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'Mitigating job losses but helping people radically reimagine careers'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The recent threat of job losses and the near collapse of some sectors during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis may be an opportunity for those affected - and for government and industry - to address the shortage of certain skills in New Zealand if the ‘displaced’ are helped to radically rethink their careers.

Brent Mulholland, the CEO of a national labour-hire company, ELE Group - which operates across multiple industry sectors such as security, construction, transport and manufacturing - said he could place 500 people into employment tomorrow if he had the people.

"Job losses and a crisis like the current pandemic is a painful experience, but it is also a time of change and opportunity - let's not waste it. A flight attendant does not become an electrician, unless we help her by putting in support structures and incentives to make it possible."

Mulholland said that the collapse of the tourism industry, for example, opens the door for people who lost their jobs to wipe the slate clean and do something completely different - like taking up a trade.

"Lots of jobs are automated. Many are redundant, but we still need hands and feet in range of sectors from food processing, horticulture and infrastructure and construction to warehousing and distribution, now and in the foreseeable future. We are desperately short of skills in these sectors.

"Hands on skills are becoming more and more valuable. There are many other sectors with countless opportunities."

Mulholland said the temptation during threatening situations is to behave conservatively, but that's the opposite of what is required when considering a career change. ELE spends a fair bit of time advising people on how they can transition careers. "If I was in tourism, where’s the obvious answer for me to go and talk to somebody about career change? At the moment that’s us employers, but I’m thinking it would benefit everybody to have a wider initiative to help people coming out of jobs where they were skilled and well paid - like a massive career transition hub that is not part of MSD. And if there is something like that, where is it and how is it promoted?"

Mulholland suggests a few simple principles to help those thinking about reinventing their careers.

1. Personal development

As the world goes through drastic changes, any extra feeling of power over one's life can be a real boost to both mental wellbeing and future earnings prospects.

Taking control of personal development, learning new skills or studying a different industry can also help clarify one's career choice.

"Personal development is about creating your career security. It is wise for everyone to think of ways to develop themselves. If you can, try to find one way to improve every single day," Mulholland said.

2. Have a plan

People going through career changes can feel unmoored, lose their bearings and oscillate between 'holding on' and 'letting go". But this stage allows them to process their complex emotions and conflicting desires and ultimately prevents them from missing out on better options.

Having a plan is crucial, Mulholland said. It helps a person work through not only the practical questions about changing careers but also the existential ones like 'Who am I?' 'Who do I want to become?' and 'Where can I best contribute?'

"Think about what you want and work backwards. Lots of organisations outside can help you create a plan. After all, if something gets in the way - even a pandemic - you can overcome it with a plan," he said.

3. Find your passion

Mulholland said it is natural to ask if a current job is truly a person's passion during, for example, job loss or a lockdown.

Self-reflection, paradoxically, is a practice best nourished by talking out loud with kindred spirits. The simple act of telling a story about a career dream or why a change is essential can clarify thoughts and help a person commit to a change.

"Too many of us fall into our jobs and tend to roll with it. But it isn't always what we want to be doing. And who wants to get to the end of their life and regret not doing what they wanted?"

"If you can turn your passion into income, it's not work," Mulholland said.

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