Losing and finding work amidst the upheaval of COVID-19

Sometimes no matter how hard-working, successful, safe, or how closely you followed the steps to success spouted by self-help gurus and entrepreneurs, life throws you a curveball. This happened to me on March 12, 2020.

After going to college and working relentlessly for over a decade to carve away a career in the entertainment and broadcasting industries, I lost all of my work in the span of an afternoon. And that goes for many people in many industries. 

Unlike other industries, people in the entertainment industry could not work from home. There was no live entertainment and no sports to broadcast. Even corporate work in the audio visual world disappeared. With a limit on gatherings and many people working from home, there were no meetings or conferences that needed technical support. Everyone in the entertainment and broadcasting world had one of their worst fears realized. 

The pandemic has left people in several industries scrambling to find work. | Stephen Strand

Obviously, the entertainment industry isn’t the only one suffering. With an unemployment rate of 11.7 per cent, many Albertans are struggling. Many are worse off than my wife and me. Finding a job isn’t easy right now with so many people applying for work. Being from a specialized industry, my skills are either overlooked or are non-transferable. It’s demoralizing not receiving a call back. 

Thankfully, a friend helped by giving me some work livestreaming weddings. He paid me a fraction of what I previously made, but it was certainly better than nothing. He was not exploiting me. I was simply taking over a few of his contracts while he was lucky enough to get inside the NHL bubble. 

The livestreaming isn’t the only work I have gotten since March. I have helped other friends with projects. These friends who don’t have much work themselves, but understand the importance of helping others. And you better bet I will return the favour once I am able.

Networking may help you find work, even if it’s temporary. | Stephen Strand

So, reach out to your network and see what happens. It’s often who you know when it comes to getting work. 

Explore working in another industry that may be more stable than your own.

Caiti Farquharson, a former member of the marketing team at the EXPO Centre, was temporarily laid off on April 20. Luckily, she was able to get another full-time marketing job. “It was tough looking for work during COVID,” says Farquharson. She originally held off searching for another job, but in July she began to seriously look. 

“I applied for around 15 jobs before I was hired,” she says. “I’m grateful that this is a field that remains less affected by the pandemic than other fields of work,” Farquharson adds. If there weren’t many opportunities in her field, she would have expanded her job search. 

There were a mix of remote and in-person jobs. “I would say employers were being more clear about offering work-from-home arrangements than they were pre-pandemic,” she explains. Her new job as the marketing and communications manager with the Alberta College of Massage Therapy is in-person. “We have a small team, so we are comfortable being in the office together at this time.”

She looked for a new job because the events industry would likely be the slowest to recover.

It’s hard to know what industries are secure. | Stephen Strand

“I didn’t think that it was likely that I would be recalled to work anytime soon, and even if I did, I knew there was a possibility of being temporarily laid off again if lockdown measures were reinstated. It was time for me to move to a more stable industry!”

This is something everyone must think about, especially as the days tick by and the money trickles out of our accounts.

But, to what field? It’s hard to know what’s a safe bet anymore. 

A friend, who asked to remain nameless, left the entertainment industry to go back to school for nursing and says COVID simply delayed the job cuts. “I feel a little anxious about going into the workforce, just because we’ve consistently been told by this government that healthcare is going to get axed.” 

It’s only because of networking that writer Stephen Strand found work after the pandemic left him jobless. | Stephen Strand

Indeed, in early October the UCP announced they will cut 11,000 support position jobs from AHS. The UCP claims they won’t cut nurses and other frontline positions, but a leaked budget draft from July states differently. 

The idea of having my entire income tied to one job terrifies me. If it weren’t for my network, I would’ve been completely without work.

Perhaps we’re better off working for ourselves. Learn multiple skills and trades that give us maneuverability so that if one job dries up, we can move on to the next. 

Taking in free education is also a good idea. Numerous educational institutions offer free or cheap online courses and bootcamps. Even Stanford University offered a free online coding course. YouTube is always a great resource. 

It’s hard to know what to do next. Navigating is a bumpy process, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t always need the piece of paper to get the work. My career has taken me far beyond my educational background. The best bet is to be flexible and open to change.