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What will become of careers post-COVID-19?

What will become of careers post-COVID-19?

I’m staring at a blank page. I’ve saved the document as Chapter 5. I have a thousand ideas in my head and yet I am unable to begin. I’m in an interesting position just now. Pre-Covid, I was commissioned to write a book about careers. Specially, The Career Equation®.

McGraw wanted to know how my method for career navigation works and asked me to write a book to share it with MBA’s, managers and coaching practitioners.

Back then, a lifetime ago, in October, this seemed like a relatively simple challenge. Oh, how the times have changed.

At Career Matters, we’ve been running FREE masterclasses on career navigation since March 28th, 2020.

For Year 13’s with no exams and unsure what to do next.

For parents to talk to them about their future plans.

For adults worried about their job security and for individuals in organisations who are busier than ever and need to focus on their next steps in a frantic environment.

I’ve had the chance to listen to hundreds of people, across many stages of life and a wide variety of industries.

While it’s been helpful to introduce all of them to the Career Equation method, so that they become more clear about what they are looking for and the right work for them, I am also sitting in the uncertainty of what will become of the job market in the coming months as the world responds to the continuing situation of living with and containing the Covid19 virus.

So I’m sitting here and pondering what to do next. The deadline for my first draft is July and my final draft September 2020. The book will be published in March 2021. How can I write to these deadlines, when the landscape for working life is undergoing so many fundamental shifts? Will everything I say now seem laughable in 10 months time?

Where we are now…

As it stands, 7.5 million people, which is around a quarter the UK’s working population are on furlough. This is an astonishingly high figure.

This protection of their jobs will remain in place until October 2020. Then what? Mass redundancy? Back to work and business as usual?

In addition, we have moved from Stay Home to Stay Alert. Schools are supposed to reopen and people who can, are being encouraged to go back to work. I have my reservations about where this will end up. 

We still have a virus for which we have no cure.

The only reason infection rates have reduced is because we have all been staying at home and keeping our distance. Change these parameters and the virus returns. As a social historian, I am big on the lessons from history. Here’s the lesson of ending lockdown to early, neatly summarised by National Geographic in its exploration of the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

To get me moving, I’ve learned that journalling my key ‘big ideas’ can be the key to reigniting my writing flow. In addition to helping me decide how to proceed and so meet my writing deadline, I thought this exercise may be of interest and relevance to others. So here they are.

My key thoughts and predictions on what Covid19 will mean for careers.

1) All Sectors Are Not Created Equal

2) Crisis Does Generate Opportunity … But …

3) The Great Leap Homeward

4) The Imminent Employment Crisis Will Hit The Younger Generations First…Unless…

1. All Sectors Are Not Created Equal

A phenomenal amount of businesses and places of work are at a standstill. Basically, any work that relies on people congregating either needs to pivot or shut.

We’ve seen some fantastic innovation, from restaurant and food suppliers focussing on delivery to dance and fitness classes, baby groups, religious services, conferences and teaching seminars moving to virtual platforms. You can shop online, socialise online, learn online.

But of course there are some things that cannot be done in the virtual world.

You can’t play a game of football, gather together, elbow to elbow for a meal, take your baby to their first swimming classes, dance in a sweaty tent with 10,000 other people… So of course, leisure centres, entertainment venues, places of learning, places to eat, drink and socialise, remain shut.

Yet some sectors are expanding. The home delivery sector. The cloud computing sector. The tech sector. And some are business as usual – insurance, finance, utilities, pharmaceuticals have told me that much of the work continues.

Post Covid I wonder how much of the independent leisure and retail sector will have survived, what the impact will be on the many small businesses that keep our economy thriving, how resilient they have proven to be.

Point here is, not all sectors are equal. Some are hit so badly they are at a standstill. Some continue at their normal pace, from a different location and some are busier than ever. There will thus be new roles in the latter and a contraction of opportunities in the former. Also, as supply chains continue to be impacted, we will see challenges and contractions in sectors where demand continues but the ability it meet it is decreased.

2. Crisis Does Generate Opportunity … But …

The often misquoted and paraphrased comment of Einstein is ‘that in every crisis there is an opportunity’. In fact, what he said was…

It is in the crisis that inventiveness, discoveries and great strategies are born.

While I agree with this (and as a disruptor and compulsive inventor myself, get rather excited by it), we have yet to see which opportunities will be capitalised on.

This enforced time to reflect, stay home, keep life relatively simple, will have caused many of us to appreciate things – birdsong, loved ones, postmen and women. We will also notice the cracks. In our walls, in our relationships or changes, we want to make.

Businesses may also notice new opportunities to serve their audience or solve different problems. See Burberry moving into the PPE market for example.

However, we are also learning to live without things.

Without the pleasures of disposable income. Without the chance to congregate safely. When it comes to the point where it is safe to unfurl once again, to enjoy festivals, tourism, markets, plays, museums, gigs, sporting events, meals, the sales …. will we want to?

Will we feel safe to? And how many of our great institutions will make it to be there for us to access and enjoy? These have a huge trickle-down effect – with suppliers of food, clothes, sets, scaffolding, costumes, not to mention flights, holiday homes, equipment hire… the list goes on.

For every large organisation that cancels the 2020’s event schedule, many more small firms will feel the impact.

3. The Great Leap Homeward

Dan's inspiring story about career change
Erica & Fat Brian

I began working from home as part of a virtual consultancy in 2002 and have never looked back.

One taste and I could not imagine why on earth I would want to return to the daily commute if I didn’t need to.

In fact, I have been known to cry on the tube when forced, by a programme delivery opportunity, to be in London, in rush hour.

While there has been a growing trend for both flexible working and home working or ‘telecommuting’ as it was called in the American based firm I last worked in, for many people this is a novel experience.

Now that so many of us have been working from home, albeit with the challenges of feeling lonely, or isolated or juggling caring responsibilities, how many will want to go back?

A recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute indicated that as many as 60% of those surveyed wanted to continue to work from home in some capacity, moving forward. So we are likely to see flexibility requests increase and potentially the crammed conditions of commuting, decrease.

Getting our heads round home working creates another interesting opportunity too.

If we know we are up for working from home, we can begin to access employment with organisations much further afield than our current location.

Perhaps even in another country.

This could mean the globalisation of knowledge economy based roles, where the talent pool could extend to a much wider reach than has been acceptable till now.

This could mean both more competition for coveted roles but also more opportunities for talented folk. It could also be good news for the freelance population, who may now attract customers who are comfortable and confident with employing someone at a distance.

4. The Young…Unless…

Generationally, when the large redundancies come (and I believe that they will), they will hit the younger generation first and hardest.

Retention will focus on the key roles with strategic expertise – roles that could cover and understand the activity of more junior ones.

Those new to the job market and fresh out of university are likely to have it very tough in the next 5 years or so, as they have limited value in a recession climate.

However, what we may find is that both self-employment and small-time enterprise get a boost and support as these digital natives find themselves getting creative out of necessity.

Younger people are also more likely to have taken up short term, contract opportunities of a summer holiday, etc.

If this cover work continues to be needed but employment is high, it is possible that they will lose out on these in favour of the older generations.

What do you think? What are your observations about where and how the coming career crisis will hit? What could we consider putting in place ahead of time to mitigate against some of these impacts?

What I am not sure about yet, is how much that work will need to be designed by the individual because the opportunities for employment have contracted so significantly… What’s your take?

This is just the beginning of a much bigger conversation about careers and the future of work. As part of this we’re hosting an online discussion with career and employment experts on the 11th June. Reserve your space and join us in this interesting debate.

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