Special: Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic

Is This a Good Time to Help Your Client Change Jobs? Two Experts Talk Shop…

“The job market just went from great to awful, but there may be some opportunities for those that want to make a wholesale switch,” write Olson and Swift, from Korn Ferry career counselors. Forbes‘ Jack Kelley notes that the unemployment rates caused by coronavirus economic havoc could reach 30%. “And yet,” he says, “for anyone thinking about switching careers,” he says, “now might not be as bad of a time as it may seem.”  

We talked with two local career and business experts, Dr. William Costelloe and Mr. Jim Stood, and ask them about adapting to the job market churn going on in the country.  

William Costelloe, PhD, is a licensed I-O psychologist and owner of Costelloe & Associates, Inc. For over 40 years, he has consulted with both public corporations and family-owned businesses across the country, specializing in interpersonal communication, team building, pre-employment assessments, organizational surveys, and career counseling.  

Jim Stood, M.S., owner of JT Stodd & Associates, has provided consulting services to a diverse mix of clients including those in the healthcare, manufacturing, technology, construction, professional services, finance, government, and education. He also teaches classes in Organizational Leadership and Human Resource Management at Louisiana State University, and serves as the principal instructor for the Human Capital Management Certificate Program at the University of New Orleans.  

We asked Mr. Stodd what are some of the changes he sees for the future and careers? While he warned us that he was speculating, he thinks much of this will be influenced by the upcoming national election.  

“If the republicans win, we will continue to see more ‘domestication’ of our economy with the USA establishing more independence and self-sufficiency. The big winners will be oil and gas, manufacturing, distribution/logistics, and all the jobs associated with those.  

“If the democrats win, he said, “we will likely see a return to ‘globalization’ with more concern for being good citizens within the global economy. It will include a return to offshoring many manufacturing jobs, tech jobs, and a lot of associated logistics/distribution.  

“Irrespective of which party wins, we are likely to see continued growth in demand for STEM workers across all sectors–not necessarily degrees, but ‘credentials’– as well as healthcare, technology and logistics/transportation, particularly as retail establishments, including food services, shrink/disappear and home/office delivery continues to grow. The COVID-19 pandemic will simply add to what has already been a significant trend.”  

What does he think are the most likely new job areas, or those that could boom?  

“Right now both political parties seem to be in agreement that the national infrastructure needs revitalization,” Stodd said. “This will likely be a huge effort. So we should expect that jobs in heavy construction– roads, bridges, airports, big buildings, etc.– including jobs in architecture, engineering, materials manufacturing, construction supplies and equipment, and other related industries will grow– dramatically!” he said. “Also growing will be the business services necessary to support these efforts.”  

With these changes, we asked Dr. William Costelloe what are the signs that it might be time for a person to shift jobs or industries?  

“The current research on employee engagement in the workplace indicates that only 25 percent of the employees are fully engaged in their jobs, 59 percent of employees are ambivalent/disengaged, and 16 percent are actively disengaged. If someone senses that they are becoming less and less engaged in their work, then it is a time for concern,” said Costelloe.  

“The term I like to use is ‘passion.’ If an individual begins to sense that they are feeling more disengaged from their work, then they are losing their passion.  

“We are all going through a shock right now and employees are in a situation where they are seeing furloughs and complete layoffs of their coworkers and unfortunately in many cases even themselves. This situation is causing employees to question their level of job security regarding their current career path. Their level of engagement is by definition decreasing and they are wondering if they should begin to look for a different line of work given the situation we are all facing now,” Costelloe said.  

“At the same time, employees must guard against a kneejerk reaction and not jump into a new career or job just because they are scared. They should not overreact but rather think their situation through seriously with a high level of self-review and introspection.”  

“This is a very difficult question to answer,” Stodd agrees. “The decision to change careers is a very personal decision that must be made based upon factors unique to each individual, their circumstances and what they would like to accomplish in life. As such, it is very difficult to speak generally about the signs that might be important to any given individual. However, what we can talk about rather conclusively is why most people change jobs, and some of these factors are likely to ring-abell with any selected individual.”  

Stodd explained some of the research findings and the main reasons people change their jobs. ” 

Pay is by far the #1 reason folks leave a job, or an industry, for another,” he said. “It is also listed as the #1 reason people decide to stay put in their current job.”  

But employees are also want respectful treatment, he explained. “Employees list ‘respectful treatment’ as the factor most important to their overall job satisfaction,” he said. He pointed out that only 38% are satisfied with the amount of respect they receive.  

Stodd also said factors such as trust and the opportunity to grow are important, as is job security, is a factor in these current conditions. “Okay…Maslow was right! Research shows that people do want to feel reasonably safe and secure in their occupation, and they are likely to move to another opportunity when they feel insecure. Hospitality, entertainment, dining, and gaming have been hit really hard during the pandemic. Because of this it is likely that many employers in these industries will struggle for some time just to hire back the folks they furloughed or laid-off. After all, why go back if there is a better, safer opportunity?”  

Dr. Costello points out that before addressing issues such as job skills and job match, other questions may be more important.  

“The first step is to ask the question ‘What if?’,” said Costelloe.  

“What would happen if I took the time to seriously do some introspective thinking about what I could really do with the rest of my life? If I could determine what it is that I am really passionate about?  

“There is a story about Michelangelo and the process he went through before he built a huge stained glass window in a church in Italy. He spent weeks and weeks gazing at the space in the church where he was going to build the window. The Medeci family, who had commissioned him to build the window, became more and more frustrated as he delayed his start. Finally, they confronted him and inquired about why it was taking him so long to begin. Michelangelo responded that he was imagining in his mind where each and every tiny piece of stained glass would go into the window. In his time stained glass was very rare and he wanted to be very, very sure that he would have all the pieces he needed in the right colors in order to complete the window once he started.  

“Stated somewhat differently, Michelangelo was planning his plan. It has been my experience with my clients that many have not invested the time nor the right amount of mental energy required to plan their plan,” Cotelloe said. Special: Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic Is This a Good Time to Help Your Client Change Jobs?  

“In order to answer the question ‘What if,’ a great deal of mental energy and introspection is required in order to arrive at a clear answer or vision of what it would be like to change your life and do something that you are truly passionate about. Dreaming alone will not answer the question, ‘What if?’  

“Once an individual has answered that question, the next step is to focus mental energy in order to answer the question, ‘What would I need to do in order to re-invent myself for the future?’ The final question that needs to be answered is, ‘How can I proceed forward so that I will enjoy and engage myself in the process of moving my career forward?’  

“Once the steps listed above have been started, a simultaneous process can begin in order to determine an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities, which industrial organizational-psychologists refer to as KSAs. These can be determined by referring to national job databases,” he said.  

“In our career consulting practice, we think that it is important for an individual to be aware of the competencies that they could bring to a given job. Therefore, we administer proprietary assessments that determine these unique competencies.”  

“Recent studies have determined that once a student enters college, they will probably change their college major between two and five times before they graduate. Nowadays, because of the frequent switches of one’s college major, it often requires an extra year or more for a student to fulfill the full course requirements necessary to graduate, because they have switched their major so many times.  

“I’ve been contacted by two different nursing schools in the last few years who have found themselves caught in a very serious situation. Today, there is a shortage of nurses coming out of nursing schools. Both of these nursing schools admit around 30 students to their program each year. The problem is that each year a significant number of the students drop out of the program because they come to learn that nursing, as a career, is not what they thought it would be. In other words, the students who have entered and were accepted into their programs did not have a realistic understanding of what being a nurse would involve in the real world.  

“Industrial-organizational psychologists call this a ‘realistic job preview.’ The problem the nursing schools are facing is that by the end of the four-year nursing program only around 50 percent of the entering students graduate. Because of this high dropout rate the nursing schools can only provide half of the nurses needed in the job market.  

“I recall having a conversation with Dr. Ed Timmons who was one of my professors at LSU years ago when he predicted that this situation would occur. He said to me, ‘These kids have no idea what they really want to do once they get out of college. There is just too much ‘fish flopping behavior.’ I had to ask him, ‘What is fish flopping behavior?’ He said, ‘You know, it’s like when you catch a fish and you put it on the dock, it flips and flops and flips and flops until it finally flips off the dock back into the water.’ Today, there Is very little structured planning done before students choose their college major.  

“We also need to remember that things in the world of work are different today than they used to be. Generally speaking, in the old days, people would enter a job and stay with that job until they received a watch from the company upon retirement. Nowadays, studies indicate that after graduating from college the average person will switch the company they work with between three and five times during their career,” Dr. Costelloe said.  

The entire situation has become more complex with the coronavirus crisis. One of the changes is a potential move to remote work and in particular working from home. Researchers have long noted that working from home can provide benefits for workers and employees. Telecommuting can save employers and employees time, stress, money, and in many cases increase productivity by reducing stress associated with commuting and now a lower exposure to the virus. But many opportunities maybe available. Libby Wells of Bank Rate reports that the top jobs for working from home include web developer, computer support specialist, virtual assistant, and social media specialist for examples. for example, web developers have only a medium preparation requirement and yet average wages approach $70,000 a year.  

We asked Jim Stodd to describe some of the challenges coming to the career scene with remote work and he explained that the number of employees working remotely has grown from 3% at the beginning of 2020 to 64% in April.  

“Because of the pandemic, we are starting to learn a lot about remote work–good and bad–in a very compressed time-frame,” he said.  

“Furthermore, without a vaccine, employers are going to be slow in bringing remote workers back to the office simply because of the risk. As such, I believe that remote work is here to stay and will be the ‘new norm’ for those who largely do their work on computers and other digital equipment, which includes almost all professional services.  

“Yes, there will be some retraction efforts on the part of employers as things re-open, but employees are learning that there are huge benefits –at least for some people–in working remotely. A recent report issued by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that after the COVID-19 experience, 43% of the workforce wants to work remotely more of the time, compared to only 12% that want to work in the office more of the time.  

Mr. Stodd explained reasons from the research why people wanted to work remotely. These included not having to commute (55%), more flexible schedule (48%), being more productive (37%), and more time with family and friends (34%).  

“As a result,” he said, “employers are going to be pressured to provide more remote work situations and be much better prepared to lead and supervise a virtual staff. But, there are some documented challenges that employers will face in doing so.  

There will be problems ensuring consistency of treatment, such as for performance appraisals and raises, he said, and remote workers we’ll have greater difficulty separating work and home responsibilities.  

“It is much more challenging to maintain organizational continuity and consistency when the normal in-person interaction of the office is replaced by Zoom and ‘chat’ sessions,” Stodd said.  

“Progressive ‘cultural’ decay––the longer people work remotely the more difficult to maintain the desired culture. Axios has reported that 55 percent of remote workers feel less connected to the company.”  

There is concern that goodwill and harmony can breakdown without actual social interaction between colleagues, he explained. There is a lot to consider Mr. Stodd noted. And all of these are great opportunities for organizational psychologists.  

For more information and questions, Dr. Costelloe can be reached at WHCostelloe@msn.com

Mr. Stodd’s website is http://www.jtstodd.com. 

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