The Post-Pandemic World of Careers Work: Let’s Prepare Now
I’ve been thinking a lot about the post-pandemic world of careers work. What will it look like? How can we — the community of career development professionals — prepare now for what’s to come?
I was reminded of the best piece of advice I got early on in my career. It came at a time when I was confident I could help every jobseeker. My friend (and boss at the time) Betty Woodman told me earnestly, “Maureen, you can’t want it more than them.” I knew my clients were full of potential and if I could figure out how to motivate them, they would be back to work in no time. However, in several instances, my approach just wasn’t working, and I was spinning my wheels, headed for burnout.
Those feelings of wanting to help everyone came flooding back to me as I watched the world of work dramatically shift this past March. Like so many others, I was in disbelief at the sheer magnitude of the problem. Much like my younger self, I reached out to experienced career leaders for advice on how we as a community of practice can best prepare our industry for what’s to come, post-COVID-19.
Career Professionals are Needed Now More Than Ever
In an article for CERIC’s Careering magazine published earlier this year, Kathy McDonald, Project Director with Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF), shared her research from national stakeholder committee meetings: “Career development professionals told us they are playing a central, co-ordinating role with community organizations and employers. Increasingly, CDPs are leveraging their professional affiliations, helping clients navigate a complex maze of community services to access.”
Career professionals play a vital role in the lives of millions of Canadians. With so many people now out of work, the future of career development looks poised to take a leading role in front-line efforts to reignite the economy.
“There’s no doubt that career/employment services will be more needed than ever,” said Sareena Hopkins, Executive Director of CCDF. She explained that the demand for career services will soon be much greater and that career development practitioners should act now to advocate for the tools, training, and resources needed to support recovery. As Hopkins rightly points out, “Whether you work in a public or private setting, career/employment services are a public good that benefits citizens, businesses, communities, and our society at large.”
Adapting to Changes in Services
So, what can career professionals do now to prepare for the tsunami of job seekers? One recurring theme was that of adaptability.
According to Sharon Graham, Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada, this means rethinking programming and service delivery models. “Now is the time to establish new resources and support systems that will be valuable to clients who will be facing unprecedented mental and financial health concerns,” says Graham.
Here are some proactive things that career services teams can work on now:
- Take time to pause and reflect.
- Reassess and reassure your teams.
- Identify Government of Canada resources.
- Prepare frontline staff with easy access to “in-demand” resources.
- Be prepared to prevent and manage employee burnout.
- Identify mental health counsellors in advance.
- Encourage flexibility while maintaining strong boundaries.
- Identify how to triage client needs.
- Set up referral programs.
- Collaborate on workshop delivery.
- Identify and verify useful online tools for your staff and clients.
- Design job search groups and clubs.
- Reduce one-on-one sessions in favour of group coaching.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, profound lessons have been learned. “It’s time to learn more about the most urgent emerging needs of our clients in the hopes of supporting their well-being,” adds Graham. This includes recognizing when it is best to refer them to specialists in the appropriate support fields.
For Marie Zimenoff, CEO of Career Thought Leaders, being adaptable means getting comfortable with virtual service delivery. In an industry used to delivering one-on-one, face-to-face career services, Zimenoff sees career practitioners transitioning to self-directed services. She sees the challenge with that model as being able to create a successful balance between “decreasing the time a provider spends with each individual while not reducing the support for the jobseeker.” She encourages practitioners to use the time now to map out their service processes to identify the right mix of self-directed learning and the opportunities where clients are better served in group or individual meetings with service providers.
But how can we adapt to serve the vast number of Canadians who find themselves out of work?
We Have a Community to Lean On
Now is the time to lean on each other, learn from one another, and collaborate to serve and help Canadians in need. When thinking about writing this piece, I envisioned tangible resources and tips such as, “Prepare templates and resources now to handle the overwhelming influx of jobseekers and requests for our services.”
What I learned was that we are a collaborative community willing to share resources, tips, and tools to support Canadians and we can rely on each other to be there when needed.
Coming together can be as simple as starting with a LinkedIn post. That’s what happened when I asked career professionals in my LinkedIn network to share their expertise with jobseekers. That collective effort demonstrated the value of community in driving the industry forward. I believe we are all naturally inclined to want to take care of others, and each other. While we are busy looking out for the best interests of our clients, it’s equally as important for us to look after ourselves so that we stay strong.
As Laura DeCarlo, President of Career Directors International, put it, “We are collectively experiencing a grief cycle that impacts us far beyond emotions…we’ve been asked to juggle so much.” She adds that entrepreneurs are tenacious, but not immune to stress, and encourages practitioners to be gentle with themselves and to keep moving forward. “We endure. We are resilient!”
Preparing for What Comes Next
Three other themes were liberally sprinkled throughout the feedback I received: learning, sharing, and growing.
“Now more than ever, career ownership and competencies are required to navigate the changes,” said Lisa Taylor from Challenge Factory. “The disruption requires the tools, methods, and skills career professionals stand ready to provide. We want more Canadians to know this is available to them.”
The three main things we can all be doing right now in preparation for what comes next, whenever that may be, include:
- Stay informed with the latest data, trends, tools, and resources. Prepare yourself and your teams via online professional development courses and explore credentialing programs.
- Establish resources and support systems aligned to client needs (mental health, financial advice, life skills, etc.) Know your value and build referral networks. Stay connected with each other.
- Promote career development, and your expertise, as an important factor contributing to the economic recovery and future stability of the country.
Sareena Hopkins said it best: “I hope you see the incredible value of what you do and urge you to take care of yourself and each other as you, too, move toward recovery.”
Thank you to all career professionals who are doing tremendous work to amplify and elevate the voice and vision of our sector. Together, we’ll be ready to propel our clients and the economy forward in the post-pandemic world of careers work.
Maureen McCann is a fierce advocate of career development, committed to preparing Canadians for the future of work. Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, she is one of Canada’s top executive résumé writers with 15-plus years’ experience teaching, mentoring, and facilitating career development. She is a senior board advisor to Career Professionals of Canada and an active member of both the Canadian Council for Career Development Outreach & Advocacy committee and the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s National Stakeholder Committee.