If you’ve been furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic, you might be asking yourself whether it’s better to wait it out or whether you need to start looking for another job.
First, a reminder: People who have been furloughed are generally eligible to apply for unemployment (though specific requirements vary by state). For some people, the combination of unemployment income and the prospect of resuming their current job in the future will be enough to get them through an indefinite furlough. Other people may find that their unemployment benefits do not provide enough income to support themselves or their families, and will begin looking for a new job out of necessity.
But what if you’re on the fence about your current job? What if you’re kind of meh about your workplace and have been thinking about making a change? Is it a good idea to look for a new job in a period of uncertainty (and potential recession), or is it smarter to stay where you are and take advantage of the reputation, relationships and tenure you’ve built up in your current position?
At the Harvard Business Review, ManpowerGroup executives Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Becky Frankiewicz suggest asking yourself five questions before deciding whether to apply for a new job during a furlough. Here’s my favourite, which involves asking yourself whether you really want to return to your pre-pandemic life:
Take some time to pause and think. Reimagine your potential in a way that the former normalcy of life wouldn’t have allowed. Ask yourself if your job is worth waiting for. Do you want to return to your pre-crisis life? If there is any inkling of doubt in your mind, there is no downside to applying for something new, and seeing what could materialise as a different future.
Ask a Manager’s Alison Green, on the other hand, recently advised a furloughed employee to start looking for a new job right away:
If you have years of living expenses stockpiled and can easily wait a few months to see what happens, feel free to. But basically, imagine that in three months you’re told your furlough is becoming a permanent layoff. What would you wish you’d done during this time? Whatever that is, I’d start doing it now.
While the reputation and relationships you’ve built up in your current position—the stuff Green would call “career capital”—might still be valuable, companies are not necessarily prioritising that kind of value right now. On the other hand, being the newest hire during a period of economic turbulence also comes with its own risks.
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether looking for a new job is worth the effort, but asking yourself 1) whether you really want to go back to the life you had in the Before Times and 2) what you’ll wish you’d done right now if you get laid off in three weeks is a good start.
And you should probably update your resume. I mean, just in case.