By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt, PMP, CLTD
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University
The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused millions of U.S. citizens to lose their jobs. Many employees were let go or fired with no notice, which is evident in the record number of unemployment applicants over the past few months.
While some workers have switched seamlessly to working from home, others did not have that luxury. So mastering the art of the pivot from one career to another is essential for career progression, retention and stability, especially during COVID-19.
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Pivoting to the ‘New Normal’ in the COVID-19 Workplace
To “pivot” means the ability to turn or oscillate, sometimes at a moment’s notice. There are numerous examples of the art of the pivot in the business world.
While some companies quickly adjusted to the “new normal,” for instance, many companies permanently closed their doors, which led to an all-time high in unemployment. In April 2020, for instance, the unemployment rate soared to over 15%.
According to Forbes, healthcare and social assistance, educational services, and accommodation and food services are experiencing the largest number of job losses. And when you further dissect the statistics, women comprise over half of those who are unemployed.
In addition, 45% of those unemployed are under the age of 34. This is a troubling number, because this group is often characterized by having few savings, high credit card debt, and higher percentages of student loan debt.
While the U.S. was lauded for providing two financial bailouts in as many months, a third bailout seems unlikely. These factors — job losses, increasing unemployment, and an end to federal bailouts — can lead to the perfect storm and further exacerbate the issue of unemployment.
Although unemployment dropped in May, this statistic may be misleading. Is the U.S. adding new jobs to the economy, or are we simply seeing individuals assume positions created by companies shutting down?
For instance, gyms, hotels, tourist offices, airlines, entertainment companies, cruise ships and major sports are all affected by the current pandemic, laying off hundreds of people. Agile companies have overcome the lack of staff by offering contactless hotel check-ins, online workouts, removing the middle row seating option on planes and holding sports competitions without fans.
Pivoting from In-Person to Online Education
Many K-12 school districts received little notice of the decision to shut down schools and to switch to online learning. As a result, the pivot to online learning was not seamless and involved many challenges, such as ensuring that students had internet access, personal devices such as laptops, and interactive online learning tools.
While K-12 education is still debating over whether or not to provide an in-person learning environment in the fall, most brick-and-mortar post-secondary education institutions are expected to have an online education option for the Fall 2020 semester. There has also been an uptick in the number of online course registrations during COVID-19, partially due to the need for social distancing coupled with the need to develop a new set of marketable skills.
How Does Pivoting Improve the COVID-19 Economy?
Unemployment has a domino effect across the economy. According to Elite Daily writer Paul Hudson, this concept is not new and is taught in most entry-level economics courses. Hudson notes, “In addition to many different indicators such as GDP, inflation and interest rates, the unemployment rate of a country is a very common measure for determining the health of an economy. Economists call unemployment a lagging indicator of the economy, as the economy usually improves before the unemployment rate starts to rise again.”
However, unemployment causes a ripple effect across the economy. Less taxes for local/state economies can reduce services and erode consumer trust.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its 2020 unemployment outlook and forecasts little change to unemployment numbers globally. A second COVID-19 wave is expected in the fall; as a result, OECD nations are forecast to have between 10-15% unemployment. But by mastering the art of the pivot, the U.S. can flatten the curve of unemployment.
Develop a Pivot Mentality to Land Your Next Job
What do you do if your job will no longer be available in the future? What are the critical skills you need to stay relevant and recession-proof?
For those who are considering a career change or just looking to make ends meet, the art of the pivot can be a game changer. Focus on the following to make a career-changing pivot:
1. Pay attention to the job description, not the title. Most job announcements use a standard template, so the job title may be very common or generic. However, the job description can be a better indicator if your skill set matches the position.
2. Build your network. Even when it looks like a job might be a dead end, it could be a new beginning. Even before the global pandemic, the average person changed jobs every three to five years. So having a network can be essential to learn about positions before they are publicly advertised and to find out what recruiters are truly looking for.
3. Career progression is a jungle gym, not a ladder. Sometimes you may have to make lateral and even recessive moves to get to where you want. In some cases, it’s easier to get hired into the company first, then move to a more coveted position than to be hired off of the street into a senior-level position.
4. Be open and be flexible to all job opportunities. Sometimes your dream job may be two or three jobs away, but you need to be flexible to make ends meet. Find a job that suits your needs in the meantime.
5. Stay positive; many times, we are our own worst enemy. There are signs of growth and opportunity if you tune out the naysayers and negative press. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the U.S. is in dire need of people to fill Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) positions. Also, both the trucking industry and cleaning-related companies report extreme hiring shortages.
Tailor your resume to the position you seek. If you are trying out a new career, make sure your resume fits the new job and not the old one.
6. Use social media. How many people use a physical newspaper to find a job anymore? Not many. LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster are the leading online search engines for new positions.
Once you apply, don’t stop there. Use accessible tools like online videos and phone apps to learn about making yourself more marketable to ace the interview and land a job.
7. Ask for help. Use chat, talk, text and email, and let people know what type of work that you are eligible for. Use your network to find out about opportunities. This method of job searching can be useful: 8 out of 10 supervisors report having known the selectee before the application process began.
And if you know someone who was just hired, ask what techniques led to his/her success. If a supervisor just hired someone, ask what set that person apart from the other applicants.
Regardless of industry — education, tourism, or health — the art of the pivot is needed for both company survival and individual job creation and retention. Agile companies have mastered the art of the pivot in the age of COVID-19, and now every U.S. citizen needs to do their part to jump-start the economy and to maintain career stability in the months to come.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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