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Building career resilience during a pandemic

A step-by-step guide to conducting labour market research.

BY LUCIANA LONGO | JUN 09 2020

Experts have been anticipating a major labour market disruption for some time. Reports such as Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy, published by the World Economic Forum in January 2020, forecasted the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, fuelled by technological, demographic and societal change. A few weeks later, we found ourselves unexpectedly catapulted into a new labour market reality due to a global pandemic, with industries scrambling to adapt as the pace of change abruptly accelerated.

On an individual level, many of us are trying to make sense of the impact that the pandemic is having on our careers, as we cope with job loss, adjusting to remote work, or wondering how to navigate the school-to-work transition in this labour market. Navigating career transitions under “normal” conditions can be challenging, but at this moment the prospect of understanding possibilities and options may seem overwhelming or paralyzing. It is natural to feel this way.

The volatility of the current labour market drives home the importance, more than ever, of keeping abreast of labour market trends. By staying in touch with what you enjoy doing and finding out how that aligns with an ever-evolving labour market, you will be empowered to develop career resilience now and into the future.

What follows is an outline of steps you can take, incrementally and when ready, to move forward, build momentum, and in the process hopefully ignite a sense of empowerment and hope. The first step is do some online research on a few different areas:

Research industries

Learn about how technological, demographic, and societal changes are impacting your industry by reading industry reports. Reflect on how industries are shifting their focus in order to thrive, and what skills will be in demand as a result of this shift. You may consider aligning your goals with emerging trends in your sector, or you may be interested in pivoting into a different, emerging industry.

The World Economic Forum’s most recent report: The Future of Work is Here: 5 Ways to Reset Labour Markets After Coronavirus Recovery provides clues as to how industries can adapt to give you a sense of emerging global trends. Sources of other online information for Canadian labour market data include:

Sources of regional industry information include:

  • Industry reports generated by professional associations/societies. (A comprehensive list of professional associations can be found in the Associations Canada Directory available via larger public libraries)
  • Deloitte Future of Work reports
  • Municipal or regional economic reports
  • Municipal or regional workforce planning boards
  • Local Chambers of Commerce

Research companies

Find or create a list of companies using LinkedIn, professional association sites, or regional, municipal or sector business directories, which are found on university or public library websites.

Visit the websites of these companies or read annual reports (where available) to understand the products or services that they offer to meet labour market demands. Which companies are at the forefront of industry growth?

Based on what you uncover, you can create a list of companies or organizations where you may want to work.

Research jobs

Job postings can provide insight into not only the types of jobs that are in demand but also what skills employers value. Analyze job postings carefully and note: what technical skills do employers value? What people skills do employers value? Among these skills, which do you currently possess and which do you need to develop?

Sources for job postings include industry-specific job banks, along with better known aggregate job banks such as Indeed.com or Workopolis. Ask your university career centre staff for assistance, or visit the career or job search section of university or public library websites, which often house job bank information.

“People research”

While online research is important in building foundational labour market knowledge, there is no substitute for talking to people working in an industry or role of interest to derive first-hand insights about industry trends, company cultures or the day-to-day reality of jobs. With most people working from home right now, this is an optimal time to set up virtual coffee chats. Reach out to your contacts to set a time to chat, and also have them introduce you to their contacts for a 20-minute conversation. Much has been written about this “informational interviewing” process, and how to find contacts to speak with, how to open the conversation and what to ask, so suffice it to say here that w. While you may be tempted to skip this step, don’t! Speaking to industry professionals is crucial, not only to test assumptions you may make based on your online research, but also because new and surprising possibilities may arise from these conversations.

Get involved

If you want to test out new career possibilities that you may have uncovered, the traditional means of doing so include temporary work assignments, internships, or job shadows. If these options are not available at the moment, attending an online networking event or doing some short term volunteer work, may give you a sense of the culture of an industry. Check the websites of professional associations to view a list of upcoming events or opportunities for getting involved. You can also arrange your own opportunities by contacting your network of contacts.

Create a plan

Based on what you learned from online and people research, reflect on what steps you can take to ensure that your skills are aligned with labour market needs. Do you need additional training? Do you need to expand your network of contacts? What financial resources are available to you?

Take advantage of the free training that is being offered by many institutions during the pandemic. Short-term training options include Mini-MBAs, certificates, workshops, seminars, certifications, online courses available through – Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and Edx. Also, check the websites of professional associations for specific certifications and or professional development opportunities available through these societies.

Beyond the current global pandemic, revisiting these steps annually as part of your career development strategy will set you up for long term career resilience.

ABOUT LUCIANA LONGO
Luciana Longo is a career education specialist for graduate students in the faculty of science at Ryerson University.
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