,” says Dan Resendes, chief consulting officer at The Barrett Group. “Companies that are affected the worst are looking to replace leaders that are failing to handle this crisis.”
Recruiters are also actively beefing up their lists of leaders proficient in dealing with crises, transitions, and virtual business. In addition to these skills, a savoir-faire in managing relationships and leveraging social capital outside of the traditional format is more prized than ever before.
Indeed, Resendes notes that the successes of clients at The Barrett Group is due largely to their efforts to check in on people in their network to make sure everyone is doing okay during this crisis. Networking is hugely important in the best of times. During a crisis such as this, where in-person meetings are risky, this kind of soft skill is crucial to building relationships and creating a community.
“We are seeing a fundamental shift in the skills and leadership background required by companies,” said Resendes.
Some Silver Linings for Job Seekers
It is difficult to see past the daily grim headlines, but there are some silver linings for motivated job seekers. Many job seekers are simply deciding to wait out the storm, which means the pool of competitors is smaller than it would otherwise be for those actively looking. Also, many older workers may simple opt for early retirement rather than reinventing themselves for a few more years, which will shrink the pool even more.
It’s important to remember that when a vaccine or widespread testing puts the worst of the health crisis behind us, the employment picture gets much brighter. Because the economy was victim to an exogenous shock and not internal rot, hiring may well be supercharged when it recovers.
Sure, some industries, like travel, hospitality, and tourism, may take a long time to recuperate, but others, like technology, healthcare, construction, and consulting firms, will be catapulted way ahead as innovators race to respond to new social and commercial needs and new consumer expectations.
Going forward, job seekers should highlight different skills and experiences than they used to. Anything that shows an ability to achieve a vision or a mission by leveraging calm, decisive leadership during times of adversity and crises will grab attention, as will skills in managing a remote workforce, an ability to restructure policies and procedures, and distance production.
Most organizations have never experienced a disruption on the scale of the Covid-19 crisis, and they will do all they can to minimize the fallout and ensure it never happens again. If you can contribute to that goal, you will be hired!
On a recent afternoon, Barbara Hockstader, the vice president of Product Strategy at The Energy Project, and her co-worker finalized some changes to a presentation they were collaborating on and sent it off to the CEO for review.
Then she walked downstairs to her kitchen and started cutting vegetables for dinner. Hockstader often works from her vacation home in Connecticut two hours north of her company’s headquarters in Yonkers, NY.
“Google Docs is the technology that has had the biggest impact on the way I work over the past few years,” she says. “I can edit a document with several other people at the same time and all of us can be in different cities around the world.”
Working from home is certainly not unique, but, thanks to ever-improving technologies that enhance connectivity and productivity, like cloud-based file sharing and mobile applications, working remotely has never been easier. Indeed, technology developments have expanded the office walls of businesses in ways previously unimaginable.
Educational instructors hold online classes with students in different cities, mobile apps allow colleagues to send large files and collaborate on a document from a half a world away, and videoconferencing technology allows someone to participate in a meeting from his phone while he’s walking down the street.
A shared office space revolution has, until very recently, been a trend, as well. Co-working businesses, which once catered to start-ups and freelancers, offer amenities and the latest technologies to attract larger players.
The shifting of work outside a traditional office setting will only pick up momentum as businesses increasingly place less emphasis on the physical presence of a worker in the office and more on her productivity and deliverables. The time has never been better to leverage the power of the virtual workplace.
Working remotely nowadays is about so much more than working from home. Amir Salihefendic, the CEO of one small software company, Doist, believes that technology changes happening today could lead to a massive paradigm shift for work with widespread implications for the world, similar to industrialization. He calls it “remote-first.”
Salihefendic says that, if not for the ability to source talent from anywhere in the world, he would be out of business. His little company could never have competed in Silicon Valley against the tech giants. But by building up a remote-first business, he and his team could test their ideas, innovate, and grow the company from anywhere in the world without depending on tech investors.
Salihefendic proudly touts that all the processes inside his company, from product development to marketing to HR, is fully distributed around the world. There is no single headquarters and the 53 employees of the company are spread across 23 different countries. He has still yet to meet some of the people he’s hired.
If you think that the lack of personal interaction might weaken company loyalty, you’d be wrong. Doist’s employee retention rate over the past five years is 93%. It turns out that many people really enjoy the flexibility of working when, and where, they want.
Of course, remote-working isn’t just for office workers.
Medical professionals use some eyebrow-raising remote diagnostic tools now to attend to patients in far-flung places. They include smart phone applications that enable patients, themselves, to perform echocardiograms, take blood pressure tests and even count red blood cells. The results are then sent electronically to doctors for diagnosis.
And what 50-year old won’t be excited to hear about the invention of the PillCam Colon? The ingestible, disposable capsule contains a miniature camera that takes detailed pictures of a patient’s colon as it passes naturally through his digestive system. The images are wirelessly transmitted to a data recorder attached to a belt worn by the patient that can be read later by a doctor. It may not be long before this procedure supplants the common, albeit more invasive, colonoscopy.
“Technology enables physicians to see patients outside the confines of their offices,” says Eliza Ng, MD, MPH, deputy chief medical officer at MetroPlus Health Plan. “These emerging new technologies allow traditional diagnostics of healthcare to be used in a more accessible way because patients can use them in their own home. They hold a lot of promise for rural areas where patients have less access to high quality or specialized care compared to urban settings.”
Not Your Parents’ Shared Office Space
For remote workers who still prefer the accoutrements of an office setting, there is a solution: shared office space. To be sure, this is not the shared office space of yesterday. The cutting-edge companies of today offer not only a desk, internet, and a printer, but also a juice bar, beer on tap, a luxury spa, a gym and much more all within a professionally designed and decorated work environment.
WeWork’s coworking approach includes having a community manager who keeps track of members and organizes social and business events to bring them together – the better to network and inspire each other.
Although freelancers and start-ups represent a majority of its clientele, WeWork has been adding to its ranks such business titans as IBM, Verizon and Siemens. Increasingly, larger companies are renting from WeWork or transferring divisions there because they see an opportunity to limit their financial downside in the event of an unanticipated expansion or contraction. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to hobknob with the chic, entrepreneurial types, either.
American Workers on the Move
Given the changes in the workplace, it’s curious that recent data suggest a declining population growth in big cities. According to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy research group in Washington DC, there is a broad dispersal of the nation’s population—from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. Among 84 big cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. The data continue a pattern that began last year.
Frey conjectures that the declines may be attributable to high costs of living in some cities and that workers are attracted by more affordable homes in the suburbs. Since 2012 the growth of urban areas has halved and exurban county growth has quadrupled.
The data may merely reflect the continuation of a trend that was underway before the Great Recession disrupted it in 2007. But it will be interesting to see how demographic trends ultimately interact with technology trends.
For Amir Salihefendic of Doist, migrating Americans may be an opportunity to prove a point.
“Remote-first is the first way of working that is truly location-independent. This change has huge potential benefits not just for individuals and companies, but for the world,” he blogged last November.
“Remote work has the potential to keep dollars and young people in communities and countries that have been left behind in the information age.”
No matter what, changes in the workplace are opportunities for all of us to envision how the new environment can shape our lives in satisfying ways.
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