What to do when your profession is no longer there

Your job has disappeared and you don’t know it yet?

Economists warn that millions of jobs will disappear due to the pandemic. Here, tens of thousands of San Diegan residents are still out of work more than a year after the pandemic began to engulf our area.

The plague has unfairly hit the service sector of our economy. The restaurant, tourism and hospitality industries have been particularly hard hit, with severe job losses at all levels, from C-level executives to entry-level cleaners and waiters.

Clearly, however, the pandemic has ravaged the less trained and educated far more than the executive suite suits.

Last year, as the crisis intensified month after month, with no end in sight, there were no customers in restaurants and far fewer customers in hotels.

Virtually all of our restaurants and hotels have been closed on a hoped-for temporary basis, with many employees to be ‘laid off’, some short-term, some longer-term.

A sense of uncertainty still hangs in the air

Now that our lives are beginning to return to normal – whatever that turns out to be – a sense of uncertainty still hangs in the air. These dark clouds reflect the disturbing truth that many jobs will never come back.

I remember a plaintive lyric in Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty” that says, “After all the years, I found out my job just wasn’t an occupational hazard.”

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has triggered permanent changes in how and where – even why – people earn their living. These days, many more companies and their owners are planning for a future where more employees work from home, travel less for business, or are summarily replaced by robots.

For better or for worse, that future came early.

Last November, Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicted that half of business travel and 30% of “days in the office” would disappear forever. These seismic changes will mean fewer jobs in hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. All of this on top of the continued automation of administrative support roles and many factory jobs.

Blame it on the pandemic and the “lost year” that we will all have to deal with for a long time.

Bottom line: All of these changes mean that many workers simply won’t be needed to perform the same tasks as before, even after much of the US population is vaccinated.

Do you really think you will be called back to work?

Over time, the United States will likely end up employing the same total number of people as before the pandemic, but specific jobs are subject to change. With that in mind, make sure you are better prepared to land a better job and not be left out.

If you’re still on furlough or have been laid off, now is the time to ask yourself: Do I really think I’m going to be called back to work, doing the same job I used to?

If you have any doubts or are honest with yourself that you should have been called back now and you weren’t, do something about it now. Retraining and graduating for a new career might be the answer.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership (www.workforce.org) is a starting point. Other options are the area’s excellent community college system and the outreach programs offered by UC San Diego, San Diego State, and USD.

All are reasonably priced, providing different options for out-of-work San Diegans to redefine their careers – and themselves.

I am pleased to see that Mayor Todd Gloria has formed a “Back to Work SD” committee to study this specific issue and make recommendations on what he and City Council can do to best facilitate this transition.

The committee is chaired by Peter Callstrom, CEO of SD Workforce Partnership, and I am the co-chair.

Please share with us your thoughts on what the city can do or should consider implementing to make the return to work process as easy and successful as we emerge from the fog of this pandemic.

My email is below. I would like to hear your thoughts on your personal situation and the recommendations you have for our committee.

Blair is co-founder of Manpower San Diego and author of “Job Won”.


Michael A. Bynum