What You Need to Know about Career Pivots From Being Laid Off

By Julius Choudhury

Millennials have been unlucky when it comes to the economy. They’ve had to endure not one but two “once in a generation” recessions - first the financial crisis and now the coronavirus shutdown. Ten years ago, the economic catastrophe that saw the failure of several banks drew comparisons with the Great Depression. And now, thanks to the shut down of the economy, the same thing looks like it is happening all over again.

For the non-economists among you, it is hard to understate the extremity of what is happening in the economy right now. Forecasters suggest that the economy could contract by up to 35 percent under the worst-case scenarios, paring back GDP to levels we last saw thirty years ago. All that new technology, capital, and enhanced productivity are disappearing in a puff of smoke and face masks. It is as if the internet, machine learning, and biotech never happened.


But even in the Great Depression, we didn’t see figures like this. Back then, recorded quarter-on-quarter contractions in output topped out at around 15 percent in most countries. We never saw anything approaching 25 percent, let alone 35 percent. In the Great Recession of ten years ago, output fell by around 4 to 6 percent - a severe contraction historically, but mild compared to the nightmare we have right now. 

People, therefore, are going to get laid off. In fact, we already see this play out in spectacular fashion. Three million people filed for unemployment benefits in the first week of the lockdown, following by another three million in the second week. Then another six million in the third week. 

These kinds of numbers are genuinely terrifying and paint a picture of what happens when you force millions of businesses to close their doors and cease providing services. A lot of you, therefore, will either find yourself furloughed or just out of work. 

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, finding yourself without a job can be a painful experience. But it is also a massive opportunity. Circumstances force you to make a move you would never otherwise have taken. Your life is now on an entirely different trajectory, and it is up to your how you deal with it. 

You should note that we’re not looking at an economy that is shut down, even if people must stay in their homes for years to come. Instead, we’re witnessing adaptation. Everyone you know is having to alter the way that they provide value to people while maintaining social distance. The reason so many people have lost their jobs is that a lot of work involves being physically proximate to people. Take that away, and you wind up with the situation we have right now. 

It won’t last forever, though, even if the lockdown persists. Jobs will change, companies will adapt, and people will find themselves employed in different ways from before. Waitresses will become delivery drivers. Personal trainers will move their businesses online. Account managers will do their work over the telephone. It will all change.

On top of that, entrepreneurs will develop new companies that will provide new kinds of work. Eventually, they will exhaust the supply of labor and use it to their advantage. There’s always plenty of work to be done, even if we’re all stuck at home


The Value Of Pivoting

But learning how to pivot effectively is a massive challenge. You not only need to understand your skills but also how they provide value in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now, things aren’t clear. People aren’t sure what direction our society will take. Will it record, as it did after the financial crisis? Or will it fall into a Greece-style depression without much light at the end of the tunnel?

There, however, some megatrends that you will want to consider when thinking about pivoting your career. Let’s take a look at them now.


Look For Work In Computing

The demand for people with network security management skills is going through the roof right now. Businesses are shuttering their offices and moving their workers over to virtual spaces. And so they need people who understand how networks operate and how to keep them up-and-running.

It is unlikely, therefore, that demand for IT professionals will subside. In fact, as businesses learn that they don’t need physical offices to operate throughout the pandemic, the role of the cloud will continue to expand. Demand will lead to the creation of millions of new computer-related jobs, as the entire knowledge economy shifts over to the virtual environment. Plus, it will take many years to build out the system, providing healthy career longevity for anyone planning on going into the sector.


Ask Yourself Which Jobs Are Likely To Last

Not all jobs will stick around forever. Some will disappear entirely, never to return. There’s no guarantee that once this pandemic is over that, you will be able to slot into a similar role. Things may change for good.

It is critical, therefore, to think about how you might be able to apply your skills differently in a job that will go the distance.

Top of your list priorities should be to learn anything that you can use while you work from home. Those skills are going to pay dividends in the short term. But it is also essential to use the time you have right now wisely so that you can apply yourself in the future. If you’ve been furloughed, you have an impromptu sabbatical. Use it wisely. It will probably - and hopefully - never happen again during your working life.


Find Companies That Successfully Adapted Their Business Models

The next thing you should do is look for work in companies that already successfully transitioned their business models to the new reality. It is a sign that they have flexible management structures in place that will keep them in business through this difficult time, providing you with a reliable paycheck.

Companies can transition in all kinds of ways. For some, it is just a matter of moving out of the office and putting all their work online. For others, it means making changes to their business model to ensure social distancing. Some are even developing entirely new coronavirus-related products. We don’t know how long this “new normal” will last, so proactive companies are vital for job security.


Start Kindling Relationships Now

Lockdown is a great time to begin kindling the relationships that you’ll need to thrive, once the authorities open up the economy again. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to start reaching out to people across various sectors that you know and asking them about the prevailing conditions. Some will be in the midst of a sharp contraction. But there will also be a few who are benefiting from the current lockdown. (If that sounds hard to believe, just look at Zoom’s share price this last month).

As you work on your relationships with people, think carefully about the value that you can offer them. You want to present yourself as an irresistible prospect - somebody who is going to contribute a tremendous amount to the firm. Don’t underestimate the value of making yourself useful. If you can offer something unique or special, bosses will snap you up in an instant, and you’ll never be without work.

Thus, if you’ve been laid off from your regular work, then pivot. Look for jobs in areas like computing that are likely to be in high demand over the coming months and years of pandemic.

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