coronaThis virus has created an economic pandemic too. Businesses have either significantly retreated or faced at least a temporary shutdown. And with all of this comes layoffs, if not total job loss for employees.

No sector has been immune, either for good or for bad. Consider retail, for example. In many instances, this sector has had to shift from in-store shopping to fully online. Consider education. Students are trying to learn from home and are increasing their use of a research paper writing service because they don’t have the physical presence of a teacher to assist them. Thus, the writing service industry has experienced a bit of a boon of late. The healthcare industry has certainly seen a huge increase in demand.

But, for the most part, the economic consequences for many sectors, whether comprised of large enterprises or small businesses, have been negatively impacted, and layoffs, if not full terminations, have been commonplace.

IT professionals, including data scientists and analysts, are no exception. Being out of work is certainly stressful, especially when there are bills to pay and food to buy, along with feelings of insecurity over their futures.

If this is you right now, you have two choices. You can certainly look for any kind of work, even to do remotely, to keep yourself financially afloat. But, you can also look at this time as an opportunity to boost your knowledge and skills. If you do this, once things begin to return to normal, you are more attractive in the marketplace than your competition.

Think about it. When you were working full time, whether for a large enterprise or for a data science service company, you were busy all of the time – gathering massive amounts of data, churning and analyzing it, and answering the questions that businesses had so they could make better decisions. Adding new skills to your repertoire and thinking about your career path for the future were probably not high on your list of priorities. If you are a data science generalist, then you are like so many others in your field.

The thing is this: Many of the generalist skills are already becoming obsolete and redundant. This is a perfect time to upgrade or master new skills and be ready to go post COVID-19.

Your Options

1. Coursework

Whether you are currently in an IT field and want to enter the field of data science, or you are already a data scientist looking to meet future demands of employers, there are all types of online courses and boot camps out there for you.

For newbies, data science certification coursework is obviously the start. There is any number of online programs to earn your spurs. Here, you will learn how to gather and churn data sets, as well as data analysis and machine learning. This will be your key to landing that entry-level position, perhaps with a data science service that has small business clients. The big plus? Data scientists are the most highly paid of all IT pros. A basic certification program will include programming in R or Python and SQL, machine learning algorithms, and which ones should be used when. And remember this: as you begin to look for work in the field, you might at first be offered a position as a data analyst. Take the job. You will gain valuable experience and be poised to move forward over time.

For data science generalists, there is a myriad of upskill courses. Remember, the technology is always evolving, and so additional skills will make you more valuable. Six of those skills are natural language processing, computer vision, geospatial technology, data storytelling, explainable AI, skills specific to the healthcare industry.

2. Projects

As you now have time on your hands, why not create some specific projects on your own and build a portfolio that will demonstrate your skills to potential employers in the future. Add diversity to the projects you craft – perhaps machine learning, IoT, computer vision, GAN, or even facial recognition. Projects that broaden your range of expertise can prove very valuable.

Another type of project might be to register for programming contests and Hackathons. Adding these to your resume could just set you apart.

3. Networking

You have the time now. So do others in the field. Joining online groups, attending virtual workshops and conferences will result in many more contacts than you had before. As things re-open, those contacts may lead you in the direction of new employment opportunities.

4. Pick a Specific Sector for Focus

Perhaps the sector in which you have been working is not your favorite. Take some time and think about a sector that would be more enjoyable. Perhaps you have been in the insurance industry, and you would prefer retail. Right now, retail is suffering just as are other sectors, but this won’t be forever. Many retailers have gone completely online; some will never open again; some, like grocers and other large chains, have remained open. What can you do to boost your expertise in the retail sector? Can you craft some projects that are specifically related?

Retailers that have remained open have a current need for data science, perhaps more than ever before. Consider the retailer who has closed his brick and mortar stores, for example, and is now operating only online. He is inundated with customers all of a sudden. Data science can provide predictive analysis that will allow him to control inventory and distribution.

Whichever sector you choose, become an expert. A position may open up during this pandemic in some sectors, but you will also be positioned to present yourself as an ideal candidate once that sector is up and going again.

To Sum It Up

No one enjoys being laid off or terminated through no fault of their own. But that is just what happens in a recession or economic crisis that we find ourselves in right now.

But you have to decide how you are going to deal with it, and that decision can have major consequences. You can retreat to your homebound existence, feel sorry for yourself, and hope that the economy will turn around soon. Or, you can decide that you will use this time to jump-start yourself for the future. Which will you choose?