Category Archives: COVID

During Covid-19, Technology Can Help You Find a New Career Path

If Covid has thrown your job, company or career for a loop, this may be the moment to think about not just a next move, but a larger career change.

Of course, such a move is impossible—or at least close to it—for many people who don’t have the contacts or resources to make it happen. But for those lucky enough to take advantage of it, technology can help address some of the obstacles to making a midcareer shift—especially right now, when so much of the professional world has moved entirely online out of necessity.

By putting a range of professional conversations and communities at your fingertips, the internet makes it much easier to figure out which fields are the best fit for your interests and talents. And through low-risk, low-cost options for trying out new professional contexts—such as taking online courses or doing remote pro bono work—you can assess a new career direction before you take a leap.

Here is how to tap into all that to help plan a career change.

Assess your options

Before you start to make a move, get a feel for your options by eavesdropping on other fields and getting familiar with the cultures and opportunities they offer, as well as the kinds of people and tasks that are involved.

An easy place to start is by joining professional groups on LinkedIn, so you can watch (or join in) the online conversation; many groups will welcome anyone who asks to come on board. Following a LinkedIn group for environmental lawyers, for instance, might confirm your hopes that this is a field you would like to leap into—or it might reveal political squabbles you’d find intolerable. Likewise, if you have friends or colleagues in this field, pay closer attention to them online and see what they share and respond to.

Be sure to follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as Facebook. Maybe the occasional posts you see from your management-consultant friends make their fast-paced work look appealing, but reading the full stream of their working lives will give you a better sense of whether it is a pace you would want to sustain yourself.

In addition, find the top Twitter hashtags, tweetups or Twitter chats in your new field and make a point of following or participating. You may find a group of kindred spirits who share not only your passion for project management, but also your affection for dogs and gardening—or you may discover that they are snarky and gossipy in a way you hate.

For something that offers a bit more opportunity for (virtual) face time, you might also sign up for webinars and remote events; there has never been a better opportunity to attend conferences in lots of industries for low to no cost.

Finally, if you do all that and you’re still torn between two or three different career paths, use Glassdoor, Payscale, LinkedIn, Indeed and other career sites to figure out pay ranges, volume of opportunities and expected qualifications.

Assess yourself

Next, figure out if your potential new field or career is actually the right fit for your particular skills and talents. There are many tech tools and strategies that can help you get a better perspective on your strengths and weaknesses.

One of my favorites is a 360-degree assessment that asks for online input from colleagues, bosses, direct reports and friends. This is best accomplished through a third-party consultant who can review and anonymize the results and help you make sense of them. When I completed an online 360 as part of a leadership program many years ago, I was surprised to learn I was a better manager than I thought, and that encouraged me to take on professional roles with more managerial responsibilities. If I’d had that kind of feedback face to face from my direct reports (as opposed to online and anonymously), I would not have trusted it as much.

It can also be useful to do an online self-assessment. Twenty years ago, when I was first working as a digital business consultant, an online self-assessment found I was a perfect fit for a career as a (drum roll) digital business consultant. It was very affirming and kept me from a big career rethink I didn’t need.

You can get a different sort of 360 by looking at analytics that examine your social-media presence. I routinely use software to see which of my articles have been shared the most on different platforms, for instance.

This kind of close examination will show you the kinds of blog posts, photos, Facebook posts and tweets that draw the biggest response, which can provide an important clue about where you add the greatest value.

But be sure to look not only at your most shared or liked content, but also at the stuff that didn’t perform well.

For example, you may think you’ve found your calling as a furniture designer on the strength of a few Instagram posts with your sofa designs that got a ton of likes. But some investigating may show that the vast majority of your other designs got little attention—so you might conclude that something else about the popular photos drove all those likes and shares. Such as the cute dog on the sofa, and not the sofa itself.

Test out the job

Let’s say you’ve found a field or profession that appeals and for which you seem to be a great fit. Now consider a virtual test drive.

One simple method: Set up a blog or social-networking profile focused on an area you’re thinking about moving into, and start posting. It is best to put up material regularly (at least once a week, or two to three times a week if you’re just posting short updates) for at least two or three months to see if you maintain your interest or this is more of a brief flirtation.

It is one thing to post the occasional set of house photos or neighborhood profiles to a real-estate blog; it is another to endure the day-in, day-out grind of adding a few house profiles every week.

(It is good practice to use a mysterious (but not misleading) pseudonym; if you want to design wine labels, call yourself “The Stylish Vintner” in your wine blog. If you decide to drop the field, there is nothing out there with your name on it. If you decide to pursue the career, you can out yourself.)

Another way to get a taste test is to take an online course in your new proposed field. Don’t think just in terms of accumulating credentials or skills; it is useful to take a course that will give you a feel for the breadth of work or the culture of the field. Also consider taking a participatory class, so you can get a sense of personalities and even start to form collegial relationships.

A volunteer engagement is another terrific way to gain some perspective and experience. If you have some credible basis for offering your services, try offering yourself as a pro bono service provider to a charitable organization. Right now, when everyone is working virtually, you don’t have to be constrained by geography, plus many organizations are stretched thin by the Covid crisis.

Map out your route

Unless you’re moving into a field or career path that is very closely related to your existing or most recent role, you probably need to plan your career transition in terms of “hops” that will take you from here to there.

In other words, first move into a career that is just a little different from your current job—but that is closer to your dream in terms of the industry, role or specific responsibilities. Use that role to build the skills, relationships and résumé that bring you one more step closer to your ideal, and then (in another couple of years), make your next hop.

For example, if you’re a web developer but you want to get into human resources, you could start by searching out HR companies where you could build websites—and get an inside view of the industry. As you’re working with HR teams, take every opportunity to learn about how they work and what they are looking for, and offer web or tech suggestions that reflect your growing understanding of their work.

With the experience and contacts you gain, you can then look for another job that is more focused on HR—bringing you closer to your goal.

For examples to follow, look at LinkedIn profiles of people in your new chosen career and reverse-engineer their career paths. Let’s say you’re a software developer but would like to work in epidemiology. Search out people whose current job title includes “epidemiologist” but whose profiles also include “software developer.”

Then look at their résumés and figure out the path they took to get from developer to public-health expert. You might see one person moved from software development into data-management-software development, then into data management and then into public-health-data management specifically.

Network—a lot

Start building virtual relationships with people at the companies where you hope to find your next job via LinkedIn or Twitter, and if you’re in a visual field, Instagram or Pinterest. If you build friendly relationships with a few people over time, after a while it is perfectly appropriate to reach out via private message to ask them if they can keep an eye out for potential job openings.

Don’t forget to reframe your own digital presence. Look at all your business-related profiles online and shift what you showcase so you can position yourself for the job you want. Let’s say you’re a software engineer but want to get into sales. If you’ve helped answer technical questions for customers or salespeople during the sales process, put that in the top of each job summary in your LinkedIn profile, so you look like a more obvious fit for sales roles.

Once you’ve got the right foot forward, start to book online meetings that move you closer to your goal. Whenever you apply for a job (or even think of applying for one), use LinkedIn to look for first- or second-degree connections at the company you’re applying to, and see if you can (re)introduce yourself. Don’t wait for a job opening to book these meetings—look for any opportunity to make new relationships with people in the companies or fields you’re targeting.

Finally, get creative. You may get better and faster results to your meeting requests by developing your own project in your field of choice, even if it is just an excuse to book some calls or meetings. Write the short e-book you think the field needs, sharing best practices from process engineers; start a podcast about higher-ed tutoring; build a directory of leaders in community fundraising. You just need something you can use to set up 15-minute conversations that are a good use of everyone’s time. And that something may turn out to be the first step in your brand-new career.

Source:  The Wall Street Journal

 

Make Allied one of your first 15-minute conversations!  Check out our current job openings, follow us, and reach out today! 

How to Plan Your Life When the Future Is Foggy at Best

 

By Kate Northrup

The year 2020 did not turn out as we planned. Unemployment rates in the U.S. are close to twice what they were in February of 2020, and the number of people furloughed is still towering over February averages. Plus, with the profound shakeup of our daily lives, a lot of folks are asking, What do I really want to do with my life, given that everything else seems to be up in the air?

Planning

The five-year plan is dead. With the pandemic and other uncertainties, many individuals are questioning what this means for career, and for those who plan years into the future, it can make them feel like they’re floundering.

If there’s any beauty that’s come from this pandemic, it’s that we’re reorganizing our priorities to honor what really matters to us. And for many, “career” is top of the reboot list. But letting go of what we always thought we could count on, like a five-year plan, can be painful and leave us feeling like we’re floundering.

Having a plan is one of the best stress-reduction strategies out there. As humans, we crave feeling like we’re in control and that we have certainty. In fact, research shows that a sense of control helps us stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even decrease mortality risk. And the more we crave control, it turns out, the higher achieving we tend to be.

Just because we no longer have the illusion of knowing what our long-term future holds doesn’t mean we can’t still benefit from the stress-reduction — and achievement-enhancing — results of planning. It all comes down to how we look at time and goals.

If you want to thrive and be part of the meaningful change, adaptability is the key ingredient. But I don’t mean to just go with the flow and take life as it comes to you. This new brand of adaptability channels our desire to make a strategic plan, while building in planned checkpoints for course correction as new information arises and circumstances shift. It’s called micro-planning.

Micro-planning is simple. It takes a larger vision and breaks it down into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily check-in practices to plan and adjust as necessary. We get some of the same stabilizing effects that a five-year plan may have given us but with shorter chunks of planning that make more sense in our current economic and cultural context.

Micro-planning is based on biomimicry, “a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design problems — and find hope along the way.” Prolonged stress, like the kind experienced during a global pandemic of unknown length, can cause a significant decrease in our ability to function optimally, especially when it comes to our cognitive abilities (like our brain handling high-order tasks or our ability to make decisions based on our goals instead of based on our habits). Micro-planning allows us to relieve this stress without the seduction of thinking, however erroneously, that we have control over what is going to happen in the next one, three, five, or more years of our lives.

There are six elements of micro-planning:

1. Purpose: Identify your compelling purpose that allows flexibility in terms of how it will come to pass. So many people are in a reboot phase when it comes to their careers. New directions can feel risky, but when we look back at our career history, we often find a thread that connects what all of our different roles have had in common. That thread is a great place to start when it comes to identifying your compelling purpose. For example, my purpose is to help leaders become more connected to sustainable sources of personal power so we can all make our highest contribution to humanity and the planet.

While how I implement this purpose may change as circumstances change around me, the purpose itself remains the same. If you aren’t clear on your purpose, do a quick exercise: Jot down the most fulfilling career experiences you’ve had to date. Notice what commonalities they have. Those are the ingredients of your purpose.

2. The Year: Make a plan for the year that aligns with your purpose, based on the best information you have available to you. Reflect on the previous year and what worked (or didn’t work) and take into account past lessons you’ve learned. Identify one to three areas of growth that you want to focus on. I don’t recommend trying more than three; a larger overhaul often fails because, when we put too much on our plate, we end up overwhelmed and not achieving the results we want. Your yearlong plan could include a job search, pursuing growth opportunities in the career you currently have, meeting and exceeding your KPIs, laying the groundwork for starting your own business, or whatever else makes sense for the current moment you’re in.

3. Quarters: At the beginning of each quarter, reassess what you’re working on and how you’re working by asking yourself powerful reflection and planning questions, such as: What themes emerged this past quarter? What worked, and what didn’t? What did I learn? How can I apply what I learned in the next quarter? What needs to shift in my plan based on new information and circumstances?

Based on the answers to these questions, set goals for the next quarter, being careful to choose no more than five per quarter. (The fewer the better; the fewer things you do with more focus and attention, the better results you’ll get.) For example, you might notice that a theme that emerged over the previous quarter was that you weren’t recognized for your ideas at work. After reflection, you realize you weren’t advocating enough for them.

You may then shift your plan for the next quarter and set a goal to share one new idea with your department every month and that when you do so, you also share very clearly how it will positively impact results for your department. You might also decide to read two books on increasing your influence as a leader to improve in this area.

4. Months: Each month, take your goals for the quarter and assess where you stand with them. For any active goals, break them into specific projects and then break each project down into phases. Every project requires four distinct phases to get it off the ground and achieve the results we want: planning and initiation, shipping/launching/making it visible, completion and integration, and rest and reflection.

For example, if your project is to “search for a new job,” the “plan and initiate” phase would be updating your resume, tapping into your network for potential opportunities, and searching for openings. The next phase, “making it visible,” would be applying for jobs, showing up for interviews, and following up after. The “complete and integrate” phase would be the onboarding phase once you receive your new job offer. Finally, the “rest and reflect” phase would be allowing yourself to exhale and celebrate, knowing that a new cycle has begun — and you have accomplished your goal.

5. Weeks: At the start of each week, make a weekly to-do list — rather than a daily one that’s a mile long and leaves you feeling defeated when you shut down for the day. This weekly plan allows you to have a broader view of what’s ahead and gives you more flexibility to plan than your average to-do list. But don’t just think about work tasks. Prioritize movementsleep, time outsidehydration, and healthy food, too, as you look ahead in your week. Optimizing your physical energy make you significantly more effective at executing your plans than buying into the common, yet inaccurate, belief that our best work comes exclusively from our intellect.

6. Days: Finally, track your energy on a daily basis. Gathering data about yourself and your physical, mental, and emotional energy at the end of the day can give you powerful information as to how to optimize your workflow. Keep a journal by your bedside and jot down how you felt emotionally, mentally, and physically. Note what you worked on, how it went (what went well, what didn’t, and what you learned), and what you’re grateful for. This five-minute practice allows you to incrementally adjust the way you show up at work and in your life so you can approach your weekly, quarterly, and annual planning more mindfully. Using this data collection practice to make micro-adjustments to the way you work and your goals also gives you a tremendous sense of control, which has been proven to decrease the amount of time it takes to get tasks done.

***

The world is changing dramatically all around us, and we need to change with it. Clinging to a long-term strategy like the five-year plan isn’t going to work anymore. But letting go of our need and desire to know what the future holds does not mean a freefall into anxious indolence. By breaking down our planning processes into smaller chunks, we begin to check in more frequently and adapt more naturally. The five-year plan may be dead, but our capacity for doing our most impactful work and live into the goals that we set for ourselves is very much alive.

Source:  Harvard Business Review

 

A great way to jumpstart your plan is to engage with Allied!  Check out our available positions, and connect with our recruiters to learn more about how we can help you realize your career goals.

 

Unemployment Compensation Information for Pennsylvania Employees

If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), you may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation benefits. The Department of Labor & Industry will continue to provide important employment benefit updates as the situation evolves.

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UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (UC) BENEFITS

You may be eligible if:

  • Your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
  • Your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
  • You have been told not to work because your employer feels you might get or spread COVID-19
  • You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts

Apply:

  • Online – it’s the fastest and easiest way to get started

Important info:

  • If you are eligible for UC, you will receive two letters and a four-digit PIN
  • Your PIN will arrive in the U.S. mail – keep it in a safe, easy to remember place
  • If approved, your first benefit payment should arrive within four weeks of filing for UC
  • Continue filing your bi-weekly claim (every two weeks) – even while waiting for approval
  • We are experiencing very large call volumes.  Please email us at uchelp@pa.gov, or via UC LiveChat.
  • (NEW) The Waiting Week is suspended.  Previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment (the “waiting week.”) This has been suspended; eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed
  • (NEW) Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived for all UC claimants.  Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits.  Claimants are also not required to register with www.PACareerLink.gov.
  • At this time, benefits are not being extended beyond 26 weeks.

Find more information at the PA UC website.

LVEDC Q&A: Susan Larkin Discusses Staffing Challenges During COVID-19

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is led by a Board of Directors with expertise that represents a broad cross-section of the regional economy. LVEDC Director and Allied Personnel Services Vice President Susan Larkin, who has more than two decades of experience in the staffing industry, recently shared her insights about the employment challenges businesses face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Please tell us about Allied Personnel Services and your role there.

A: Since 1984 Allied has been providing staffing and employment solutions to Lehigh Valley employers. We develop long-term partnerships with our clients, and many of the area’s most successful companies have been clients for 30+ years.  A key to Allied’s success is our ability to deliver ti

mely and effective talent solutions that are flexible to quickly adjust to changing market conditions.

My role as Vice President is to oversee operations and to consult with our clients, developing strategic staffing programs and sharing critical labor market information based on the diverse insight and experience I’ve gained over my 25 years as an executive in the staffing industry.

Q: Before the pandemic, when unemployment was at record low levels, attracting and retaining talent was the biggest issue facing employers. How has the pandemic changed employer perspectives on the importance of talent supply?

A: The pandemic has elevated employers’ awareness of how fragile the talent supply is and how a high rate of unemployment doesn’t always equate to a robust talent supply.  Because of the strong distribution and biotech sectors in our area, layoffs in those areas were not as significant.  Add to that the challenges families face finding child care, the fears surrounding a return to work in the face of COVID, and the financial incentives offered through FCCRA [Families First Coronavirus Response Act] and unemployment, and the supply of available talent hasn’t significantly increased.  Retaining talent has really become an even bigger focus.  Keeping the hardworking, reliable, skilled employees on staff is critical to success when industries see a return to prior levels of workload.

Q: What types of jobs do employers need to fill during the quarantine economy and how do you expect that to change as restrictions are eased?

A: There continues to be a demand for skilled manufacturing roles, logistics staff, and scientific roles like quality control and lab work.  As restrictions ease, we expect to see the offices and smaller businesses rebound with a corresponding increase in demand across all skill levels.

Q: What role did school closures and the availability of child care play on employment during the pandemic and how will that affect the local economy as the economy opens back up?

A: It is an extremely difficult hurdle for families.  Some people were forced to leave the workforce completely to stay home with small children.  Others that had the luxury of moving to a work from home arrangement were forced to figure out how to both educate their own children and keep up with their own work.  If daycares and schools do not reopen in the fall, this will have a long-term negative impact on the talent supply and productivity of at home workers.  Workers will require increased flexibility for child and family care and employers should be prepared to adapt to accommodate these new employee needs.

Q: Explain why enhanced employment benefits may be a challenge for some employers to find workers?

A: Enhanced employment benefits were intended to provide workers affected by the pandemic with immediate, significant financial assistance to allow them to remain home during the stay-at-home order.  Unfortunately for essential businesses that have continued to operate, these enhanced benefits have had the unintended consequence of incentivizing people not to work.  Many are able to make significantly more money each week with unemployment than they could earn with the jobs available to them.  This has made recruiting for all types and levels of employees a challenge.

Q: How does social distancing and more rigorous disinfecting impact the number of workers an employer can hire even if there is demand for the product or service?

A: Complying with the ever-evolving CDC and OSHA guidelines has forced companies to rapidly adjust their operations.  Hiring, training, scheduling and workflows have all been adapted, and in some cases the number of workers able to work in certain areas has been reduced in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.  There have been some opportunities created with increased needs for sanitation and medical screening workers.  We’ve seen our clients reacting well to these new challenges, and certainly those who are able to pivot to a new normal quickly will see a quicker recovery.

Q: How does the Lehigh Valley talent supply initiative position the region coming out of the COVID-19?

A: The LVEDC Talent Supply Initiative recognized the need to prioritize building a strong workforce before COVID-19, and the work around developing and retaining talent will easily be able to be applied to the post-COVID labor market.  Areas such as career pathways, internships, and apprenticeships will all be vital in reshaping the workforce as we move forward, and the work that has been done in these areas already has prepared the Lehigh Valley to respond to the new challenges that employers will face.

Source:  LVEDC

COVID Information Resource Center

Allied Personnel Services’ offices are open!  We are available Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm by appointment only.  You can call or text us at 610.821.0220 (Allentown) or 610.253.9779 (Easton), send an email to info@alliedps.com, or apply online.

Information for Employees

Information About COVID

Unemployment Compensation Information:  Pennsylvania

Unemployment Compensation Information:  New Jersey

Covid Alert PA App

Information for Businesses

CDC Guidelines for Businesses and Workplaces

Process to Reopen Pennsylvania

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Information for New Jersey Businesses