Finding the silver lining from the coronavirus

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There is no hiding from the fact that these are anxious times for many people. Whilst the most immediate fear is the coronavirus itself and keeping our loved ones safe from it, the economic impact and effect on jobs are also of huge concern to many. There is no doubt that what started in a market in Wuhan just a few months ago has rapidly turned into the world’s most serious crisis in generations, but as John F. Kennedy observed back in 1959: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and one represents opportunity.” So are there opportunities from this crisis, and if so, what can we do now to exploit them?

It may be easier said than done, but the first thing to do is to try to keep a cool head. Anxiety rarely leads to good decision-making. It may or may not be reassuring, but remember that this should be a crisis of finite duration and the government is providing support to employers on an unprecedented level so that despite the one-off shock, many businesses will be able to start functioning again relatively seamlessly once the lockdown can be eased. Next, work out what are the biggest challenges you face. Is it paying bills in the immediate term, concerns about your longer term job security, doubts about whether your own small business will be able to survive the lockdown, or how to regain lost profits after the crisis so that you can thrive in the long run? Different answers to this question will point us towards different strategies.

If your challenge is paying bills in the short term, support or deferment may well be available from government schemes, your current (or former) employer, your bank, landlord or others whose bills are due. Getting answers on exactly how to access these mechanisms can be complex though – the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is as ever a fantastic source of information and support. If you are out of work and need a job right now – despite a significant slowdown and a lot of stalled hiring, there are still many companies hiring, with the big supermarket chains, the NHS and online delivery companies being obvious examples. Jobs websites such as CV Library, Guardian Jobs and Telegraph Jobs actively highlight current vacancies and new roles.

Government schemes may well apply too for the self-employed or small business owners concerned about whether their business will run out of cash during the crisis, and your accountant,  local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses may be able to provide additional assistance. Once small business owners have reassured themselves that they have enough cash available to weather the short-term crisis, they can set their creative, entrepreneurial juices flowing on how to regain lost profits after the crisis, and start taking steps to prepare now. The world will be a different place after this crisis, and change creates opportunity. Anticipating exactly how it will be different is difficult and the circumstances will be different for each business, but some possible future trends could include people travelling overseas less for a while, home-working being more widespread even after the crisis, businesses being very focused on preserving cash and maximising cash flow, and consumers wishing to save money. All these trends may create opportunities, and some sectors will also emerge from the crisis in better shape than before and could be profitable potential customers to target.

If the above highlights possible silver linings now or in the future for small business owners, what about individuals who would like to boost their longer career prospects – are there any silver linings from the crisis for them? The media is full of suggestions right now about how to spend our time productively during the lock-down. Many of these focus on maintaining our physical or mental health. These may have an important indirect impact on career prospects – resilience is key for thriving at work and required even more when looking for jobs. But some may be looking to spend their time in ways which can boost their career prospects more directly. I’d say such individuals have two positive factors on their side right now which they can use to their advantage. The first is time – none of us can go out to socialise right now, and many are working from home, saving time on commuting. These are hours which can be used each week to our advantage. The other factor is greater understanding after the crisis by potential employers of why individuals may be job-hunting or looking to make a change in career direction. Looking at all this in the round means this could be the perfect time for us to re-evaluate our career direction and think about making changes, either working out how we could apply our existing skills in a different way, or working out which new skills, certifications or qualifications could really boost our job prospects, either within our existing fields or to open the path to a new career direction.   

For those who do decide that acquiring new skills, certifications or qualifications could be valuable, studying online could be the perfect way to use any extra time they have. There is an absolute plethora of training courses available from different websites – Udemy alone has more than 45000 different courses. These are mostly short unaccredited courses, but training is often provided from real industry experts, and most of the training is very affordable. Coursera is another leader in the field that provides a very different approach – partnering with around 150 different universities around the globe as well as industry partners such as Google and IBM. Their courses are accredited and range from free short courses, courses geared to industry certifications right up to full Masters degree courses. One which caught my eye given the current environment is a Global Masters in Public Health from Imperial College, London. Other sites worth checking out are Alison, whose courses are free, but with the option to pay for a certificate or diploma at the end of the course, Lynda which is owned by LinkedIn, OpenLearn which gives access to 1000 free courses from the Open University, and of course, the Open University itself. This is just a starter for ten for those wishing to investigate the world of possibilities from online learning. Spending some of your lockdown extra time on gaining a new skill or boosting your professional credentials could be a brilliant way to turn this crisis into an opportunity, and forming the habit of lifelong learning could boost your career prospects even further!

Of course investing some of any extra time you have right now into some career coaching could also be a fantastic way to uncover a silver lining from the coronavirus – if you’d like to find out more about career coaching programmes then please call 0345 686 0745 or fill in the contact form and we will call you.

Written by Adrian Marsh, Regional Director at Personal Career Management.