We are in a crisis!
“A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy”, the Washington Post headline of March 26, 2020 reads. Further, in an April 3, 2020 Bloomberg update, the ILO estimated that job loss worldwide can climb to 25 million as a result of this current Covid-19 pandemic.
The good news is that we are surrounded by hundreds of examples of resilience and the ability to thrive through crisis. Just think about the countless people who have inspired you. My own experience has taught me a thing or two about my resourcefulness and resilience. It may even be the case- and I can argue you- that we thrive best in crisis if we can learn to meet our crisis with curiosity and gratitude.
Becoming unemployed and having to start over is an unfortunate reality of our changing economic times. When I became unemployed only three years after graduating with my bachelors’ degrees, I had no choice but to meet my situation with curiosity and gratitude. Even though I had registered with all the major recruitment agencies locally and online, interviews evaded me like someone would a coughing man during a pandemic; and permanent job was hard to come by. Later, I would look back and count that over the years I had applied for close to 100 jobs.
If you are a driven, determined early career professional, like I was, but have just been blindsided into unemployment by this current crisis or any previous one, I can relate. Taking care of your financial needs is critical to you. However, how do you maintain, build, and even keep growing and leveling up as a professional? How to ensure you grasp great opportunities, maintain momentum, the kind that can build a bridge that would make you the best candidate for the next job?
Since April 10, 2010, the day I was told that I was redundant, I have learned how to answer these questions for myself, but this has been contingent on two things- taking a graceful yet powerful mindset toward my unemployment; and asking the right question of myself.
“What does this now make possible for me?”
In giving these tips my aim is practicality because the last thing an unemployed person needs is impractical “advice” which is too time consuming or too expensive to implement. With lots of time on your hands and little finances to spare, these tips could easily be implemented with exponential returns for your unique value proposition.
Here are 5 sensible, practical things you can do to Up level your Skills and Market Value during this time.
1. Stretch Yourself
Reach for the job that’s just beyond your comfort zone. Applying for that position you’ve always dreamed of that is just outside of your reach increases your confidence and stretches you. You just might get it. If you don’t, what you’ve lost in trying you would have gained in ‘know-how’, and I guarantee that this will position you better for the next opportunity.
2. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!
I am passionate about volunteering and social impact but I wouldn’t have discovered it had I not become unemployed. Skills-based volunteering is one of the fastest ways to build professional experience, social evidence for your skills, and become a leader.
Between 2011 and present, I was able to volunteer with several unique and interesting projects. These include the United Nations Online volunteers platform (UNV online) supporting the development work of agencies in India and Spain; serving as one of the youngest board members of a local Association of Female Executives (non-profit); mentored secondary school students, and volunteered with differently-abled women. These are just a few, but you can see how these opportunities were aligned with my purpose and vision for myself, created momentum, and constituted a platform to bridge unemployment gaps and increase my value in the job market.
Today, there is a plethora of volunteering opportunities (even home-based) to choose from. My favourite places to look for volunteer opportunities are:
- Websites of local NGOs
- Government ministries websites
- Local community
- Local church positions are often overlooked because they are seen as ministry but these are good opportunities to serve as well as build skills.
- Online and remote volunteering sites. A few of my favourites for high quality opportunities are: United Nations Volunteers Online (UNV) and idealist.
Covid-19 Pandemic Relief Volunteering
This current season is brimming with volunteer opportunities for persons who would be interested in remote skills based- volunteering in every aspect of the covid-19 pandemic relief. From research and mapping, greeting card and mask making, social media, and public health. One site to find these is volunteer match. Because volunteering is the best way to get a foot in the door, for someone, this can be the start of a new career!
These are another type of volunteering that is specifically for personal development and social good. They are fully funded opportunities for high achievers from almost any field to join other like-minded young leaders or professionals from across the world and help international NGOs solve their most pressing problems. In turn, they receive mentorship and leadership training. These are not, of course, for everyone- they are highly competitive. However, they are now becoming more widespread than ever.
My favourite places to look for high quality fellowships are:
- Websites of international organisations and agencies like the United Nations and related organisations
- Websites of international non-profits
- Resources like Profellow and Opportunity for Youth
3. Feed Your Mind
Feast on the stories of successful people from books, blogs, youtube channels, and wikipedia pages. Reading quality books and articles from and by thought leaders help to spark your own creative juices, teach you how to develop the mindset of determination and resilience that successful people possess, and how to emulate them and stay motivated as you tread the vicissitudes of life. Some of my favourite books and articles are either about or by: Michelle Obama, Dan Lok, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Valorie Burton, Ban Ki Moon, Vusi Thembekwayo, and Arianna Huffington to name a few. I cannot tell you how many times I have been silently mentored by all the above-mentioned people.
4. Go to Class
Go ahead! Enrol in hotshot MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from prestigious universities and organisations. These are an excellent way to up level your qualifications and skills at little to no cost. In some cases, you are only required to pay a minimal fee for a verified certificate of completion. In this way you can conserve your money. They are also convenient because many of them are self-paced and being on lock down you now have more time on your hands, you can do as many of these as you desire. All you need is access to internet. Some of my favourite platforms are:
- Websites of your favourite universities (they may have free online courses not listed on popular sites).
- Shaw Academy
- Humanitarian Leadership Academy
but, like volunteering opportunities, there are numerous websites through which you can access quality MOOCs. I do not want to exhaust you with them.
5. Create Your Own Opportunities
This is also something I believe in and teach. You alone know what you’d like to accomplish and the pace at which you’d like to do it. This way, you get to set your own pace and build things the way you desire to see them. This is an honour that fully employed people do not get and here is your opportunity to seize the day. If you have become an expert in an area, begin to offer your services.
Looking back on the last 10 years of my journey, these 5 things simultaneously and consistently helped me over time to achieve what I have today.
Now, it’s your turn. How are you coping with unemployment? Which of these do you already do? which will you now pursue? How has this article supported you?