The other day, I met with a young woman, let’s call her Anna, who was seeking advice after the pandemic derailed her career.
As recently as last month, she had been happily and gainfully employed in her chosen profession of film and entertainment in the showbiz capital of Los Angeles.
A college graduate from a small town in North Carolina, she once was an aspiring actress with “a few but not steady” TV cameos to her credit. Some 18 months ago, to her delight, she was hired as an entry-level production assistant by a big-time movie studio.
Then, a few months ago, virtually all film/video production ceased. Just like that, she was unemployed.
“It was my dream job,” she told me, “and then it was taken away from me.”
She sees little hope of returning to her job, which probably won’t exist “when this thing is all over,” in the baleful phrase of the moment.
“I’m open to options, like maybe moving back home,” she said. “But it’s hard being so low on the totem pole.”
To many young workers, it’s a familiar lament.
What to do? She’s already taking the right steps by reaching out to friends and acquaintances who might know someone who knows someone, and by keeping an ever-hopeful attitude.
Granted, with a college degree, she’s on the fortunate side of the ledger. But Anna and millions of young workers like her doubtlessly find themselves wondering what’s next after the unemployment checks stop coming.
Recessions leave scars
Workplace analysts have labeled the crisis “the scarring effect,” a harsh phrase that speaks of the lasting impact of a recession or, in this case, a Depression-like collapse. Scarring is starting your career by being forced to accept lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs that you have to fight your way out of.
There’s the cruel fate of not knowing how — or when — you’ll pay your monthly bills and put enough food on the table, much less pay off your student loan.
From the aftereffects of the housing crisis of 2007–09, we know that the malaise of a depressed economy lingers for a long time. With so many highly qualified people now out of work, there’s even less hope for those with minimal experience or limited on-the-job skills.
Reach out, keep busy
What I advised Anna to do was the same mantra, pandemic or no, that I’ve preached for years: Network like crazy, then network some more.
LinkedIn is an excellent way to tell the world you’re looking for a job. Same with Facebook. Along with your resume, post a short essay about yourself and your career goals.
This is not the time to be ashamed or modest about who you are, what you know and what kind of career opportunity you’re seeking. Think about temporary jobs through staffing services. It may not be a perfect fit, but your cash flow starts and it keeps you busy.
Meanwhile, why not volunteer at a social service agency? You may not get a paycheck, but you’ll gain a greater sense of purpose. Who knows, when this is all over, that agency may need to hire someone like you.
Stay busy, reach out for assistance, network, and learn new skills.
This too shall pass.
Blair is co-founder of Manpower San Diego and author of “Job Won.”