According to research, 63 percent of individuals who lost their job due to COVID-19 changed industries entirely. For some, that was out of pure necessity as they looked around and saw that the pandemic was eradicating their entire field of work – at least for the foreseeable future. Think of those who worked in travel and leisure, for example. Most businesses relating to this industry had to completely close their doors for many months, and their recovery will be slow and spotty, since not every country is getting vaccinated at the same rate as others.
The United States lost over nine million jobs between February of 2020 and February of 2021. While some jobs will inevitably come back eventually, some jobs may never return because the pandemic forced companies to live without them, and now they know how to. Luckily experts do project that the majority of jobs will come back. So perhaps you’re now at a place where you’re thinking of making a change. Whether it’s because you have to, since you fear your job may become irrelevant, or it’s because you want to, because the pandemic created some new possibilities, you might be refreshing that resume. However, looking for a job in a pandemic requires slightly different foresight and preparation than in normal times. Here are things to consider when changing jobs during a pandemic.
There may be new options
You may want to think out of the box on this new job hunt. Keep in mind that the pandemic actually inspired the creation of jobs that didn’t exist before. There’s also the fact that many companies that used to only hire locally now hire globally, allowing employees to work from home, from anywhere. Plus, there’s the fact that many companies are even opening new branches in neighborhoods with large Black communities as part of a diversity initiative. There could be many more options available to you than there were before the pandemic, so don’t just check the local newspaper’s employment section.
Hiring departments may be chaotic
The waiting game in the job hunt is always miserable. Going through the interview process and then sitting at home, thinking every single email or phone call is that company, calling to tell you that you got the job, is hell. And that hell may go on a little longer right now. The hiring departments at many companies can be hectic during a pandemic. Keep in mind that they’re getting their ducks in a row, too, figuring out when exactly everything (from finances to managing parties) will be in place to even bring on new employees. Many industries are also facing constantly fluctuating guidelines when it comes to COVID-19 compliance. So be ready for the hiring party to say, “We don’t exactly know…” in response to your question, “So, when will I know if I got the job?”
Make sure you have a cushion
If you are going to quit your current job before finding another, make sure you can financially support yourself during the transition. While many career coaches would probably advise that you not leave one job until you have another lined up, sometimes you just reach your end of the line at a job. If your mental health is taking a hit by being there even one more week, then maybe you have to leap and hope the net appears. But before you do that, just make sure you have enough money to weather a long stretch of unemployment. Keep in mind that if you quit your job without good cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits – depending on where you live.
If you’re moving, check restrictions
If you do plan on relocating for a job, you should check travel restrictions to the area, before even taking an interview. Don’t count on the hiring party to be aware of the fact that you aren’t even allowed to travel to their region yet, or that if you do, you’ll need to quarantine for two weeks when you arrive. This information greatly impacts the answer to the question, “So, when you can you start?” Make sure you have some knowledge about what your living arrangements might be in the new city, too, since the pandemic can affect housing options.
You may enter disheveled spaces
Keep in mind that the companies you may be interviewing for have probably gone through a lot in recent months. Between layoffs and being understaffed, between rapidly learning new technology and protocols, and between the general panicked state of the world, your new company may be a little hectic. While everybody wants to start a job at a place that seems calm and organized, that might not be an option right now. This can be a good opportunity to show how you roll with the punches and adapt in a constantly changing environment. Things will inevitably calm down once the pandemic subsides.
How pandemic-stable is it?
Maybe no industry is entirely pandemic-proof, or entirely at risk. If you think of hotels, “destination” resorts struggled far more than roadside motels meant for business travelers. The US Census has a useful chart that shows just how much each sector was impacted. It is worth it to consider how safe your job would be in the event of rising cases. It’s easy to have tunnel vision right now and think, “My city/state is getting rapidly vaccinated so, we’re good.” But your industry may rely on other states and even countries to be healthy, in order to thrive. So do some research to see what the experts project for your desired industry.
You may need new skills
The bad news is that many low-paying jobs are disappearing. Or is that good news? It likely depends on where you stand now, but with the proper skillset and experience, you may find more high-paying jobs available to you than there were before the pandemic. Now more than ever it could be worth it to take that night class or get that certification, because research has found that, while the pandemic wiped out many low-paying jobs, it also lead to an increase in high-paying ones. This may be the exact time to aim high, because there is more room up there than usual.
Your contacts may have relocated
If you typically rely on your network of accumulated contacts, you may, unfortunately, find that they’ve scattered. Keeping in mind the data from the introduction stating that the majority of individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic changed industries, the person in HR or account management at any given company you hoped to reach out to may no longer be there. So you might be on the Linkedin hunt to see if you can find someone new who has no more than one or two degrees of separation from the right contact at a company. It’s stressful, but everyone is rebuilding right now.
Is this an emotional (read: impulsive) decision?
This has certainly been an emotional time for many. Between fearing for our health and the health of our loved ones, being robbed of our usual pleasures and social interaction, and being forced to stay away from older loved ones and those at risk, it’s been disorienting to say the least. The pandemic definitely drove many to reconsider their priorities, and how they want to spend their days. But making a life-changing decision based on pandemic emotions is a little like making a decision while intoxicated. We are all wearing pandemic goggles right now, and feeling a way we wouldn’t feel under normal circumstances. So before jumping ship from a job you have loved overall, ask yourself if this is an emotional decision.
Can I handle so much change at once?
There may be a lot of change happening in your life as it is. Perhaps you are homeschooling your children. Maybe you moved, because you couldn’t afford rent where you lived due to pay cuts – or because you simply wanted to be closer to family. Maybe most of your friends left the city, and aren’t coming back. It can be hard to process a lot of change all at once. Maybe you can handle it! And maybe a job change is just what you need. But it is worth considering whether or not you can emotionally handle multiple transitions at once, before changing industries. We often underestimate the power that stability and routine have over our mental health.