One Hundred Dollar Bill With Medical Face Mask on George Washington.
The sudden shift in the economy caused by the effort to suppress exponential contagion of COVID-19 has unfortunately left many unemployed. While some of these jobs will come back once quarantine orders are lifted, other professionals will experience longer-term impact. If you’re among those fortunate to still have a paycheck coming in, you may be wondering what the future holds for your company or role. There is plenty of uncertainty to go around, and the mixed messages from the media only cause more confusion.
While there isn’t one right answer for everyone (or anyone), many started out the new year with plans to make a career change and were making progress when the pandemic hit. Here are some things to consider if you’re currently employed (or even if you’re not), and thinking about making the leap to a new job:
Assess your current situation. If you have a paycheck and benefits, it’s important to understand if the grass is really greener on the other side or if you’re just restless. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my current employer likely to impose layoffs? If you’re in an industry that has been negatively impacted, it may just be a matter of time before your role is dissolved. If the writing is on the wall (learn the signs here), then it’s wise to start testing the waters. And even if you feel confident that your role is safe, you should always be building your network, growing your skills and maintaining a strong professional brand online and with your connections (see here).
- Have I built up credibility and sponsors? In her book, Carla Harris wisely reminds us that many decisions about our careers are made when we’re not in the room. If you’re viewed as a high potential in your organization and have a sponsor at the top levels advocating for you, it may be wise to stay. Research shows the significant value a sponsor can have for your career, and even if your department is impacted by a recession, your sponsor may identify other opportunities in the company, which will not only save your paycheck, but allow you to learn a new function that will make you even more marketable later (learn how to be more visible here).
- Can I use this as an opportunity? When a company is experiencing crisis or major transformation, just as many opportunities are created as are lost. So take a moment to look around before making the decision to jump ship. This may be your chance to step up into a new role and use hidden skills that weren’t as visible or necessary in your former role. Identify the needs, align your skills with how you can help solve problems and reach out to the decision-makers.
Assess the future situation. While a lot is changing in the short-term, be careful about allowing this to derail your longer-term career goals. It’s still too early to tell what will last and what will fade. Ask yourself:
- Is the company I’m looking at likely to be impacted? There are some industries that are booming right now, and these may continue to grow or may shrink back to normal levels once the economy rebalances. And if the “last one in, first one out” rule applies, you may be restructured out when the economy rebalances. Another possibility is that the role you signed up for may change with the shifting needs of the company. This may work in your favor, but it may also leave you in a role that isn’t aligned with your interests or career trajectory.
- How does the new organization handle uncertain circumstances? Since we’ve been through recessions before, you can research how the company treated employees in previous economic downturns. This is a great question to ask when you’re interviewing. Some companies prepare better than others to manage unexpected turmoil, and it’s wise to understand the culture you’ll be joining. Also, building up internal networks is critical for surviving company reorganizations. So, assess how the role you’re taking will interact visibly with decision-makers who may be the ones pulling the strings if things get dicey.
- How valuable is the skillset I’m bringing to the company? The more unique or in demand your strengths are will play a role in how risky making a move in a recession will be. If you’re in a field that takes time to learn and develop expertise in and it’s a skillset that is central to company operations, it’ll be much less risky than moving into a role that can be learned on-the-job and easily replaced. While more peripheral during a recession, also understand the skills you’ll be gaining and how they will set you up for future positions. If possible, you always want to be building skills that close gaps in your professional strengths and align with your long-term career goals.
Assess your risk tolerance. While everyone has their own personal psychological gauge around risk, there are some factors that you can use to more objectively weigh the risk of making a job change. Ask yourself:
- How long can I survive without a paycheck? While it’s rarely advisable to leave a job before lining up a new one, this advice is even more critical in a recession. Unless you’re in a dangerous or toxic environment, many people choose to ride out a recession due to the competitive job market, potential decrease in salary offers or fear that they’ll find themselves laid off as a newcomer. These are valid concerns, so assess your financial health (including benefits) before making a decision.
- Is my skillset in high demand across several industries? If you jump to a new company and it turns out to not be what you expected or that organization begins to flounder, you need to assess how difficult it will be to get a job elsewhere. If you have a very unique and marketable set of abilities, you may find that even in a recession there are offers to be found. However, if your expertise lies in an industry that’s shrinking and isn’t easily transferable or there is great competition, you may be looking for a lot longer.
- How strong is your network? People with great networks who know the value that they bring to a company never run out of opportunities, even in a recession. Ambassadors are willing to take a chance on you for roles that aren’t even necessarily aligned with your work history if they trust you and know that you always bring your “A” game to the table. Also, your network likely knows about several openings before they become public knowledge, so individuals who cultivate these relationships will have the chance to apply to roles that the public may never hear about.
Once you make a decision either way, don’t look back. Nothing is guaranteed whether you stay or go, so second-guessing yourself will only cause anxiety and may distract from your performance. Wherever you land, you want to continue to deliver outstanding results, build a strong professional brand, and cultivate ambassadors. These three things will set you up well to weather anything that impacts your career.
Reposted from: Forbes.com