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‘Doing what we do best’: How career professionals are adapting to COVID-19

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In this challenging time, the services of career professionals may be more needed than ever – and will continue to be as the effects of COVID-19 unfold on the labour market and economy. However, like many Canadians, career professionals are suddenly learning how to do their jobs remotely in response to social distancing guidelines and office closures. Much as they coach clients to do, career professionals are having to draw on their agility and resilience to get through this time and help others do the same.

CareerWise reached out on social media and through our networks to learn more about how career professionals are adapting to service delivery in an age of coronavirus. Here’s what you had to say.

Shifting to remote work

Many career professionals who previously offered in-person services are now testing out new tools to connect with clients from home.

Brad Whitehorn (ON) of CLSR Inc. says all of their staff are working remotely and they are encouraging clients to make use of their online career assessments. “With so much low-cost or free technology like Zoom and Facetime available now, we career professionals are able to keep doing what we do best.”

Helen Dewar (BC) shared that she has been working with a client via WhatsApp – “It is just the same as speaking in person and free!” In an update, she had some good news to share: “He got the job!”

However, it may take some time for workplaces and clients to get up to speed on using digital technologies to connect – if that’s an option for them.

With workshops and individual appointments cancelled indefinitely, Lianne Poirier Stephensen (MB), who works part-time at a non-profit organization for people in career transition, says she will be reaching out to clients via phone or email. “I might try Zoom conferencing if my workplace supports that platform and if clients are computer savvy enough to use it from home,” she says.

Meanwhile, some career professionals are enjoying the little perks that come with remote working.

Finding ways to support others

Many career professionals and organizations are also taking this time to share their knowledge and expertise with others by connecting online, sharing resources or offering webinars.

For information on job search, professional development, tools and technology, cancelled conferences and more, check out this regularly updated CareerWise page: Resources for Canada’s career professionals navigating COVID-19.

“I’m working on collaborations, ways to contribute to good, valuable resources to support jobseekers in the days and weeks ahead. I would also like to act as a resource to career professionals who haven’t worked remotely before,” shares Maureen McCann (BC) of Promotion Career Solutions. “I’ve been at it since 2007. I’m happy to answer questions from colleagues about how to set themselves up for success.”

Right Career Fit’s Hoda Kilani (AB) was inspired by a post from Leadership Coach Robbie Swale “to offer five free coaching sessions a week to support and drive everyone to stay productively busy during these unprecedented times.” (Jobseekers can book a time with Hoda here:

Recognizing that clients may be under new financial pressures, Christine Cristiano (ON) is offering clients the opportunity to postpone services. “Although I don’t want to turn away work and I need to make a living too,” she says, “I just feel it is the right thing to do with so many facing a serious financial hardship as the world continues to grind to halt.” In the meantime, Cristiano says she may need to consider new revenue streams.

Advocacy may also be an avenue to support jobseekers who are struggling. Career professionals are in a position to help the most vulnerable Canadians, the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s Sareena Hopkins (ON) says. “We see first-hand the impact of policies, programs and employer practices – both positive and devastating. We are powerfully positioned to be advocates and to amplify the voices of those we serve.”

Serving students in post-secondary

Post-secondary career professionals – from career centre counsellors to co-op co-ordinators – are among those trying to navigate delivering services in new ways.

If responses to a tweet from Higher Education Strategy Associates’ Alex Usher are any indication, it seems they are hitting the ground running.

Jennifer Woodside (ON) says the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Career Action has been offering many of its services by Skype or phone for several years, but is now requiring all services, appointments and workshops be booked and attended virtually. “I’ve been hugely impressed with the seamlessness of this shift and am pleased to see that our students and other stakeholders are moving swiftly to engage with us online. Bigger picture, there’s a lot for all of us to be proud of: the career development field is extraordinarily well-positioned to offer real value to society at this time of reflection and uncertainty.”

Career centres and employers are also having to figure out the reality for students who were anticipating starting co-op terms, internships or post-graduation jobs on May 1.

“Many of our students’ career targets for the spring and summer have shifted, been postponed or cancelled – many of their part-time jobs are no longer available,” says Nat Perry (NB), who has been working with her university’s students remotely over phone and email. “We are aiming to stay informed as much as we can and encourage patience, adaptation and hope as we navigate a very different economic landscape.”

Brainstorm Strategy Group has been surveying employers, and in a poll conducted March 16-19, found the following:

  • 13% have reduced their spring hiring numbers and 3% have eliminated spring hiring
  • 55% have maintained or completed their planned spring hiring
  • 58% have not yet made changes to their plans for summer students, though 36% are considering asking them to work from home for some period
  • 65% are exploring new approaches or technologies to deliver virtual on-boarding and training to new student hires

Undoubtedly, post-secondary professionals will be working hard with the aim of securing student employment, while figuring out alternatives for those unable to start their planned placements. 

Practising self-care

Career development is also a mental health practice, and practitioners will likely experience this first hand as they help jobseekers navigate anxieties and fears about their future pathways over the coming months. However, in order to help clients achieve positive mental health through career development, career professionals also need to take care of themselves.

“Our field’s contribution extends far beyond employment; it supports individual, community and societal health and well-being. We will be critical to helping people through this difficult time and in helping individuals and communities to recover,” Hopkins says. “In order to play these roles, we also must care for ourselves and our colleagues. Stay safe and stay well – you and your contribution really matter!”

CERIC Executive Director Riz Ibrahim (ON) says career development practitioners need to take steps right now to find calm amid the chaos. “During this tumultuous time, finding peace and being able to manage your mindset will help you navigate and optimize your situation,” he says. CERIC is offering a free webinar series on “How to manage your mental and emotional well-being and help your clients do the same,” presented by Shellie Deloyer, starting March 31.

“It’s a tough situation with a lot of anxiety, fear and uncertainty of the workplace and the impact COVID-19 will have for a lot of my clients. I am trying to take care of myself through self-care and staying informed through reliable sources what the work world will look like as this pandemic unfolds,” Poirier Stephensen says.”

“Stay strong everyone. We got this.”

How have you adapted to service delivery amid COVID-19? What have been your challenges and successes of working with clients? What plans are you making for the future? Share your story in the comments below.

Lindsay Purchase Administrator
Lindsay Purchase is the Editor of CERIC’s CareerWise website and CareerWise Weekly newsletter. She has a background in journalism, having worked previously as a digital editor and reporter. Lindsay is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Global Studies program and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Food Security certificate program.
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Lindsay Purchase Administrator
Lindsay Purchase is the Editor of CERIC’s CareerWise website and CareerWise Weekly newsletter. She has a background in journalism, having worked previously as a digital editor and reporter. Lindsay is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Global Studies program and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Food Security certificate program.
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