Saturday, June 3, 2023
Home » News » Columns » Post-Pandemic Career Decisions: One Size Does Not Fit All

Post-Pandemic Career Decisions: One Size Does Not Fit All

Don’t look now, but according to most experts and pundits the economy is about to take off and roar back to life. With it, a lot of new job opportunities will be created in the process. 

It’s great news for everyone, and therein may be a paradox you might not have considered. While there will likely be more jobs available for those who are out of work or underemployed, there may be more competition than you thought. Where from? Those already employed who have used the pandemic to re-evaluate their current job and want to change careers.

A question you need to ask is, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way you (or your children/grandchildren) look at your current career status and your readiness to make great future career decisions? Has it made you all rethink your values and priorities? The importance of money and material things? What you really want from your life? I believe it absolutely should be a time to review your life goals regardless of whether you are a high school student, college graduate, someone looking to switch careers or someone deciding when to retire. 

Why now? Because this is the perfect time to think more deeply about, or rethink, what really matters to you and why your purpose, your desired quality of life and your stage of life matter. One size does not fit all as these questions require deeply personal responses.

Your post-pandemic career decisions should be guided by your values, purpose and, ultimately, what you want out of life. Have you ever really sat down and given these life defining guidelines the intentional and deliberate thought they deserve? My guess is that the vast majority of you, or someone you know, have not.

If you are a high school student, has the pandemic impacted your decision to go to college, vocational school, the military, to take a gap year or go directly into the workforce? If you are a college graduate, will it change the criteria you use to determine the salary you desire, where you will work, what your work really means to you, and what your company values and mission stand for? If you are thinking of switching jobs or careers how certain are you that the “grass will be greener” elsewhere? Does the possibility of relocating excite you or terrify you? If you are able to retire but reluctant to pull the trigger, have you changed your thinking about the value of your time over the additional money (and stresses) from working longer?

There is a lot of good news out there about the improved prospects for the global economy if you look hard enough for it. The progress on vaccinations appears to have helped us reach a turning point with the pandemic, both statistically (numbers of new infections and deaths in the U.S. are dropping) as well as psychologically (people’s fear of infection is dropping).

Look folks, I know everyone wants to know the exact date when we will “officially” declare the pandemic to be over. But if history reveals anything it’s that it will not be such an absolute date as it will be an incremental ending that will likely see additional spikes. The good news is that we are on the right path, and while life will be forever changed as a result of the pandemic, we will continue to improve both vaccines and treatments going forward. Hope springs eternal!

As we enter into high school and college graduation season it is mostly a happy time for the graduates, their families, and their future aspirations. But it can also be a time of extreme anxiety and stress especially when the graduate is uncertain about next steps.  

According to a recent column, 98 Trade School vs College Statistics in 2020/2021: Education Cost & Job Outlook Analysis, making the right decision for high school students has never been more important than now. It’s especially true since a growing number of parents and students no longer believe the cost of a four-year college degree is worth it.

For college seniors, graduation season is looking much rosier for job seekers this spring. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), job prospects are looking a lot better for 2021 college graduates. In a March 22, 2021 column by Kevin Gray on Job Market Trends and Predictions the number of companies planning to increase spring hiring is up 29% (compared to 16.5% in fall of 2020) while the number planning to decrease hiring is at 8% (compared to 31% in 2020).

However, according to an exclusive Fast Company-Harris Poll, 59% of middle-income workers said they’re thinking about changing jobs. They cite the flexibility of remote work as a primary factor. What this means is that the job market, and therefore the traditional job search strategies, are all out of whack. 

Take a deep breath and stay calm. I believe now is the perfect time for you to do a self-assessment and determine what really matters before you jump into a job market like none we’ve ever dealt with before. We spend so much time on developing skills and acquiring knowledge but too often do it without a purpose. We simply don’t ask ourselves the right questions or seek the proper guidance in making such crucial decisions. The deeper you dig and the more you determine what matters to you, the better your chances are for a more robust outcome.

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution. It really depends on your purpose and your circumstances: what matters most to you and where you are in your stage of life. One person may simply be looking for a way to exist and pay bills; another to satisfy intellectual curiosity. Some may choose a job that provides an opportunity to see the world and to explore. Others have a noble purpose that can satisfy all their ambitions and dreams.

I also believe we undervalue our stage of life when making career decisions.  For example, if you are single with no dependents, you typically have more options available to you because it’s simply easier to pick up and go wherever and try a myriad of options. If you aren’t satisfied, you have more time for additional corrective actions.

If you are married, you have fewer options simply because you are now impacting another life with your decisions. Your significant other may get their dream job in an area you simply can’t see yourself living. That requires a much tougher discussion.

Think about all the variables you will face now or in the future. Will your career criteria change if you are married with children, you are married with children attending college or you are a single parent in those same situations?  What if you have health issues or you are responsible for the care for someone else (a special needs child, an ailing sibling or an elderly parent dealing with dementia)? Sorry to sound like a downer but these are real life possibilities for all of us at some point.

There may be a time in your life — such as when you are just getting started, when you have to pay down significant debts or you are recovering from an unexpected accident — where you might have to work at a job you don’t necessarily want.  You may be in a financial situation that requires you to work two jobs. Yes, you read that correctly. Two (2) jobs! Way back in the 20th century that was not considered unusual. People may have wanted to work more to save for a specific aspirational goal such as a down payment on a home, to purchase a car or to take a dream vacation.  Others because they had to pay medical bills, student loans or even gambling debts. You gotta do what you gotta do. Legally and ethically, of course.

Do not depend solely on others, especially additional handouts from the government. What you achieve in life is still predominantly on you. External factors out of our control certainly play a part in our lives (such as a global pandemic), but the sharper we keep our skills the better prepared we are when opportunity knocks.

Put yourself in a position to compete. It starts with knowing what matters most to you and what sacrifices you are willing to make to go after your goals. The more clarity you have for your goals the more committed you will be to fulfill them.

There really isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” answer for everyone about to jump back into the job pool. The choices we make throughout our lives have consequences. The better prepared we are and the more clearly our own values and purpose are defined, the greater likelihood of success.