COVID-19’s impact on the economy has been devastating. As of this moment, unemployment claims have surpassed 16 million, and this doesn’t take into consideration the people who haven’t been able to file due to busy phone lines and unemployment websites crashing from too much traffic.
Economic growth is contracting and people who are unemployed have less cash to spend. Even many of those who are employed are finding themselves spending less because of the government-imposed restrictions. These two things together are a perfect storm in a worsening economy. We won’t know until early May just how bad the situation is.
Economically, younger Americans have been hit harder than the public as a whole. The overall unemployment spiked from 6.4 percent to 8.7 percent for those between the ages of 20 to 24. A Harris poll found that Generation Z workers are more likely to be laid off during the downturn.
“Based on the demographics of workers in higher-risk industries, young people, in particular, are set to be disproportionately affected by virus-related layoffs,” researchers from the Pew Research Center wrote.
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For millennials, the coronavirus crisis is bringing back bad memories of the Great Recession and, with those memories, fears of losing what they’ve worked hard to build. For Generation Z students who are working part-time jobs and internships to help off-set college expenses, this is a frightening time when they find their job and or internship is no longer in a position to pay them.
While there is no question that America’s young workers are facing difficult times ahead, there are ways to soften the blow and make the most of an undesirable situation.
First things first
For Millennials and Generation Z workers who have lost jobs, the first thing to do is see if you qualify for unemployment in your state and apply for it. If you were a gig worker, you may come across some hurdles because even though the CARES Act made gig workers eligible for unemployment assistance, your state’s unemployment offices may not be fully up to speed yet. If this is the case, keep checking the website of your state’s unemployment agency for announcements that they’re ready to process claims from gig workers. Don’t give up.
If you run a small business, take advantage of the CARES Act and apply for Small Business Administration loans. See if you qualify for any small business grants like the kind Facebook is offering. Take advantage of the July 15 tax deferral.
The next thing to do is negotiate with every creditor to whom you owe money on a regular basis: landlords, utilities, credit card companies and student loan holders. Many have expressed willingness to work with people who are struggling financially. Some states and cities have put moratoriums on evictions, utility shut-offs and student debt collection. See what options are available.
Keep up (or resume) the job search
If you were in the middle of a job search before the crisis hit, don’t stop. Or if you’ve recently lost work, it’s time to get back in the saddle. While it’s true that some employers have taken down previous job listings as a result of the crisis, there are many out there that are still hiring. In fact, in just one week coronavirus-related job postings tripled. Many essential businesses have been implementing hiring initiatives to hire out-of-work individuals, like grocery stores, Walgreen’s, CVS and Amazon. Businesses who already had a “delivery-based” infrastructure in place, like Domino’s and Instacart, are finding themselves in high-demand and are ready to hire more people to meet the needs of home-bound consumers.
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At times like this, certain shifts in mindset may be necessary. For example, if you’re a college grad who was hoping to hit the ground running in your chosen industry, you might need to temporarily defer the dream to pay the bills. But that in itself will teach you valuable skills. If you’re struggling to get interviews, try focusing on companies and industries that are actively hiring. Gig work is also completely legit. While it might not be what you wanted, there’s no shame in it, and it can afford you the leeway to keep looking for a permanent job.
Hone your resume and skills
Invest extra downtime you have into your job candidacy. For example, you could polish your resume or LinkedIn profile. Emphasize the kinds of skills that employers would value at a time like this. Effective remote working, for example, is not a skill that everyone is naturally good at. Cultivate this skill and show employers that you have what it takes to get work done effectively at home.
Take the process seriously
Just because you’re applying for and interviewing for jobs from home doesn’t mean you should treat the process differently. Prepare and dress for interviews the way you normally would. Before interviews, remove distractions and test your audio, video and Internet connection. And don’t forget to follow-up. Finally, at all stages of the process take care to not overstep boundaries by going into details of your personal situation.
(Net)work from home
Despite social distancing, networking isn’t dead. You just need to be more deliberate and proactive about it. The good news is that people will likely be extra welcoming of opportunities right now to professionally connect with others. Look for these opportunities via social media and other virtual platforms. Don’t be afraid to reach out but don’t get discouraged either if not everyone is responsive. They may have a lot going on.
Keep looking and don’t give up
The most important thing is to not fall into a pattern of fear and negative thinking. No doubt these are uncertain times, but the best minds in science, government and business are working hard to mitigate the impact and, most importantly, industries and companies are still hiring. Save for panic-buying, our country has banded together with the best we can right now in a time of great fear and uncertainty. Solutions are being presented and the flexible approach should slowly begin to alleviate some of that fear.
Dr. Erika Rasure, assistant professor in the online MBA in financial services program at Maryville University
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