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My Job During the Pandemic – how will it affect my future, and what do I do now?

We are currently in the highest job loss total since World War II, and we all have questions. How should we make decisions that are in the best interest of ourselves and our families? How will this affect our future? The answer is to look to the past.

Two major events in my lifetime immediately come to mind. In 2008, we had a financial crisis with over two million jobs lost. In 2000, during the dot-com bubble burst, it seemed like everyone I knew changed jobs at least three times. How does history affect what you do today?

Think about this: the current Coronavirus pandemic has caused, thus far, over six times the unemployment claims as the 2008 financial crisis; a whopping 16 million people are out of work as of four days ago.

These three have been the most significant job loss catastrophes within our lifetime, and each time, we find ourselves facing similar quandaries. How do we deal with taking jobs we wouldn’t normally take? How do we justify this time on our resumes moving forward? What will this look like ten years from now? As is usually the case, it’s best to look to the past to plan for our present and future.

What if being laid off/furloughed leaves a gap on my resume?

When this happened back in 2008, managers began giving what I affectionately refer to as a “hall pass.” Let’s say a hiring manager gets a resume on their desk. Everything looks great, but then- what’s that? A gap from 2008-2009? What happened?

If they ask the candidate, and the candidate says something about losing their job due to the financial crisis, the hiring manager’s response is usually something along the lines of, “Oh, of course. Understandable, not an issue.”

Hiring managers are people. They understand that things happen, life happens, and we can’t always control things. If you have been laid off or furloughed from your job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you’re worried about it affecting you in the future, don’t be. Just be honest and upfront about what happened, and feel free to even include a note with your application, or to give your recruiter a heads up, depending on how you’re working through the hiring process.

Should I accept a job that’s beneath me?

This seems to be the most popular question for the current time period. Many people have been laid-off or furloughed from their “career jobs”, and some are now struggling to pay the bills and support their families. Maybe the job is beneath you because of a salary. Maybe it’s a step down in title. Maybe it’s as significant as taking a job in a completely different industry. Is this the right move? Should you keep looking, or should you take that job?

Let’s look back to 2008 again. A CNN Money article from January 2009 talks about “underemployment” being at an all-time high. Refresher: underemployment includes part-time workers (including full-time workers forced to work part-time) as well as those who were counted as unemployed but have since become discouraged and stopped looking for work. (Another reminder: to count for the “unemployment rate,” a person must have been actively looking for work within the last four weeks.) When this article was written, the underemployment rate jumped up to 13.5%, and the hourly work week was cut down to a record low-average of 33.3 hours a week.

What we can tell from this is that yes, a lot of people took a job that was beneath them. They went part time, or took a lower salary at their current job, or were even forced to work minimum wage jobs when they were previously climbing the corporate ladder.

Again, the pattern is similar. If a hiring manager sees, for example, that someone went from a Help Desk Manager to a hands-on Help Desk Consultant, and the explanation has something to do with the 2008 financial crisis, the “hall pass” kicks in, and empathy overrides any normal sensibilities about what looks appropriate on a resume.

Besides, don’t you think it says something about your resilience, determination, and work ethic that you took whatever job you could get to feed your family and see them through to the other side? Hiring managers will think so (at least the ones you would want to work for!).

The real takeaway is that you need to control your story. Things happen. You cannot control everything, but it’s important to focus on what you can. If your job was a casualty of this pandemic, you can’t control that, and you are not alone. You can, however, do what you have to do to survive, take a job that will see you through, and when it comes time to get back on the horse, stay ahead of the curve. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be human.

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