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Shift Happens: Tips On How To Switch Jobs During a Pandemic

Employment specialists and industry experts give advice to those who have to change careers because of the coronavirus.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

I f Albert Einstein was right and intellect is gauged by one’s capacity for change, then the last four months have been a massive IQ test for many of us in Metro Manila.

This is mostly because of the 2019 coronavirus. Since originating from Wuhan, China late last year, the fast-spreading contagion has changed our way of life through potentially fatal ails that normally hit the respiratory system. Ironically, the national government’s responses to it have also felt like chokeholds. Nonessential operations were ceased for months to curb the spread of the virus; mobility was also hampered in a similar time span. And now, in the wake of these measures, our once-healthy economy is now gasping for air.

I see evidence of this from the window of my office in Tomas Morato. At night, the formerly-bustling street sprawls dimly lit and quiet. The bars and restaurants once blamed for its nigh sleeplessness have either been forced to operate at a limited capacity or shut down entirely. Throughout the country, such a sight is far from uncommon. Businesses are closing down, people are getting fired and knowledge on how to move to more lucrative professions and industries has become exceptionally important.

According to Neil Soria, founder of the business and career coaching firm Sociov, our unemployment rate as of June this year had risen to more than 17 percent. This resulted in a massive change in the job market as noticed by Justinne Lara Chua, founder of the interning and job hunting blog “The Bumpy Career.”

“The biggest shift is that now every job posting has 200+ applicants to it regardless of the role or industry,” she said. “If pre-pandemic job seekers had multiple choices, from location to industry to roles, current job seekers have significantly much less.”

But this doesn’t change the fact that they do. Turning away from the window to face my monitor, I was confronted by a Facebook feed riddled with notifications inviting me to like and follow new, home-based food ventures from friends. Scrolling down further and I also encountered posts from people working in various industries like telecommunications and healthcare, individuals stating that they need more people to work for them. The virus may have stifled career options in certain industries but it also highlighted the potential in other sectors. And it is this reality that has been forcing people to make drastic shifts in their professional life.

True. The pandemic has presented a challenge to many in Metro Manila. But since I mentioned Einstein earlier, here’s a quote from the man that’s relevant to the times: “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” And according to employment specialists and industry experts, there are intelligent ways to take advantage of it.

1.            Research

It’s been said many times before but it bears repeating: knowledge is power. And in a highly competitive job market, you’ll need as much of that as you can get. This is why committing to research is important. It allows you to discover which industries are worth pursuing and which ones are better left alone given the current circumstances. It also allows you to decide whether or not you should really make a drastic career change or just find a better spot in the sector you’re currently working in.

 “Start from your industry to see if there are alternative roles you can move into; like moving from being an events manager to a project manager,” Chua said. And if this doesn’t work? “Move into other industries that have a similar role to your current one; like moving from live events management to online conferences management.”

Whatever you end up trying, your choices need to be informed to save both time and resources.

2.            Work on yourself

Lao Tzu once said that you shouldn’t resist change for that will only bring sorrow. This is especially true these days with the coronavirus being a catalyst for change. The current job market in the Philippines demands such adaptability and adaptability begins by knowing what you are working with.

According to Chua, self-examination is important in this day and age. “First step is to check what in your current skill set is transferable,” she stated. “Analysis, project management, presentation skills; check first where your current skill set is at before deciding to learn new ones.” And then comes the next step of keeping your skills up to date.

One of the most important things you have to realize about the job market right now is that people’s resources are exceptionally limited. Even recession-proof industries can feel the need to save up due to the current economic climate and that affects their hiring process.

“Employers don’t want to have to train someone from scratch in these times; they want someone who can get immediately onboard and get started,” Chua said. “Cliche to say but the top candidate right now is someone who’s resourceful, proactive, and communicates well.”

3.            Network

Opportunity doesn’t always present itself. Sometimes, you have to seek it out. This is why opening yourself up to the world is a necessity “especially now,” so Chua said.

“Reach out and set up times to talk about what it is they do and what skills are needed to get into a similar role,” she added. “The worst that can happen is that you’re ignored or told no.”

There are, of course, proper ways to do this. In an article Megan Burke Roudebush wrote for Fast Company, there are several tips people should consider when networking during the coronavirus crisis. You start by determining your networking goals and how you can achieve them digitally. After that, Roudebush suggested that you should decide what your baseline tactical approach should be. She also suggested keeping in touch with your most critical contacts and to not make this a one-time thing. Additionally, an article Dawn Graham wrote for Forbes suggests that when you’re networking and interviewing, you should “talk about the reasons why you’re excited to engage your skills in the new industry and how the value you bring will have a positive impact.”

“You’ll always be more successful in a job search when running to versus running from a role,” she wrote.

That being said, however, Soria believes that you should also be mindful so as to not come across as someone who is too aggressive in an already aggravating period.

“I understand that we may feel alone and on a depressive state every now and then but do know that everyone does,” he said. “Just resist the temptation of ringing everyone you work with to follow-up or provide less important details. Respect their time, space and privacy. People usually do not like to see their phones ring out of a sudden. It gives them a dragging feeling. Understand, respect, and empathize.”

4.            Be mindful of expectations

In the Forbes article mentioned above, Graham also wrote about the importance of keeping stereotypes in mind.

“The brain remains efficient by categorizing new information into pre-established assumptions,” she said. “So whether true or not, it’s likely individuals who haven’t worked in your industry have heard the stereotypes that exist, and they’ll tend to focus on the differences rather than the similarities.”

With that said, she believes that it’s important to take note of the preconceived notions that may reflect negatively on your candidacy so that you can work to disprove them.

“Also,” she added, “be sure to point out any commonalities in the industry you’re leaving and the one you’re pursuing. It’s easy for a potential employer to overlook these similarities if they’re unfamiliar with your market, so do the work for them.”

5.            Be prepared to deal with rejection

The possibility of rejection was a fact of life before the coronavirus even existed and it’s even more of a reality now that there are more applicants vying for promising jobs.

That being said, there are several life hacks that people can take advantage of to withstand the instance of getting turned down. In an Inc. article written by psychotherapist, author, and mental strength trainer Amy Morin, it is said that there are at least five ways by which the mentally strong deal with rejection. It starts with acknowledging one’s emotions.

“They admit when they’re embarrassed, sad, disappointed, or discouraged,” she wrote. “They have confidence in their ability to deal with uncomfortable emotions head-on, which is essential to coping with their discomfort in a healthy manner.”

After this, she believes that the mentally strong view rejection as evidence that they are currently pushing their limits and living life to the fullest. They then treat themselves with more compassion, resisting the urge to bring one’s self down further. The mentally strong, Morin said, also refuse to allow rejection to define them.

“If one company turns them down for a job, they don’t declare themselves incompetent,” she wrote. “Or, if they get rejected by a single love interest, they don’t conclude they’re unlovable.”

And then there’s the ultimate step: how the mentally strong learn from rejection, using previous failings as a tool for self-improvement.

“With each rejection,” she said, “they grow stronger and become better.”

In other words, they change. They brandish what Einstein dubs as a show of intelligence, a necessary feat in these testy times.

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