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Managing Career Uncertainty During COVID and Beyond

Interview with Ford R. Myers

This month’s Feature Article is a partial transcript of an interview that was recently conducted by RTD Financial. Host Bill Love asks Ford R. Myers important questions about how to manage career uncertainty during COVID and beyond.


The last nine or ten months have disrupted how business is conducted. In times of economic uncertainty and rapidly-shifting workforce demands, it is critical to re-position and plan for sudden career transitions.

In response to this need, RTD Financial (https://rtdfinancial.com) is conducting webinars to help people navigate through the career challenges presented by a Covid world. The series is titled, “Active Career Repositioning in Unpredictable Times.”

On October 29, 2020, the first of these webinars was presented: “Managing Career Uncertainty During COVID and Beyond.” A partial transcript of that program is offered below. For additional information about this webinar series or RTD Financial, contact Bill Love at blove@rtdfinancial.com or (800) 893-4725.

RTD Financial:
You have had experience both in human resources and career management. What makes this business inflection point different from prior experiences for clients of yours?

Ford R. Myers:
Let me start by saying that all the rules have changed. It’s time for a new career plan or job search strategy. Why? Because in this job market, I see the compounded impact of multiple stressors. For example, in 2008-2009, we did have a serious recession and a true economic crisis. But now, with Covid-19, we’re challenged by another recession – PLUS a global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, massive job losses, social upheaval, political and cultural warfare, racial inequality, cyber-attacks from foreign powers, and more! And all of these forces seem to be converging on us at once. We’re a traumatized nation! The effect of all this, from what I’ve seen, is that people are overwhelmed and exhausted. Their brains have been short-circuited. Many people just want to “crawl under the bed and hide.” They want to sit by the sidelines and wait until things improve. Plus, there’s no end in sight and no clear sense of what our world will look like if Coronavirus finally ends. I’ve had many conversations over the past six months with prospective clients – folks who really need career help. But almost all of them are frozen in fear, unable to take proactive steps, like the deer in the headlights. At a time when these folks should be regrouping, mobilizing, investing in themselves, preparing for a better career future – most are doing nothing. So this situation is unique – and very different from anything I’ve ever seen before.

RTD Financial:
What areas of management structure are companies shrinking, and where are they increasing workforce?

Ford R. Myers:
I’m not an expert on workforce statistics, but I believe that companies are generally continuing to strip-out positions in middle management. Also, plenty of jobs that used to be full-time staff positions have been transitioned to contract or temp roles because this is often more cost-effective for employers. In addition, companies are now hyper-focused on the productivity and profitability of every job. If one position is on the asset side of the balance sheet, and another position lands on the liability side – guess which one is going to be cut! This is truer now than ever, as companies have been forced to go “lean and mean” to survive in this pandemic environment. Of course, jobs that can be done remotely are expanding, whereas jobs that need to be done in traditional office settings are decreasing in number. Finally, with the current acceleration of technology, a lot of jobs that used to be done with human hands will continue moving toward automation – i.e., robots and artificial intelligence and so on.

RTD Financial:
How would you describe the state of mind or morale of workforces in general, and then more specifically, what are companies doing to address this?

Ford R. Myers:
It’s not good! In fact, I’ve never seen it worse – not even during the great recession. As I mentioned above, a lot of people feel traumatized now, even if they don’t openly discuss it. I hate to sound negative, but it’s almost like we have a nation of workers with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) of varying levels. There’s so much uncertainty and disorientation. Many are seriously worried about their finances. And don’t forget all the additional pressures folks are coping with in their homes and families! I know that many companies are adapting how they do business, trying to be more flexible and accommodating. They’ve also initiated virtual training programs on subjects such as resiliency, stress management, wellness and so forth. Whether these offerings are working or not – the jury is still out.

RTD Financial:
Given this shift away from a central office, how have cultures changed and how do people maintain their visibility?

Ford R. Myers:
Since employees can’t be observed in the office any more, and they can’t visually demonstrate their work in progress, they need to take the initiative to communicate more proactively with their teams – the boss, peers and subordinates. People can no longer assume that their contributions are observed and acknowledged. They need to proactively broadcast this message to all interested parties. Employers should set-up new communication channels to make this process easier. Once this is done, the best way to maintain high visibility is to always do exceptional work! That hasn’t changed, even in this remote-work world.

RTD Financial:
What suggestions do you have for people to increase/improve their accountability to themselves or others in their organization?

Ford R. Myers:
I tell my clients to keep a success file of all the work they’re doing about which they feel proud. This could be in the form of documents, video, audio and so on. Another way to improve accountability is to keep clear records of what you’ve been assigned – and note when you’ve completed those tasks. It’s almost like a detailed checklist that you can share with your team. I think it’s important to encourage everyone on the team to do this, whether they’re managing up or down. Finally, we have very little external reinforcement or structure these days. Therefore, each individual needs to become even more goal-directed and self-accountable. They must write-down specific objectives with timeframes for completion. They need to become their own structure for accountability, monitoring progress and celebrating incremental successes. And, whenever possible, I suggest that employees ask their supervisors for more feedback and input than ever before. Ideally, these communications should be formally scheduled at regular intervals – not just random or unplanned.

RTD Financial:
What changes are being made in organizational design?

Ford R. Myers:
Simply stated –flatter with less hierarchy, and more decentralized!

RTD Financial:
You have always advocated for “perpetual career management.” What is it about our current circumstances that has generated new strategies or reinforced others that you have created in the past?

Ford R. Myers:
As I indicated earlier, I believe that this is the IDEAL time to focus on learning and practicing career management skills. People should not waste this downtime in the market – they should work to create a better career future, starting right now. The actual strategies for career management remain largely the same – but those strategies are now more important than ever to differentiate yourself from all the other candidates who you’re competing with. Everyone needs to position themselves professionally for when the pandemic is over. They will need to be in top form, to “hit the ground running!”

Of course, this pandemic has made a few other facts extremely clear. First, we can’t predict the future, and we never know what might happen. A year ago, no one had even heard of Covid-19. So we must never allow ourselves to become “career complacent!” We need to keep growing and improving – and we need to always be prepared for change. Second, we all need to keep-up with technology and adapt to this digital reality. Just look at the massive shift to virtual work-style that has happened so quickly! Simply put, it’s all about adaptability. We can no longer avoid new technologies just because they make us uncomfortable or they seem alien. We no longer have that luxury if we want to survive and even thrive in the new world of work. We need to learn these technical skills, embrace them and integrate them into our day-to-day jobs.

RTD Financial:
What skill-sets do you anticipate employers will be looking for going forward?

Ford R. Myers:
Aside from the critical trade skills and technical skills I just mentioned, I think employers will be focusing on many of the soft skills. The pace of change will be faster than ever in the post-pandemic world, so skills such as flexibility, agility and resiliency will be key. Advanced skills in team-building, organization and communication will also be valued – to help manage distributed workforces.

RTD Financial:
Thinking about career planning – for people 10 years away from when they thought they would retire, what should they be doing?

Ford R. Myers:

They should be reviewing their retirement and financial plans in detail – and making adjustments as needed. This is one of those times when it’s essential to do a thorough examination and update of all planning documents. People would be wise to get expert counsel from their financial planners, retirement coaches, estate attorneys, insurance advisors and so on. Ideally, all of these advisors will work cooperatively on the individual’s behalf, to provide a unified, comprehensive plan. People will need to be bold – because they may be faced with making big changes, such as delayed retirement dates and postponed social security claiming.

From a career standpoint, a thorough review needs to be done here too. Folks should engage a career coach if possible to do a sort of “inventory and reality test.” Does the career and job they had before still make sense? Will they need to delay retirement and work longer than they’d planned? Should they change their resumes and LinkedIn profiles to convey skills and qualifications that will be more relevant moving forward? As awful as it is, this pandemic can serve as a lesson – inspiring everyone to become more marketable, competitive and employable in a post-pandemic world.

RTD Financial:
For people who are ten years into their career, what suggestions do you have?

Ford R. Myers:

Learn everything you can from this experience of living through the Coronavirus pandemic. Let this teach you about adaptability and overcoming adversity. Don’t be defeated or cynical; rise above these circumstances because you have your whole career ahead of you. Make some decisions now that will better protect you in these kinds of crises – because they WILL happen again.

Be ready to pivot to other means of making a living. Never rely on one job or a single employer to provide everything you need. Pursue multiple interests and work activities. Consider developing multiple streams of income too. For these younger workers, what I’m suggesting is frankly a more independent and entrepreneurial mindset where they’ll have more control over their career circumstances.

RTD Financial:
What changes do you see coming with respect to recruitment?

Ford R. Myers:

Well, obviously almost all recruitment will be done virtually from now on – no more in-person recruiter interviews for quite a while. Candidates will need to be comfortable with this and become adept at interviewing via video. Overall, recruiters will be relying increasingly on technology, so candidates would be wise to embrace these tech tools too.

Unfortunately, this will generally mean that the recruiting process will be less personal in nature (and it wasn’t very personal to begin with!). Plus, as employers embrace more recruiting technology, many of them will sever their relationships with recruiting firms and take the process “inside.” So, I see some tough times ahead for the recruiting field – especially with the big, old line, traditional search firms.

RTD Financial:
What should employees be doing to improve their skill-sets?

Ford R. Myers:
It’s important to look ahead, and project yourself into the future when the Coronavirus pandemic will be over. I realize this is hard to do because there are so many “unknowns.” Do some research and network with leaders in your niche. Ask them what THEY think you should be focusing on for the future. Once you get a good sense of what skills will be desirable in the new work-world, get busy developing those skill-sets. Again, use this “pandemic downtime” to explore and expand. Don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for this to be over! Learn as much as you can in your field, and position yourself for greater success.

RTD Financial:
Have you ever heard of the term “career capital” – building strength and resilience?

Ford R. Myers:
Yes, I have! In fact, I have often said that no employer wants to hire a candidate whose intellectual capital is stale. Candidates must constantly arm themselves with fresh career capital. One of the biggest factors in perpetual career management is continuous learning and professional development. It is essential that every professional consistently pursue new skills and knowledge through webinars, classes, books, audio programs and more. These efforts could lead to new certifications or degrees when possible. Knowledge is power, so this is how you build strength in your career. The more skilled and educated you are, the more agile, resilient and employable you are. It’s as simple as that!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at https://careerpotential.com.

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