Employment Challenges During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the health and safety of our country, the situation is also quite taxing for workers around the nation, as millions of Americans have lost their jobs or became furloughed, including many here in Naperville area.  Several career experts weigh in on the employment challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, via the Zoom app, discussing what job seekers should be doing now to get ahead of the curve and what the job market looks like now and in the near future.  Guests include:  Barbara Schultz, Principal,  The Career Stager; Bruce Martin, Founder & President, Broad & Pattison, Inc.;  John Joseph, Career & Networking Center Board Member & Career Coach.

The State of the Job Market

The State of the job market and the employment challenges during the CONVID-19 pandemic.

“Our firm has seen a little bit of a slowdown but we’ve also seen some companies take advantage of the time and continue to hire because like a lot of things, this too shall pass and business will go on,” says Marting of Broad & Pattison, automotive executive search and management recruiting firm. “We do see hiring out there and companies are taking a different approach moving forward.”
“We’ve always encouraged people to be creative in their job search in any market, “said Shultz.  “And we’re definitely seeing that now.  We’ve had people pursuing part-time jobs and contract jobs so people understand the reality of what’s going on so we’re encouraged by that.”
The hardest hit industries include hospitality (including sub-industries such as restaurants and hotels) and retail, in addition to small businesses that “don’t always have the deep pockets” or the resources to weather this particularly difficult time.

How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Different Than the Financial Downturn of 2008?

“Other than maybe January when we had an idea this was coming, this really did not have a ramp up like the financial crisis 12 years ago,” says Marting.   “When [that] was building, we expected big unemployment.  This was different because it hit us between the eyes and no one saw it coming from an economy standpoint.”

White goes on to talk about the ripple affect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on numerous industries.  “Not as many industries were effected and with this, just about every industry has been affected because we’re shut down.”  She explains that because of the social distancing, many hospitality companies have had to completely close their doors or at the very least scale back.  She gives the example of “when folks are able to see how people can have meetings via Zoom and not need to fly in.  So we’ll probably see some ongoing effect.”

“This sense of difference is actually permeating the whole job search process,” says Joseph.  “People now have to be very comfortable pursuing a new opportunity in a virtual environment.”

Job Seekers:  Take Advantage of This Time

Experts say this is the best time to be looking for a job because, as Marting put it, “so many more people are apt to respond to your emails, respond to your calls because we’re all sitting at home looking for something to do.”

This group of experts all agree that it’s important to be applying online, updating your resume and online profiles, especially on LinkedIn, and continuing to network, even if virtually.

“If someone just lost job because of this:  the first thing we start off with is ‘What is your job search strategy? What is it you want to do?’ says Joseph.  “Let’s get their infrastructure in place (resume, LinkedIn profile).

“It’s just time lost if you chose to sit on your hands right now,” says Schultz.  “What I see is that people in a real way understand that they need people now that they’re in isolation,”

“This is the time for job seekers to stand out,” says Joseph who believes many people are looking to scratch that socialization itch.  “They should be taking people out to virtual coffee.”

How the Career and Network Center Can Help

The The Career & Networking Center helps job seekers with individual coaching as well as group workshops.  Until recently, people could go to the center located in Naperville but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all resources have moved to online.

“The reality is there’ll be some people who have not looked for a job in 10-15 years,” says White.  “They’ll start by attending a virtual orientation to learn about our resources, then do an intake appointment where they meet virtually with a coach, talk about their process, their industry.  The coach and client work together to create a job search plan.”

The center also has a Job Search Work Team, a group typically of 12 to 13 job seekers who are tasked with tracking their job search hours.  It’s said to hold them accountable for goals and “creates a structure of accountability and commitment to the job search process.”  The rate of people who successfully find work is higher among those who participate.

More About the Career & Networking Center

The Career & Networking Center began as The Community Career Center in 1996 to help individuals gain resources and tools to conduct a successful job search and find or return to work.  Since then, the not-for-profit organization, along with a group of human resource and other business professionals, has assisted area residents in setting goals and implementing strategies to accomplish those goals.  The center offers coaching appointments, which often include:  resume writing, interviewing skills, networking, job search strategies, career exploration, brand development and computer skills.  The center also has a free job bank where employers can post available positions and people seeking jobs can look there for a potential position.

For more career and networking tips, watch previous episodes of “Career Center” on-demand.

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