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How COVID-19 has caused young professionals to re-prioritize career goals

During the lockdown, young professionals all over the world have been reflecting on their career prospects and struggling with, among other things, over-productivity and the incessant job hunt.

The effects of the pandemic have been felt unequally across the spectrum, and many young people are finding themselves either on lay-off or with very few labor protections. From managers who expect workers to show up in person, even with the health crisis, to contracts that are not renewed without any warning, or bizarre requests on a 24/7 basis, many young workers are dealing with a professional crisis that significantly impacts their financial and emotional stability. 

Many of my friends are hanging on to terrible jobs just to make ends meet, but are also on the lookout to jump ship whenever they find another opportunity – good or tolerable. 

However, the pandemic can also be an opportunity for young professionals to discover new career paths and enhance their skills. Young people who find themselves unemployed or under-employed have been using this time to really think about what they want and what they need to reach their goals. As the lockdowns are lifted, here are the main scenarios experienced by young professionals today:

Choosing to work remotely – possibly forever

For a few young people (me included) the lockdown has made us realize how much we enjoy working remotely. Some people dread commuting to work and having to deal with fixed schedules, especially in the most creative industries such as design or writing. Now that more organizations, including NGOs and consulting firms, are embracing remote work, many of us are taking advantage of those new opportunities. 

For me, that meant trading a stable contract working in-person for an NGO for a position with a consulting firm. The pandemic made me realize that I value creative freedom and exciting new opportunities to develop my skills more than I value financial stability, especially as a young person working in communications who needs to master different communication tools and techniques to grow as a professional.  

Trading stability for new challenges

After finishing university, graduates who find a stable job in their area tend to think their situation is so unique and privileged that they might as well stick to it. Even though the position might not be the job of their dreams, a comfortable income and financial independence are just too alluring.

However, the pandemic has shown just how much everything can change overnight, that nothing is ever really certain and that priorities can be easily re-aligned. For a few of my peers, that meant going back to the job market and applying to positions that actually fit their long-term career goals, trading stability for new exciting challenges. Even friends with permanent contracts in their home countries are now eagerly applying to international positions, a risky move but one that can pay off tremendously in terms of career advancement. 

Starting a business

A pandemic might seem like the worst possible time to start a business, but many people are now looking for specific services to keep their companies and work afloat. A friend who was in lay-off decided to use his newfound free time to advertise IT services online, and upgrade used computers to re-sell at accessible prices for low-income professionals who desperately needed them to work from home. He is now growing his business and, whenever possible, will start working for himself full-time. 

For him, the pandemic made his expertise as an IT specialist more valuable, therefore he decided to seize this opportunity to invest in business development. His kind of entrepreneurship, which has a focus on environmental and social sustainability, it’s precisely what people need right now. 

Whatever the pandemic has meant to you as a young professional, a crisis will always foster new opportunities for solidarity and collaboration. The future is unpredictable, but young people are leading the way when it comes to social and climate justice and this might be our chance to build a new world. 

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