The Math Behind The Masks
We are now several months into a pandemic, and the economic repercussions around the world are only just beginning to be felt. As the economy shrinks and unemployment rates rise, career development is taking a backseat to career survival for many working professionals.
Meanwhile, amidst all the uncertainty, the coronavirus pandemic has made one thing clear for businesses: The chance of remaining solvent is directly proportional to the willingness to adapt.
So how new will the “new normal” be, and how will easing lockdowns affect the economy? The Economist has done the math and arrived at what it has dubbed a 90% economy. Efforts to contain the virus while allowing some businesses to reopen, so this idea goes, correspond with approximately a 10% reduction in GDP. Similarly, avoidance of close person-to-person proximity in a reopened American economy will render 10% of U.S. domestic output unviable.
Less Is More? Not Anymore
Ten percent less of something might not seem like much, but the consequences, if these figures are correct, will be profound. The hardest-hit companies will be in non-essential sectors such as transportation, travel and service industries. Just because people can travel and dine out does not mean they will want to, or even be in a position to, any time soon. Employees in these sectors will suffer greatly as they are laid off or their employers put operations on hold and drastically scale back to reduce their losses.
On the other hand, businesses such as supermarkets and those in the delivery and e-commerce sectors have fared much better thanks to consumer focus on spending on essentials only and avoiding human contact.
South Korea managed to fend off the worst economic effects of one of the largest outbreaks outside China by aggressively instituting widespread testing and contact tracing measures. In what can only be deemed a success of the imagination, the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) held an emergency response drill on a fictional outbreak months before the coronavirus emerged that appears to have served them well.
Experts have warned that prematurely lifting lockdowns could backfire. Canada, Singapore, Italy, New Zealand and many other countries have already slowly begun reopening their economies with mixed results, further proving that there is still much we do not know about this virus.
One factor that makes returning to the workplace problematic for employees is the risk of exposure. After all, a COVID-19 vaccine does not yet exist and likely will not for at least 12 to 15 months. This will be true no matter what “percent” economy we end up with.
Job Search In A 90% Economy
Searching for a job at any time can be grueling; in a 90% scenario, it will be especially challenging. Fluctuating circumstances have left companies in a conservative position with regard to hiring and made long-term planning impossible. Despite reopenings in some places, unemployment numbers are still rising.
The choices that consumers and businesses make will depend greatly on perceptions of public safety. If the pandemic worsens in some places, significant numbers of people worldwide will probably be slow to resume their pre-pandemic consumer activities, be that shopping, traveling, dining out or going for after-hours cocktails.
That means less work for employees in those sectors — and fewer opportunities for job seekers to engage in welcome distractions from asking within their network, customizing resumes and applying for positions. Yet opportunities exist. And while no one can predict the future — and keep in mind that the facts on the ground will doubtless change (as will our understanding of the data) — rest assured that finding a job in a 90% economy will not be impossible. But the experience will be 100% different.
Job seekers who want to rise to the extraordinary occasion in the post-lockdown economy should keep the following in mind:
• Long-term career moves matter less than meeting existential needs. Casual employment is an acceptable alternative to starvation and debt. While acting on one’s long-term career goals is always preferable to flying by the cuff, exceptional times call for exceptional measures. The gig economy will become attractive to many who have previously resisted it.
• Focus on pandemic-proof industries for a more fruitful job search. It does not take a degree in economics to grasp that it’s better to work for a company that is earning revenue. It’s also better to be strategic and explore opportunities in industries that are most likely to be thriving in today’s circumstances: Healthcare and telemedicine, virtual communication tech, renewable energy, and online education are among the surest bets.
• Hone transferable skills. Most of us qualify for positions in fields in which we have little or no practical experience thanks to the power of our transferable skills (also known as soft skills). From critical thinking to communication skills, these are the bread and butter of success in any industry.
The End Sum: Not Naught
Landing a job in the near future will be difficult, and both employers and job seekers can expect challenges in the coming months. Some businesses will not survive. To win a job search in a 90% economy will mean learning to play the game by different rules. May we all — as many as possible — emerge victorious. It will be a change for the better.