Pandemic-Proof Your Career

By Mel Sim

Like it or not, COVID-19 will forever change the face of work…

Now that we are over the whole toilet paper issue and whether we will run out of food or not, the reality about COVID-19 has finally sunk in for many for us and what it may mean for our future – “will I still have a job after this?”

Economies in many countries have been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic – after all, most of everyone’s lock downed and a lot of businesses (big and small) have basically shuttered up and called it quits. Which means a lot of people are out of work, especially in industries that are hit hard by the pandemic like hospitality.

The numbers aren’t encouraging either. The United Nations estimates that nearly 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide. What does this mean for the economy? That falls in employment also means large income losses for workers between USD860 billion and USD 3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. And when people are making less, they are spending less which in turn further affects the bottom line for businesses – unemployment is a vicious cycle and it’s even more real and inevitable with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back home, a survey by the Department of Statistics Malaysia found that 46.6% of self-employed respondents have reported losing their jobs following COVID-19 and the MCO being enforced with the agriculture and services sectors recording the highest percentage of job losses. SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang also said that if 10% of SMEs go bust in the coming months, a lot of Malaysians will be out of a job as the SME industry currently employs almost 10 million employees.

Worried that you may be one of the 10 million? Amid this uncertainty, you need to be aware but also anxious of what’s about to happen. Whether you lose your job or not, it’s important to secure your career’s future in time of coronavirus. Here are some tips.

#1 Think digital
One thing COVID-19 has proven? That technology is king. You can even buy veggies online!

Important meetings are being conducted online during MCO, which proves that working remotely isn’t all that difficult after all when you have the right technology in place.

To prepare yourself for the new normal that is post-COVID-19, it’s important to increase your awareness on how things go in the digital space – whether it is keeping up to date with the latest apps and technology or being well versed in actually using them. Pick up new digital skills or keep yourself up to date on what’s new and what’s in. Your current company may be using more online tools or emphasizing on digital space for its products and services… or if you lose your job, you may find yourself employed by a tech company so you will really need to be in the know.

#2 Consider a new direction
What may be a sought-after job today may be something that’s not going to last in the years to come after coronavirus. The faster you know this, the better prepared you’ll be for new roles. Just like how social media, data analytics and Artificial Intelligence have introduced multiple new roles that we didn’t even hear of five years ago! The jobs that may be pandemic-proof? Healthcare, IT and logistics. You don’t have to go and retrain yourself in these new roles but what you can do is skew your expertise towards these industries so that you can continue doing what you’re good but in a recession-proof industry.

#3 Focus on skills you can transfer
Speaking of focusing on a new industry but the same skills, what you really need under your belt is a set of useful transferable skills that are needed in just about any industry. Don’t box yourself in with just one or two specific skills; if that skill is no longer required or useful, you may find yourself in a lot of trouble. Your work experience and titles don’t matter as much as your transferable skills.

And it’s not just technical skills we are talking about; skills like communication, coming up with creative solutions, leadership – all these will ensure that you’ll remain employed in whatever role, whatever industry.

#4 Start networking like a boss
Now is the time to reach out to your friends and contacts in your industry to get a feel for what’s happening, to catch up and maybe to catch wind of other opportunities. Who knows, you might be referred to a job that’s more secure than yours – a lot of companies aren’t really hiring these days but filling up positions through referrals or within the company. Need to add to your network? Think of attending networking sessions like our very own ASPIRE+ - it’s free to attend so you don’t have anything to lose!

Photo by Edwin Hooper and Giu Vicente on Unsplash

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