Adulting 101: Future-proofing your career amid coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – As lockdowns and stringent quarantine measures are imposed on many parts of the world, coping with the emotional cocktail of anxiety, uncertainty, and dread has become a global collective experience.

On one end, making it through each day, social distancing, and avoiding infection, can already be a challenge. Then beyond that – while some may just choose to cross the bridge when they get there – dealing with the creeping feeling of what career one will be left with after the pandemic is a big issue many face as well. Most of those working in retail, the tourism and airline industries, and in many service-based enterprises are unsure of what would happen to them in a world where keeping your distance, not physically interacting, will be the new norm.

For The Apprentice Asia winner Jonathan Yabut, though it’s understandable to be afraid and on high alert given our current circumstances, it pays not to overwhelm oneself. "Be aware, but not anxious," as Jon would say. Study so you may set your expectations and take action so you may adapt quickly.

Aware but not anxious

According to Jon, amid the uncertainty, one thing is for sure: The road forward will be rough, so it’s best to prepare for what lies ahead. He cites some of the changes we should expect in the coming months. 

For one, online transactions will be the new norm. Given that the exchange of physical cash runs the risk of transmitting the virus, more exchanges will be done in the digital space. Thus, the need to be well-versed in technology. (More on this later.)

With social distancing in place for probably the next year or two, physical events will also shift to remote and digital meetings. Thus, managerial skills and making once presence felt even from a distance will be integral moving forward.

Lastly, on a personal level, isolation, and just the overall stress of it all, will be a weight everyone will carry. So it’s essential to be resilient and capable of continually finding the motivation to forge ahead. (READ: Keep calm and cope: How to stay mentally healthy during coronavirus crisis)

So how must one adapt to this brave new world? Jon has 4 tips in future-proofing your career.

1. Stretch your technology quotient

This means not just adopting the use of more apps; it’s increasing your awareness of how things go in the digital space. These programs and applications are more than for personal use. You may find yourself employed by such a tech company or, at least, your current organization may be using more online tools extensively soon.

Besides social media, learn what you can about e-commerce and fintech. As mentioned earlier, online transactions will be the go-to in the coming years. There’s also how job hunting will be increasingly digital, so it's best to have profiles set up in sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

In terms of tools, since it will also be harder to travel locally and internationally, file organization will become more paperless. So it’s best to start using cloud storage and file-sharing apps like Google Drive. The same goes for communication. Stack up on tools like chat app Zoom and Skype, and organization-wide software like Slack.

2. Expand your network beyond your comfort zone

To Jon, networking is “building connections with others to enable one growth.” This means being able to foresee to whom and where your expertise may be of use to, and whose talents you may need in the future. From the exchange of skills, you create an opportunity for learning and growth for one another.

In the current crisis we’re facing, networking may result from noble aspirations – from finding allies in similar causes to working with partners to provide help and services. You may be doing good for the community, while at the same time building contacts (or possibly even lifelong friends) for the future.

One, however, must be aware to also network outside of one’s bubble. The biggest enemy of networking is homophily – only seeking people of similar interests. Sociological studies say that we find jobs and business partners (even romantic ones) from “weaker ties,” or people you don’t really consider approaching or are not part of your immediate circles. These are friends of friends, high school classmates, or even someone you just met at a conference.

Try to learn as much from webinars, podcasts, and reading to build more possible areas of common interest. Also, don’t block people on social media. If need be, just mute them. You don’t want to prematurely burn bridges.   

3. When looking for jobs, don’t search by position; search by skills-company-industry

You should be prepared to jump careers, given how we’re unsure of where many industries are headed. Once you do jump ship, you don’t want to limit yourself by searching for the same position you’re in right now. 

Search by skill. If you’re a marketer, many skills share territory with sales and business development jobs. Banking, if you cross-search by industry, can guide you towards a career in fintech, and in turn, telecommunications (as many telcos are investing in fintech). 

Just like with networking, don’t be afraid to look beyond your comfort zone.

4. Prepare your financial arsenal

Lastly, money is mobility. You need to prepare financially for an uncertain future. 

Jon shares 3 tips. One, you should have savings to buffer for potential unemployment. Let’s face it, job loss is a legitimate concern for where we are headed. Check if you have savings good for 3 to 6 months. If your savings are not enough, it may be time to hustle. Look for opportunities to earn online. If worse comes to worst, be open to the idea of borrowing money.

Two, find expenses to invest in. Jon says, "saving is not just about keeping cash intact but also about appropriately spending to mitigate future problems." This includes getting insurance just in case something happens to you.

And third, ready people and tools which may help your financial situation. This again includes identifying people who may lend you money come worst-case scenario. If that’s too upfront, look at taking out loans. Maybe you could also increase your credit limit. If you’re a business owner, applying for a tax break is also an option.

At times like this, you can’t afford to wait for a situation to happen. Take the time to research, check requirements, and go through processes while you have the time. 

When in doubt, take a step back. Remember, the key to future-proofing oneself is being aware but not anxious. – Rappler.com

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Tristan Zinampan

Tristan is Rappler’s resident pop culture vulture. He leads Rappler’s youth culture section, Hustle.

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