Now could be a great time to switch jobs or change careers altogether

We spoke with an HR executive and a professor of leadership development to gain a better understanding of the trends reshaping long-held hiring standards, future employment opportunities, and more.

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Image: iStock/seb-ra

Months into the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 continues to take its toll on populations and economies around the globe. Although the US added more than 660,000 jobs in September, millions remain unemployed due to economic uncertainty in the months ahead. Interestingly, the current employment landscape could present new opportunities for individuals considering switching positions or testing new career paths altogether.

We spoke with an HR executive at Indeed and an academic from the University of Tulsa Collins College of Business to understand why this current employment landscape could be a great time to switch careers.

"It is always a good practice to be proactive and intentional. When it comes to [one's] career, the ability to be aware and opportunistic could be the difference between status quo or quantum leaps," said Stephen Carman, Ph.D., adjunct professor of leadership development at the University of Tulsa Collins College of Business, via email.

"Long-term economic uncertainty is normally unpredictable. Consider what happened in 2008.  But for those who know where they want to go with their career, and understand the opportunities that present themselves and [are] able to respond, those are the ones who will most likely find success," Carman continued.

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Shifting views among hiring managers

For many business professionals, the new normal of day-to-day operations is filled with Zoom meetings and virtual whiteboard collaborations. While the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way business professionals collaborate in the short term, the occupational landscape has also evolved markedly in the last decade. Paul Wolfe, SVP of HR at Indeed, specifically pointed to increased "job-hopping" in recent years. These elements could present new opportunities and challenges to long-held hiring standards.

"Research from the Indeed Hiring Lab found that the job switching rate has nearly doubled since the Great Recession meaning job-hopping looking bad on your resume is a thing of the past. In addition," Wolfe said via email.

At the same time, millions of people around the country are unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic and economic uncertainty in the months ahead. These two-factors could shift the way in which prospective employers assess an applicant's employment history moving forward.

"Our research found that employers are less likely to factor in extended joblessness or resume gaps when hiring. With employer sentiment towards switching careers favorable and the pandemic potentially putting you in a position to switch careers, now has never been a better time to switch [or] make a change," Wolfe said.

Evolving employment standards

There's an old saying that it's easier to find a new job while one is still employed. In an employers' market, this idea would appear to favor employed professionals during the pandemic. Carman acknowledged that the "maxim is still valid," although he said that organizations may shift away from their previously held standards.

"As some industries feel the squeeze to fill especially critical open positions, they will be looking for people that can fill those positions regardless of their current employment status," Carman said. 

Carman also explained that these shifting expectations could also extend to ideal candidate qualifications as organizations prioritize specific capabilities paired with increasingly sought after soft skills.

"Organizations will be revisiting what "qualified" means to them," Carman said. "My expectation is that organizations will be looking for individuals who have the core skills and experience they need for an open position, but there will be increased focus on adaptability, flexibility, ability to deal with change and ambiguity. Anyone who can demonstrate these skills, will be [the] ones who have an advantage."

SEE: Give your resume a pandemic refresh with these 7 savvy tips (TechRepublic)

Increased "alternative workforce" possibilities

The ever-evolving landscape of the job market could also present new "alternative" employment opportunities for those so inclined. Carman mentioned Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report noting the increased reliance on members of the "alternative workforce," including gig employees, contractors, freelancers, and others. This employment model could enable some job seekers to switch positions, transition to a new career entirely, or potentially test the waters before making a long-term move.

"Some [people] may not want to risk their current employment situation, given the uncertainty, but may find opportunities to supplement their income as well as test the waters by jumping into this alternative workforce. This can provide individuals with the opportunity to test the market as well as testing the self-employed waters," Carman said.

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