Work in 2021-2025

An optimistic and pessimistic COVID scenario and their career implications.

Posted Aug 06, 2020

There’s increasing evidence that quelling the COVID pandemic will require a high degree of compliance from a high percentage of the population. It’s possible but far from a certainty that this will occur and, importantly, that it will be sustained until the population acquires sufficient herd immunity and/or a good-enough vaccine is developed.

I’ve offered my career counseling clients the career implications of both an optimistic and pessimistic COVID scenario and I’ve decided to share them with you here.

Optimistic

The COVID-hygiene message will sink in and soon enough cause a high percentage even of the recalcitrant to consistently comply for the months or year (maybe two) until a good vaccine is developed. Thus, within that year or two, transmission and COVID will significantly decline.

At the same time, the unprecedented worldwide effort to create a vaccine will bear fruit, at least a vaccine good enough and safe enough to greatly reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths, just as the flu vaccine has done.

Thus, COVID will merely take its place among the many diseases that seriously afflict only a tiny percentage of people, predominant the elderly, as with the flu.

Career implications

No need to overreact. Sure, take advantage of any lightened workload to do the upskilling you’ve wanted to do but heretofore had been too busy to do.

If you’re un- or underemployed, also create or build relationships with key people who could hire you, open doors, or share insights. This is the time to invite people to do what leaders have long done to facilitate good conversation: take a walk—yes socially distanced, perhaps ending up at an outdoor café. 

That way, in a year or so, when the new normal will look a lot like the old normal, you’ll be in a better position to succeed, with your shiny new skillset and your new and deepened friendships.

Pessimistic

The increases in compliance with COVID hygiene will be insufficiently extensive and persistent to quell the pandemic. Many people will tire of following the rules and disease from COVID sequela such as the Quarantine 15 weight gain, thereby overwhelming the health care system. The current round of vaccines under development will provide an insufficient level and length of immunity. (After all, heretofore, the fastest-developed vaccines took four years—mumps—and 40 years later, scientists still haven't developed an AIDS vaccine.) Stress will increase not just because of the disease, fear of the disease, and economic stresses, but because of the continued, polarizing political finger-pointing. The economy and job market will be decimated for years until, on its own, as in previous pandemics, COVID burns itself out as herd immunity, little by little, finally becomes sufficient. 

Career implications

If you have a job in a company or non-profit, think about whether you could rejigger your job description or request a transfer to a job that would allow you to more directly increase revenue. Money is companies' and nonprofits' lifeblood. Employees that yield revenue will be the most likely to keep their jobs and even get promoted. So, sales/fundraising, finance, lobbying, and business development positions will likely be more secure than will be jobs in the so-called “cost centers,” such as human resources, community engagement, public relations, and the corporate foundation.

By choice or not, if you want to look for new work, you might consider the obvious: Businesses sell their products remotely, for example, Netflix and Amazon, whose stock price is up nearly 100% (1,677 to 3,225 in less than five months. Jobs may be at least as attainable at less-obvious organizations: For example, category-leading companies that specialize in telemedicine (e.g., TeleDoc), COVID-self-test development (e.g., OraSure) gardening (e.g., Proven Winners) and computer gaming, (e.g., Electronic Arts), and self-employment in fields in which COVID is boosting demand: online education and training (e.g., SweetRush), home-office consulting, and counseling around relationships, anxiety, substance abuse, or weight management.

Cut your spending. That which you previously thought was important may, amid a long-term COVID economic lockdown, not be so important. For example, should you have your university-attending child (or you) transfer to a community college and live at home, or should they learn via online courses on Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning, or on the job? Even if a job is menial, for example, in retail, much can be learned by observing and asking the boss, coworkers, and even customers, and then reading up on issues of interest.

The takeaway

Amid COVID, the old saying, “Hope for the best; prepare for the worst” may have found new life.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

Note: Recently, I wrote a post discussing more macro trends likely in the COVID era.