The future of work is no longer a thing of the future. COVID-19 has accelerated—and in many ways redefined—what our present and future of work looks like. Spurred by the pandemic, up to half of Americans are now working from home, a trend that experts predict will continue.
Warehouses, recycling facilities, grocery stores, and more are automating tasks and investing in robots. And many companies have taken a more worker-first approach—increasing hourly wages, extending benefits, and enhancing sick leave—all while scrambling to secure their business. While these more worker-centered decisions may have been a product of panic, they should continue to shape the “new normal” in the workplace.
In the midst of these changes, working people can take steps now to prepare for a rapidly changing present and future. Based on my experience as CEO of Jobcase, an online platform that supports more than 110 million working people, I’m hoping to share the insights from my community and steps people can take to navigate and adapt to this evolving environment.
Get ready to change jobs more frequently
Whether you are currently working or are one of the millions of people recently unemployed, ready yourself for the possibility of frequent job changes. As part of your preparation, seek co-ownership of your work-related data. Ensure that you can access—and take with you—progress reports, skills and training certifications, customer satisfaction surveys, five-star ratings, and other testimonials related to your skills and performance. Share this information on your online profiles. Show potential employers what you have achieved in all areas of your work-life.
Establish and demonstrate success in continuous learning habits—and broadcast your love of learning to the world. What have you learned lately? Whether Excel, Tableau, or how to operate a forklift, share the skills you have mastered on your public-facing profiles, résumé, and in interviews. The domain of your skillset matters little, but your mastery of learning speaks volumes. Continue to learn as much as you can, wherever you can.
Reward employers who put workers first
Employers increasingly face choices, including whether to use technology to replace tasks or jobs and how to provide pathways to living wages. We should reward employers who put people first in the choices they make. Buy products and services from employers who treat their workers well. If you are able, choose to work with employers who make worker-centered business decisions, enhance benefits, increase pay, and encourage promotion pathways. Jobs with those kinds of businesses will pay dividends in both the short and long term.
Networking can feel scary. But how about the simple act of volunteering to help people in need? In communities such as Jobcase, at church, temple, local nonprofits, and food pantries—even if those communities gather virtually—you will expand your circles and make a difference. And when you help others, you boost your attitude and make connections that may benefit you over time. In connecting with others, you are building your own personal and professional network—it can be easier than it sounds.
Take care of yourself
It’s a marathon now, not a sprint. Eat as many healthy, nourishing foods as you can. Exercise. Get the sleep you need. Our future is going to be characterized by the acceleration of change we are beginning to experience now. As psychologists know all too well, change can bring stress and anxiety. Yet with practice and patience, we can embrace the unknown with a little more courage.
We hold more agency in this uncertain time than we may think. Moving forward, the choices we make now will determine the future—of work, our strength in the job market, and our society’s resilience to weather this storm.
Fred Goff is the founder and CEO of Jobcase, an online platform that helps millions of working people find community support, self-improvement tools, and jobs.