The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work, made “secure” jobs insecure and exposed corporate weaknesses – all of which is prompting some Canadians to rethink their careers. That provides a relationship-building opportunity for financial advisors to help their clients decide whether to risk jumping ship in the middle of an economic storm and – if they make that leap – to work with them to protect their finances.
“What’s happening with the labour market is causing the relationship between employers and employees or contractors to be reimagined,” says Carolyn Levy, president of Randstad Technologies at Randstad Canada, the Canadian division of the global staffing, recruitment and employment services firm, in Calgary.
“In a wonderful way, there’s actually a lot of opportunity ahead for people who maybe wouldn’t have considered working in some organizations … because of the commute or because of the flexibility that they might need,” she adds.
The stigma associated with working from home and connecting remotely to meetings is fading because so many people have had to make the shift to a home office – and this new reality has also given some people more time to reflect on whether they’re in the right jobs and at the right companies, Ms. Levy says.
There are hints of employee discontent in the June edition of the Randstad Workmonitor Global Report, which was based on a survey conducted in May.
While 90 per cent of Canadian survey participants said they had adapted to their new pandemic-influenced working situation, just 77 per cent thought their employer was looking after their well-being through the pandemic and 61 per cent reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their job.
In addition, Canadian survey participants said their employers were placing increased demands on them, as 55 per cent said employers expect staff to make themselves available outside regular working hours – almost 12 percentage points higher than in November 2019.
However, Kurt Rosentreter, portfolio manager and senior financial advisor with Manulife Securities in Toronto, warns that clients considering a career switch in the current environment need to be extremely cautious.
“We could be on the cusp of the biggest recession we’ve seen in 20 years,” he warns. “If unemployment goes from 4 per cent to 12 per cent, you don’t want to be quitting your job right now.”
That said, Mr. Rosentreter has some younger clients who have suggested they may want to start talking about a potential career change later this year depending on how the next few months play out. He thinks it’s important to walk clients through a cost-benefit analysis. Factors to consider include the expenses associated with retraining, whether there will be a period of reduced or no income, what workplace benefits and insurance protection they’re giving up, and what income and benefits the new career offers.
Mr. Rosentreter says it’s also critical to evaluate the potential impact that a change of career could have on a client’s current financial plan.
“If you’re going to do a restart or even a pause, both will have an implication on your longer-term goals. Is that also in your vision of an acceptable range of possibilities?” he asks his clients – and he reminds them to involve their partner, if they have one, in the decision-making process.
For Patti Dolan, portfolio manager with Mission Wealth Advisors at Raymond James Ltd., career transitions among clients aren’t a new trend. She’s located in Calgary, where a downturn in the oil and gas sector in the past few years was prompting professionals to go back to school and change careers well before COVID-19 came along. Now, the pandemic is another factor making people re-evaluate their professions, she says.
Ms. Dolan says it’s important to help clients realize and prepare for the immediate financial and real-life implications of making such a change.
“They need to look at how they could carry themselves financially for the next two to four years if they’re looking at going back to school,” she says. “If they’re transitioning into another job or another career path, are they going to be taking a salary cut? And how long will it take to build that up again?”
Clients also need to ask themselves, “What if this doesn’t work out? What would I do next?” Ms. Dolan says.
As such, she suggests that clients who are set on making a change consider a “nimble career” that’s resilient and to keep several options open.