For a lot of people, the past two weeks have changed their lives in ways they could never have imagined. While there is some good news on the economic front with businesses beginning a phased reopening, no one really knows if this is the beginning of the end to the lockdowns, or the possible resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
Either way you better be ready to act. The biggest mistake you could make is to assume that everything will be back to normal soon. I am pulling hard and praying for the ingenuity and the determination of our people to help us to quickly develop a treatment and vaccine, but we can’t control that timeline. As much as I wish I had Harry Potter’s Elder Wand to make this virus disappear, I think we are better off hoping for the best but being prepared for anything else.
Are you a high school student whose summer job as a lifeguard or camp counselor is gone? A college student whose internship was cancelled, or job offer rescinded? Are you an employee who was suddenly furloughed, laid off or whose job was permanently eliminated? Are you a high school graduate who suddenly can’t afford your chosen college or tech school or have had a job as an apprentice eliminated?
First things first: stay calm. Remember the words of scientist Louis Pasteur, “Luck favors the prepared mind.”
Here are some recommended next steps:
Take a deep breath and relax. You will find a solution.
Communicate with others about your feelings and find an accountability partner who can help keep you focused on what you can control.
Assess your most significant “needs” and temporarily put all your “wants” on hold.
Find your quiet space to do “deep thinking” and write down all ideas that come to you before reviewing and prioritizing the list.
Get educated about options. Do your research online, talk to job placement and college guidance experts, reach out to your network and devise a plan.
Get organized, update your resume and electronic portfolios and develop a schedule that you will stick to every day that includes some physical activity.
Be persistent and “get it done!”
Throughout the past few months of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have tried to be a voice of reason given my “pragmatic passion” philosophy to Dream Big…Keep it Real…Get it Done! While I am cautiously optimistic and encouraging everyone to remain positive, I am also a realist and an advocate for a practical and reasonable approach to preparing for the inevitable changes coming our way.
Remember, I am the “Pragmatic Passioneer” guy who believes you need to use situational awareness, including your stage of life, and you must do scenario planning to be ready for opportunities as they arise. This is not a time, in my humble opinion, to just do it blindly, go for it and haphazardly chase after a get-rich-quick program some internet guru on Facebook enticed you to try.
Priorities have shifted depending on your situation. Do not assume that your current situation will not be impacted in some way. But also, don’t ever lose hope. In the “logical” words of Star Trek’s Commander Spock, “There are always possibilities.”
This virus impacts everything and everyone and not just jobs but everyday life including how we shop, travel, eat and entertain ourselves. Without greater progress with treatments and vaccines, there might not be students physically in classrooms this fall whether K-12 or college. There might not be Little League Baseball, youth football or soccer, summer camps, art classes and marching band practice. There might not be fall sports, in-person dance classes, theatrical practices and plays and other after-school activities. You must start to develop your plan individually, for your family, your school and your business in case the lockdown continues, or the virus has a second wave.
Should you simply depend on the government to save you? There have been temporary stimulus financial Band-Aids available, but my advice is not to depend on bailouts for the long run. The less revenue generated by businesses and industry, less taxes are generated for federal, state and local government entities. Who is going to save the government?
Those of you who are sports fans understand in-game, between-periods and half-time adjustments to strategies and tactics. Well, we all need to be ready to call an audible and be prepared to adjust quickly. Some jobs will not change much. Others will change significantly while others may simply never return.
So now what? If you, or someone you know, falls into one of the categories above and start to feel overwhelmed, I find this old saying to be of great help: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Remember to stay calm, take deep breaths and ask for help. Educate yourself. Go to websites like Forbes, Inc.com, LinkedIn, and Indeed. Learn about what industries are thriving right now or will be post-pandemic such as food, technology, health care, sanitization and janitorial services and more.
For those of you who have recently graduated college, take advantage of your college’s career placement center and look up career coaches such as Beth Hendler-Grunt of Next Great Step. For those of you who are looking for a career change I recommend listening to Dr. Dawn Graham’s podcasts or on Sirius/XM and reading her book “Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success.”
If you were about to start college or go back to college, you may have to adjust your plans. You may want to take a gap-year, you may have to transfer to a more affordable school or community college. Each individual situation is different, and it depends on your financial resources, ability to adapt, options available and timing.
For those of you with rising high school juniors and seniors this is a great time to start getting serious about developing their future options.
I was recently the guest on The Virtual School Assembly hosted by teacher, author and entrepreneur Tyler Christensen. (You can see my presentation on YouTube) When I asked Tyler what students tell him when he asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he said it used to be “I don’t know!” He also said that it was taken over by “a professional YouTuber.” This is a great time for parents and their students to reach out to school counselors or professional counselors for assistance. A website full of useful resources is careercoachingforstudents.net.
I frequently cite in many of my presentations a quote by Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, who said: “The most damaging phrase in the language is 'We've always done it this way.'” It was her way of saying we must always be peeking around the corner for a better, more efficient way of doing things. This concept is even more important in these unprecedented times of uncertainty and change.
According to Bain and Company, a leading management consulting firm, CEO’s of many Fortune 500 companies are telling their leadership teams three messages:
Communicate with the most important customers now.
Avoid going back to the “old ways” of working.
Let the company’s values and principles guide all decisions.
Businesses that put the consumer first and can solve other businesses’ and people’s problems will emerge as the winners. As an individual looking for an internship, a job, or a career change, you must be able to differentiate yourself from the crowd more now than ever. You may also have to adjust your sights on what you are willing to do to accept a position right now whether it’s in a different field, in a different location and with a different compensation package. At least in the short run. It’s a journey and it has to start somewhere.
This is a time to be pragmatic. To be flexible. It’s also OK to dream a little about the relief we will all feel when a treatment or cure is found. Either way, get busy working on what you can do next to be prepared.