JOB LOSS AND PROFESSIONAL REORIENTATION DURING THE PANDEMIC


4 min read

*Written by invitation from Andrew Seaman, LinkedIn editor

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/job-loss-professional-reorientation-during-pandemic-aneta-carlander


The current ongoing pandemic led to a global economic and employment crisis. The sudden job loss and the lack of active income became a leading social issue. The inspiration of HR professionals drawn from opportunities for career development and job satisfaction gave way to the pragmatic help for urgent professional reorientation. The straightforward solution for making a living is to seek easily accessible job fields which simply require everyday life skills and basic school knowledge. But this change of professional and socioeconomic status also proves to be the least desirable reorientation for the affected career professionals. The late-career job loss is a particularly difficult problem to solve.


Despite the upsurge in motivational messages from motivational speakers and popular influencers applauding the wonderful opportunities for leaving the comfort zone and for new beginnings, reality calls for concrete professional assessment of these opportunities and HR professionals can be of help. 


The relevant professional reorientation depends on the broadest general orientation about basic labour spheres and branches. The International Standard Classification of Occupations /ISCO/ is the broadest frame of professions but it is not useful for a simple general orientation about basic directions of a huge number of professions and specialities.


Historically, labour development upgrades three waves of differentiation of work activities: 1. Everyday life activities (food provision, life maintenance, exchange of goods); 2. Art, craft and theoretical creative activities; and 3. Institution and organisation based administrative, education, defence, service and industrial activities. In this context, the labour frame includes three basic professional spheres:


1. Low-skill domestic and farm hired labour

2. Individual and team model creation of art, craft and theories 

3. Institution-based professional labour such as administrative, educational and religious services and regulation, public and state defence, service-focused business and production-focused industry


The service-focused professional branches are differentiated as administrative, educational, religious, healthcare, market, banking, transport, postal, energy distribution, mass communications, restaurant and hotel, travel and tourism, etc. The production-focused industrial professional branches are differentiated as construction, mechanical engineering, industrial production of energy, textile, food, agriculture, etc. Public and state defence are differentiated as courts, police, military, etc. The scientific sphere upgrades the educational branch and all professional branches and develops learning and practical professional standards. The common frame covers the basic professional branches and professions, which may combine because of the contemporary development of mutli-professional organisations, scientific standardisation, mechanisation, computerisation and industrialisation. The current analysis mainly concerns the mass job loss and need for professional redirection of the affected employees working in some of the service-focused branches and the performing arts which are most affected by the pandemic.


This simple frame of basic labour branches presents a variety of alternatives for professional redirection. The choice depends on analyses of suitable natural, socioeconomic and individual conditions. We are now faced with the challenges of a global pandemic which brought about substantial social limitations, the collapse of entire economic sectors and mass redundancy. Employment, which has so far been a stimulus for inspiration and development, may shrink to a mere means of subsistence and survival. In this situation, every kind of labor can be considered necessary and worthy if the new job is relevant to the basic individual needs, abilities and interests.


The mass media often depicts the heroes of the change. A laid-off engineer is thrilled to become a cook, that is his hobby. Laid-off airline pilots start working in a bakery. In the meantime, the cooks and the bakers are also adversely affected by the job cuts and some of them start working at small farms in villages and become role models. Another safe solution for professional redirection could be to turn to previous individual business or activity if the circumstances allow that. Such example is an HR manager who utilises previous experience as a travel consultant. The successful examples are motivational, but in most cases, however, it is not as easy to change one’s preferred work, place of residence, lifestyle and habits. Moreover, these examples do not present all suitable alternatives for job seekers.


Generally, the easiest solution is redirection from a high-skilled job with a high income to a low-skilled one with low income but it is stressful and risky. There are known examples of homeless people that have swapped their university career for survival under the bridge due to post-traumatic stress disorder with a loss of living and professional interests. The current pandemic causes conditions for socioeconomic and psychosocial crises due to social restrictions and loss of life quality and jobs. It requires social measures for additional support for mitigating the pandemic effects on the affected economic sectors and individuals. Such support is also expected from the HR professionals – from the strategic analysts and project managers to the consultants and problem analysts in LinkedIn.


On the other hand, the professional development and redirection depend on additional qualification. There are many options available for the high-skilled workers to complete relevant qualification courses during this period. The motivation for professional development in organisations, however, depends on the managerial politics. If the choice of who is last to be laid-off and first to be rehired is based mainly on affinity and shared trust instead of a better track record, required education and updated qualifications, there will be no reason for optimism and motivation for professional development based on regular update of acquired qualifications and new additional qualifications.


The first step towards overcoming the disappointment and stigma of job and income loss is to steer away from the narrow ‘tunnel thinking’ focused solely on the problem and the difficult circumstances. The efforts are aimed at training a broader ‘frame thinking’ focused on problem decision and alternatives which overcome the worsening conditions beyond our control and seek opportunities to adapt to them through compromises and substitute plans and interests. So far, on the subject of motivation, the emphasis has been placed on professional development while, for the time being, we must shift the focus to motivation for work in terms of survival. It is important to accept the context that global disasters such as the current pandemic are always temporary and after the survival period follow new opportunities for employment and professional development. Survival relies on any possible job for provision of subsistence and length of service for pension but after the recovery period expected job opportunities become available.

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