The impact of COVID-19 on the perceived sustainability of one’s career: a qualitative study

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Purpose – COVID-19 has big implications on the lives and careers of people. It targets the health, happiness, and productivity that people perceive inside their careers. These indicators characterize a sustainable career, which might result in individuals taken career actions taken to safeguard these characteristics. This study contributes to the relatively new research field by examining the impact of COVID-19 on the characteristics of a sustainable careers and specific the taken career decisions regarding these changes. Design/methodology/approach – Twelve semi-structured interviews were held with employees in heavily impacted industries by COVID-19 and analyzed using a template analysis. Findings – The results showed that COVID-19 is primarily regarded as a temporary and uncontrollable career shock, with mainly an uncertain character. All characteristics of a sustainable career were negatively targeted when respondents were confronted with COVID-19. Some respondents took career-altering decisions, by changing careers, but most respondents adhered to their current career by adapting to their new working situation or by seeking temporary employment. The financial situation of respondents also played an important role in this decision-making. Research limitations/implications – A limitation of this research is that COVID-19 was an ongoing crisis when the interviews were conducted, which means that not the entire crisis and its long-term career decisions could be taken into consideration. Also, because of the small research sample, the results cannot be generalized. Practical implications - This study provides HR professionals with enablers to counteract the consequences of confrontation with a career shock, such as social support and transparent communication.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen