No aspect of our lives remains untouched by the global COVID-19 pandemic. One thing is for sure: uncertainty, stress, and fear is running rampant right now. Thoughts, feelings, and reactions around the job market are no exception. 16.8 million unemployment claims in the last three weeks and layoff and furlough announcements keep coming.
Yes, all this uncertainty is intense and all-consuming right now. It's also a good reminder that, unfortunately, there is no such thing as job security.
I'm willing to bet a whole lot of people believed (consciously or subconsciously) their jobs were "safe" up until about a month ago when our whole world changed. In reality, this crisis highlights a truth that has been there all along: we live in a country that favors "at-will employment" and thus prevents the "job security" we sometimes think or hope we have.
Many of us didn't anticipate the magnitude of interruption to our economy and job market so quickly. And yet there it is, hitting us like a ton of bricks. We can choose to let it paralyze us, or we can try to find the silver linings. One such silver lining is identifying the opportunities for control over our current career situations. In the spirit of focusing on what is within our power, I've created a three-part series designed to help individuals find ways to take control of their professional lives. A longer-term goal is at stake here, going forward we must embrace a new way of thinking about our professional lives.
We can no longer rely on a false sense of job security, instead, we must actively manage our own careers.
This three-part series focuses on three key career management areas every single professional must master:
Knowing and communicating your professional value
Understanding the specifics of your defined job market
Anticipating, uncovering, and leveraging new opportunities
In Part 1, we examined the importance of an expertly crafted professional brand and how to effectively communicate your professional value on a resume. Read it here: There's no such thing as job security. Here's what to do about it: Part 1.
Now that you have a fully defined brand, understand your professional value, and can articulate your skills and experience in a compelling way, you've got to find the audience to tell that story to. Welcome to Part 2 of the series: Understanding the specifics of your defined job market
AKA: Do not throw everything at the wall and see what sticks - a strategic job search is still the name of the game
Yes, according to the news today, 16.8 million people are unemployed. Those people are not all in your town, state, industry, or role. Thus, the first thing we all need to do is try to gain perspective to be in a space to effectively manage our careers in this new normal. Every single professional benefits from a critical examination of their defined job market. The job market in general (obviously there are many more very sophisticated economic definitions) is the totality of the supply and demand of jobs. Currently, the US job market is dramatically slanted one way: very low demand for jobs and a high supply of workers.
A look at America's total job losses doesn't provide the right information for an individual to understand the impact on their specific situation.
We hear 16.8 million unemployed, layoffs, furloughs, businesses closing…and then…the panic sets in...Instead of panicking, what we need to do is take a very concentrated look at and define our specific microcosm of a job market. Understanding the impacts of this crisis on our particular situation prepares us to plan a very strategic job search in response. To better understand your defined job market, answer these questions:
To what extent is your industry being impacted by the current situation? A little or moderately? Then it makes sense to continue to target roles in your current industry.
Is your industry being impacted very extensively? Then why continue spending time to find and apply for jobs in this industry? Focus energy on finding opportunities to use your skills in other industries that are (or more likely to be) hiring.
A critical area of consideration is the potential long-term impact on your industry. Is the current situation a small blip that will likely fade after the bulk of the crises die down, or is your industry likely to be changed forever?
To what extent is your type of role being impacted by our current situation? Not a lot? Great! Keep going after positions that fit with your skills and experience.
Is your current role being moderately or severely impacted? If so, it isn't the best strategy to be spending time looking for positions that are disappearing. Focus your energy on identifying closely related roles you can offer your skills and expertise and bring much-needed benefit to organizations.
A strategic job search involves a lot of research and data collection. After all, knowledge is power, right?!
Once you have a solid understanding of your specific job market, you can respond accordingly. Even in crisis, the core career management skills remain essential:
Know your professional value and how to communicate it effectively - and telling your story to the right audience
Collect data on the job opportunities available right now - and defining how your skills and experience will make you a great candidate
Establish an organized strategy for keeping track of your identified target industries, companies, and roles - and creating a networking plan to ensure you are connecting with the right people
I get it: all of the above is much easier said than done. It's hard and, at times, tedious work. It's also one more thing: much more effective (and sanity-protecting) than coming at a job search from a place of panic slinging resumes and crossing fingers.
Stay tuned for the final part in the series focused on what's next: relentlessly pursuing the future opportunities inevitably arising out of our "new normal."
In the meantime, let's all be safe, healthy, and kind to one another.