In the wake of nationwide coronavirus shutdowns, search terms such as “layoff” and “recession” have spiked on Google in recent days. Whether the queries are coming from employees who’ve just been laid off, employers considering layoffs, or people wondering whether a layoff might be imminent, unemployment forecasters predict a huge upturn in claims.
In the short term, workers across the economic spectrum have been feeling the reverberations of shock and worry about work changes. Some employees, particularly those in the most economically fragile professional circumstances, have gone on to the unemployment rolls due to store and restaurant closures. Other businesses beyond the hospitality and service sector immediately began to consider trimming payrolls, concerned about supply chain issues, burn rate or future economic shockwaves.
All is not bleak, however. Despite the spike in Massachusetts unemployment claims, which correlate time-wise with the massive retail, hospitality and service sector shutdowns, there are two trends to keep in mind:
- Companies are still hiring in the short term. (The jobs might just shift a bit, and if you need work, you might need to shift temporarily, too.) Last week, many employers continued to post jobs, hold interviews, and make offers. Amazon, Google, Zoom, UberEats, Aldi, and other companies need service professionals right now. Beyond that, in the professional sector, many companies are thinking that now’s the time to put feelers out to really talented employees who might not have previously considered a move. Find those companies, and you’ll find the opportunity.
- We still face a global, long-term talent shortage that’s good news for job seekers once the virus threat passes and the economy rebounds. Even if the job market begins to feel more employer-friendly than employee-friendly in the next few months, the fact remains that there’s a massive need for talented employees on the horizon, and it will swing back around at some point to favor job seekers.
Economists are hoping for what they call a “V-shaped recovery” in which the economy picks sharply back up. Whether that’s true, or a slightly longer recovery is in store, everyone expects it to recover, at some point.
The question becomes, what can you do in the short run to shore up your career prospects while we wait?
- Do your best to do your best. If you’re currently employed, you may be working from home or working long hours in a crisis-type situation. The silver lining is, everyone knows right now that you’re stressed and doing a lot (especially if you have kids at home), so your employer’s likely to cut you some slack. However, now’s the time to take any steps you can to help your boss shine, or be extra organized about your work.
- Use the work from home time to connect with your network. You may be wondering, especially if you’re managing kids and a busy work schedule, where you’ll possibly find time to network. In this case, a simple email will suffice for the moment – something your contact can scan quickly – meant to offer support and signal to your inner circle that you may be open to new opportunities, should your work situation change quickly.
- If you’re laid off, don’t panic. Learn, network, and look for short term work that pays the bills, without worrying about what it will do to your resume. Investigate the Gig Economy, since companies who need help may be willing to post short-term work if they’re not yet ready to add long-term, dedicated headcount at the moment. Dig into groups like HireClub on social media and the grassroots efforts happening, like this one, to connect people out of work with jobs or gigs.
- Look at growth sectors more broadly and see what you can do today to be positioned for one of the future talent shortages. What can you take on for a current employer? What can you read up about if you’re unemployed, or how can you take advantage of the massive influx of free online courses that major universities such as Yale and Harvard have offered to the public?
- Take the time to get your job search game plan together so it’s ready if you need it. Your resume, LinkedIn, elevator pitch and target networking strategy are all things you can “bank” right now in the event you’re laid off or furloughed.
Yes, these are uncertain times at this very second. Yes, some employers will conduct short- or long-term cuts. YES, Employers are still hiring!
And yes, whether you’re employed or unemployed, the time is now to slowly, carefully, thoughtfully start planning for your next, or long term, career future. You, and your skills, are needed.