Get Ahead of the Wave: Why Returning to Work now is Crucial for your Career


Just four short months ago, the world was a different place. Unemployment rates were at an all-time low, the economy was booming and life felt stable. We have all been personally affected by the pandemic in some capacity and for 1 in 10 US workers, that means your job has been impacted. Through the CARES Act, the US Government expanded unemployment benefits to keep unemployed workers afloat. They were provided with an additional $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit on top of their state unemployment benefits…however time is running out on that extra $600 and returning to work now is crucial for your career.

Currently, the CARES Act is set to expire on July 31st. Even if the benefit is extended, it’s not indefinite. The longer workers remain unemployed the more difficult it will be to find a job when they decide to return.  Here are some things to consider (even if you’re temporarily earning more on unemployment) as a wave of 17 million Americans prepare to come back.

1. Turning down a job offer today may mean fewer (or less attractive) opportunities in the future.

As companies reopen and resume business we are all facing one stark reality. There will be fewer jobs created than those that were lost. We have already seen many major US organizations filing bankruptcy and closing doors permanently. This means there simply won’t be enough jobs for all of the workers displaced during the pandemic. Additionally, once the wave of workers returning to work hits, there will be many highly qualified individuals competing for the same jobs. More competition will make it even more challenging to land the job you desire. You may have no other option than to accept a position that is less than ideal.

So rather than settling, now is the time to be proactive. Seek out new opportunities and keep your prospects open.

2. You may no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits if choose not to return.

When you file for unemployment benefits, you are required to continue looking for a job. You are also required to accept suitable employment when it is offered. Failure to do so may make you ineligible for unemployment benefits. The CARES Act does provide a clause that allows workers to turn down a job offer for a coronavirus-related reason, such as being ill or caring for an ill family member. But it doesn’t allow people to turn down a job offer because they are concerned about going back to work.

The CARES Act was only meant to provide temporary relief, a band-aide, to support the unemployed workforce while businesses recover and reopen. If you get a job offer you should seriously consider the opportunity, otherwise your benefits may be in jeopardy.

3. Having a job provides stability and control.

We all want to feel like we have control over some aspects of our lives. Working does that in many ways. Through our work we feel pride, accomplishment and a sense of purpose. We also gain stability as we know we can provide for ourselves and are families. Stability and control are essential for maintaining our mental wellness amidst the additional anxieties we are battling during the pandemic.

Globally, COVID-19 is taking a huge toll on our wellbeing. Mental health struggles and depression have significantly affected the unemployed population. If you find yourself in this situation, know that you aren’t alone and there are resources available to help you find work. Rhode Island and Massachusetts have dedicated assistance for those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. There are also recruitment agencies (yes, Greysmith is one of them) that can introduce you to job opportunities. Businesses are hiring now, so don’t wait too long or you will find yourself as a lone fish in the sea of 17 million returning workers.

4. Working keeps your skills sharp and helps you move forward

It’s important to think about the long game in all of this. For adults, this means considering how every move we make is going to affect our careers. From the time we enter the workforce, our goal is to advance by earning more, building our reputations, and developing our skills. Unfortunately unemployment puts all of this on hiatus. While workers are unemployed their peers continue forward.

Now and over the next few months, it’s true that job prospects may not be as enticing as they once were, but during this time, consider all of your options. Maybe a temporary position? This will keep your skills sharp and let you build your professional network. How about freelancing or consulting? By stepping back into the workforce and continuing to build your resume, even in non-traditional ways, it will make it easier to find another, potentially higher-paying job in the future.