Navigating career disruption during COVID-19

Supporting the tech community is at the heart of what we do at MaRS, and we know many of you are struggling in the face of COVID-19. Small and early-stage employers are feeling the impacts fast and hard. Some have already had to make difficult decisions to cut hours, lay off employees or take other drastic measures to reduce their workforce. Friends, colleagues and family members have been affected, and it’s difficult to know how to help right now.

While the coming weeks remain uncertain, there is support available. If you have been personally impacted, this article is for you. If you are a founder or a leader faced with reductions and you want to support your people, this article is for you, too. We’re in this together.

Virtual outplacement services 

First and foremost, we have a new partnership with an innovative outplacement service, First 30 Inc., to support all individuals experiencing job loss at this time. The virtual, mobile-friendly program is designed to offer displaced employees daily support during the first 30 days following their exit, but it can be accessed any time. Amy Davies, CEO and founder of First 30, is offering a series of free webinars and has a very generous offer in place for MaRS-supported companies that would like to access the full service. Please email to get started.

Take control 

As we are all navigating social distancing or self-isolation, it might be tempting to withdraw from the professional world for a period after losing your job. But taking early action and sticking with it could be the differentiator in your long-term success. Davies offers the following advice on approaching a virtual job search in such trying times: “Many displaced professionals go silent after losing their job. If there was ever a time to be overt about your availability, it’s now.”

We couldn’t agree more. The first thing you can do is join the Canadian Startup Talent Help List 2020, a grassroots, community-powered hiring platform designed to help out-of-work talent in Canada’s start-up sector find remote work during the COVID-19 crisis. Then provide an update to your personal and professional networks and keep those conversations going over time.

Don’t wait to network 

Best practices for standing out during a job search haven’t changed, but it’s a good idea to dial up those activities in the current environment. “Approach your professional relationships as a place to give, rather than take,” says Davies. Join relevant discussions on LinkedIn and Slack channels and share your job-search insights with others where possible. Go a step further and offer your expertise on a volunteer basis or act as a mentor to someone looking to get into your field of work; this will not only keep you engaged in meaningful labour but also potentially lead to new opportunities.

You aren’t alone. Many others are in the same position right now, so consider creating your own networking group. Assemble a small group of friends or professional contacts for a biweekly networking session to share information and tips on what’s working (and what isn’t). If everyone invites one person from their network, you’ll have an expanded working group with plenty of insights to go around.

Stay connected 

In the short term, live events have been postponed or cancelled, leaving active job seekers wondering how best to informally connect and meet new people. Virtual events are starting to pop up online, however, and we’re sure to see more as the tech community quickly adapts. TechTO is leading with their move to an online format, and larger conferences, such as Collision, have already made plans to go digital.

The best way to get noticed and make connections during any kind of event is to participate. Online event platforms offer unique ways to communicate with participants, including real-time chat functionality, private messaging and other ways to submit thoughtful questions or comments. Introduce yourself, share your thoughts and ask questions. The same applies for online communities!

Research and reach out

The following advice isn’t far from what we would typically encourage outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is a company or job that you’re interested in, go after it. We are seeing a number of organizations in the ecosystem pivot in order to address the global crisis. If you are passionate about what they are doing, don’t be shy. Candidates with knowledge of the business and a plan for how they would like to contribute are exactly what tech companies need right now. Just remember that it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that we are all adjusting to the current situation and feeling the impacts in different ways. The idea is to build relationships and add value where you can so that you are top of mind once the hiring landscape stabilizes.

Be kind to yourself 

The current global health crisis and social-distancing measures are putting a strain on all of us. Adding a job loss to this level of stress has the potential to significantly influence your overall wellness in many ways, so try to be a good friend to yourself during this phase. Keep your self-talk hopeful, take time for mindful practices and reach out for help in whatever form is beneficial to you. Consider the Untangle podcast for mindfulness and brain health guidance, or an app such as Calm to support restful sleep.

Further reading