Being unemployed or under-employed and searching for work during the coronavirus pandemic certainly presents unusual challenges, especially when most work environments are still under a quasi-lockdown. In the U.S. alone, the furloughs and layoffs of more than 25 million wage-earners has adversely affected the economy, coupled with the reality that some companies are trimming wages of existing employees to help reduce the cost of doing business. Hence, any mere mortal might be forgiven for being discouraged.
Wherever you might land on the spectrum — from unemployed to underemployed — you can still manage your career amid the pandemic and all that it entails.
Beware the Prophets of Doom! Since the 2008 collapse of the U.S. economy, followed by 10% unemployment in late 2009, there has been a long stream of soothsayers on various cable networks predicting economic Armageddon. This pandemic, coming as it does after we have had an unprecedented bull market and a strong economy, can make unemployment even more daunting than usual.
The economy runs in cyclical patterns, and what goes up eventually trails downward. But listening to continuous negativity is not doing you any good. Having lived and worked in four countries, and having interviewed thousands of candidates for employment, I can comfortably attest to at least one fundamental truth: there is a strong and enduring correlation between your ability to sustain a positive attitude and your success in finding the job and career you want. Do yourself a favor and turn off your television.
Hold on to hope: The extent of our economic malaise will be directly proportional to the pandemic’s duration. However, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped in August to 8.4%, following the high of 14.7% in April. Most of this number was pandemic-related. When we reached that high, the economic naysayers were beside themselves. “Highest unemployment since the Great Depression,” they bellowed. And they were right. However, what they did not say is that, in the Great Depression, the stats touched 25% unemployment — a far cry from our April number. And note, the August numbers represented four continuous months of improvement. Yes, companies and small businesses are closing or laying off employees, but there are other companies that have adapted to produce pandemic-related goods and services. While the pandemic looks to be lingering right now, there is reason for hope.
Energy begets energy: Something magical begins to happen when you put energy into your career search. When you ramp up your networking —begin to make contacts, meet people (virtually or otherwise), and activate phone calls and emails — the universe responds to your activity. You undoubtedly have heard the expression “feast or famine.” Well, the feast is most likely to occur when you are on the hunt, not when your spear is locked away for future combat. The universe will reward you for your new-found energy output.
Be mindful of your emotional Doppler: You probably would not want to be on an unexpected job hunt by choice, but if you are in that circumstance, try to keep perspective. Framing the situation correctly in your own mind is vital. Say to yourself, “I’d rather not be here, but given that I am, how can I make the most of it?” The vast majority of people you encounter will want to help, though I always forewarn folks that, while you will be pleasantly surprised at who comes out of the woodwork to help you, you may be equally disappointed to see who doesn’t. The job hunt is hard work, and you need to manage your emotions. It is “show time,” and the best of you has to show up.
And a word for the rest of us: If you know someone who is on a job hunt, your world will not collapse if you devote twenty minutes of your week to network with that person. You can even do it over Zoom, or Teams, or any such video-conferencing program. There is such a thing as karma, and your kind and caring investment undoubtedly will find its way back to you.