As I listen and read more, I have to acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly looks like one of our time’s defining events. My career coaching experience leads me to focus on how this pandemic will change the workplace – now and in the future.

I see a perfect storm for change. Multiple forces have combined to alter our working expectations: pandemic, job loss, and diversity movements. We see severe unemployment caused by shuttered businesses that doesn’t affect all workers equally. Pressure from the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements to finally address sexism and racism in our culture impacts the entire labor market.

Changes to the Workplace

Let’s consider the context for career rethinking now. It seems that the effects on the private, public, and non-profit sectors will continue for at least another year until an effective vaccine is available.

  • Continued disruption to the workplace in terms of the number of employees working remotely and financial uncertainty will remain in effect.
  • The reorganization is likely to become the rule rather than the exception as organizations try to keep pace with the size and timing of uncertain revenue forecasts.
  • Additional furloughs of uncertain lengths are inevitable, and business leaders are likely to be less confident about making significant investments.
  • Both the Federal government and the states will see tax revenues fall just as the demand for services increases, and a weary public expects timely and successful governance.
  • An unpredictable stock market will pressure corporate and public pension funds just when people are looking hard at their long-term financial security needs.
  • Non-profit grant-making organizations will have to respond to diminished portfolios available to support their grantees and address new issues as they arise.

A systematic analysis of these large forces’ impact on a single career has to begin by taking the broadest possible scope looking at the individual’s industry, then the organization, and finally, their job. Individual businesses within industries will be impacted differently based on their market share, financial resilience, and the speed with which they can adapt to their new environment.

Possible Impact on Your Career

Likely reorganizations will wipe out layers of staff functions as leaders trim functions that do not directly impact their bottom lines. So, some of the most pressing questions about one’s career include:

  • Is my industry likely to be a winner over the next 12 to 24 months?
  • Is there likely to be consolidation within the industry? If so, what will the impact be on the number and strength of the remaining organizations?
  • Is my organization going to be a leader during the shakedown?
  • Is my own job secure, or am I going to be forced to look for new work?
  • If I feel the need to consider a move, what would an ideal job look like?

This sort of career assessment is better done sooner rather than later. The number of job seekers is likely to increase, and understanding an ideal job’s characteristics has never been more urgent. I see opportunities for those leaders who thrive on new challenges, are flexible, and committed to fostering the inclusive environment needed in the workplace.

The shutdown is a great time to do some sustained thinking. This perfect storm for change offers a chance to develop a plan for a  different career in the COVID-19 world. It’s a “carpe diem” moment to be part of the solution in a new and challenging environment.


Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. His rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience in just two short days. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.