Careers in a Post-Pandemic World: Should You Seek Essential Jobs?

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Summer is here, and so is COVID-19 (still). In a month where we’d normally be distracted by fireworks and cookouts, it suddenly isn’t uncommon to read about massive layoffs, learn that another colleague has just been let go, or even receive a flyer that a favorite local business has permanently closed its doors.

The only thing that seems reliable these days are essential jobs — but what is “essential,” anyway?

ES·SEN·TIAL, first used as a noun in the 15th century, is described by Merriam-Webster as being both “basic” and “necessary.” In February, it might’ve been described as a skilled job that required education or experience to fill. Today, it very clearly means a role that keeps society running (i.e., healthcare workers, grocers, delivery drivers, cashiers, food servers, etc.).

For public relations professionals, that means finding a business or personality to represent that is considered essential (as known by the latter description). And while influencers and celebrities alike are sticking to safety guidelines and quarantining themselves away, that leaves essential businesses as your next bet at a job opportunity.

Anywhere that essential workers are operating generally falls under that essential business umbrella: restaurant chains with delivery or drive-thrus; supermarkets deemed too important to close; retailers with essential goods we couldn’t safely (or humanely) get by without.

Got a few brands in mind? Not so fast — “essential,” after all, doesn’t mean “safe.”

The Advantages

Maybe the essential employers thriving during the pandemic are businesses you’ve never considered before. But don’t dismiss them just because they’ll cause confusion on your resume — future employers will understand why you represented a grocery store during a pandemic. Plus, there’ll be some skills you can learn or grow that’ll move with you when the chance arises to get back into your preferred industry.

Here are a few easy reasons to look up an essential business’ career website:

  • Essential businesses are likely hiring, or at least one of the many not drastically downsizing.
  • An essential business is one of the few locations (both legally and naturally) that consumers are very carefully spending their cash right now.
  • PR jobs could especially be in demand, especially as COVID-19 continues to fall under the high-paced “crisis communications” category.

The Disadvantages

Especially if you’re new to the job market or just had a long-term role eliminated from underneath you, essential businesses may look like a safe harbor in the storm. But before you hop aboard, consider the bigger picture.

Here are a couple of cons to essential jobs that could cause a wrinkle in your plans:

  • Because they’re getting extra business, an essential employer may only be hiring for temporary or freelance roles that could be cancelled at a moment’s notice.
  • Since they’re one of the few hiring and the job market has turned on its head in favor of the employer, they may low-ball you on pay.
  • If they’re essential, they may have special permissions to work around specific safety measures — and possibly put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

Check out the business’ corporate website (which is where you, as a PR pro, will probably be working) and identify their values. Do they align with yours? Could you see yourself working for them long after the pandemic, or will you trade job satisfaction for job security?

Don’t put yourself in a bad situation out of fear, or pride.

Have something to share about essential employment? Put your thoughts in the comments below!

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