Coronavirus Pandemic Impact on the American Worker: Part II

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Thursday August 27, 2020

Category: Expert Advice, Trends

In my last Career Mechanic I presented a number of the challenges faced by the American workforce as a result of the fast developing and omnipresent coronavirus crisis that was thrust upon the nation and globe this year. The hardest hit were those who lost their jobs as unemployment numbers climbed to unprecedented levels this spring and summer in many sectors and geographical locations across the nation.

The job losses were so severe that in midsummer the Ad Council rolled out a new national advertising campaign, “Find Something New,” to encourage pandemic impacted job losers to pursue new skills-based postsecondary education and training as a fastest path back to employment. That effort has the support of the White House Workplace Policy Board and involves large U.S. corporations like IBM and Apple.

Learn more about the “Find Something New” initiative at:


This edition of the Career Mechanic will examine the concerns of women and men who didn’t lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but find their personal career development put on hold or sidetracked as they go through what they expected to be a period of career growth, maintenance, and mobility. Many seem caught between the axiomatic “rock and a hard place” as they ponder personal decisions regarding the future career development. 


Career Slowdown, Sluggishness, or Stagnation


Those members of the U.S. workforce remaining in their pre-pandemic work roles are likely to have experienced some form of career slowdown, sluggishness, or stagnation, the effects of which are likely manifested in one or more of the following conditions:


· Opportunities for growth and promotion may have disappeared or been placed on hold.

· Compensation bumps have been canceled or delayed while the economic impact is evaluated by their employer.

· Options to expand roles and add responsibilities normally associated with good business times are likely to have been reduced. Making this condition more difficult for some is being required to add responsibilities to their job description that were previously assigned to furloughed or terminated employees.

· New work strategies have thrust many into new telecommuting and remote work situations that have required altered work behaviors on their part, including how they relate to supervisors and managers and communicate with colleagues.

· Workforce members, whether they function at the executive, professional, technical, or support level are likely to see their work judged differently Productivity, is more quantifiable and easier to measure in the same fashion. Performance quality and efficiency---less so---and likely to be measured in different ways.


These conditions are leading many passive candidates for job change and relocation to dust off their resumes and actively reopen their investigation of career opportunities elsewhere. It has left a larger number trying to make adjustments to their existing career circumstances.


Challenging Times Demand Innovative Behaviors and Attitudes


To say there is a “new normal” in the American workplace, is an understatement as the economy seeks to get back on track, and multiple adjustments are being required by those fortunate enough to have survived being furloughed or terminated.  Many workforce members, while counting the blessings of continued employment, are being required to exhibit changed behaviors and attitudes during this “new normal”--- many of which are likely to remain in effect long into the future.

What are some of these new behaviors and what attitudes will require adapting for career survival and eventual movement back to a path of career growth, maintenance, and mobility? The following list, by no means exhaustive, represent an array of those behaviors:


· Accept the learning and education challenges that changed roles demand. Whether self-driven distance learning or formal courses of studies, learning is an undervalued career development insurance policy. Never cease learning.

· Expect to be managed and supervised differently. Those with leadership and oversight responsibilities are learning new behaviors themselves that will result in how they deal with those reporting to them. Watch and adapt.

· Adjust to the new structure that social-distancing inspired independence demands and seek the assurance that any new lines of communication and interaction needed to ensure performance and productivity are established and being maintained. Monitor the “new normal.”

· Master the tools associated with the new ways your work is performed and delivered and be prepared to handle interruptions (i.e., Zoom goes down) when they occur. Have a Plan B.

· Develop schedules and calendars that ensure accessibility and responsiveness and are multi-directional in nature. Listen and be heard.

· Monitor all new work protocols and structures to create needed safeguards that result in desired quality and efficiency outcomes. Make the “new normal” work!


Being flexible and opportunistic may be the two most significant attitudinal characteristics that will need to be displayed by those witnessing a pandemic caused interruption of their personal career development. Seize every opportunity--- no matter how microscopic---to take your career development forward. As that wise character of folklore once said: “When confronted with a bunch of lemons….make lemonade.”


No “New Normal” Playbook


Like my closing to the part one of this Career Mechanic piece in July, I am compelled to repeat that like there is no playbook yet on how to get or change jobs in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.” The same is true for how working men and women are going to navigate the growth, maintenance and mobility aspects of their personal career development. Search and staffing professionals are going to confront candidates (active and passive) that currently functioning on a new and different playing surface. That likely means new and different tactics and strategies on your part as you proceed in helping them.

© Education Now 

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