This post is courtesy of guest blogger, Carlton Dunn. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a massive disruption in our lives and the economy. It’s created record-shattering unemployment, and while there are some companies out there hiring, it’s not the robust job market we’ve been used to these last several years.

On March 21, the end of the first week of most shelter at home regulations, some 3.3 million workers had filed for unemployment. A week later, that figure jumped to 6.867 million. The previous weekly record before COVID was less than 700,000 a week, dating back to 1967.

Unemployment numbers from the week ending June 5 show that 13.3 million Americans are unemployed, which is down from previous weeks. Still, this would be the highest number in any of our lifetimes, and by the way, it is being touted as a surprise — good news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged on the fact that only 13.3 Million are unemployed. This is a historic time, but there are also historic differences in how the workforce is constructed, which is good news for job seekers.

Standing out in the crowd of more than 30 million job seekers is no easy task.

For business leaders and hiring managers, the economic future remains hazy at best, leaving most companies somewhere between a hiring freeze and extremely cautious about hiring for the near term.

But for many who are unemployed, this is an amazing opportunity for growth. Now can be a time to experiment, to try new methods, to add new knowledge and skills, and really push our careers forward, maybe in a way we never considered, but also, quite possibly, in a way that is more stable and could generate greater income and better job satisfaction than before. And the best part is, smart employers are looking for this type of arrangement.

Now is a great time for job seekers to put together offers of fractional or project-based work, and build a true portfolio career.

Businesses still have plenty of work to do. In fact, they may have work that they don’t know how to do. To some extent, almost every American business is facing a similar set of challenges:

  • How do I deliver my product/service to customers in a way that is safe, and effective?
  • How do I create an environment where my employees are safe and productive? For many, this means work from home, which is a new and very different way of operating.
  • How do I appropriately go to market and reach prospects and new customers in an environment where my buyers are likely to be reluctant to make new purchases or investments?
  • How do I conserve my cash in response to the uncertainty, so that the business is prepared for whatever comes next?

All of these questions lead to massive organizational change, and in many cases, companies may be coping with these new challenges with fewer employees around to do the work. Or they may not have the right teams, talent or organization in place to face the new challenges. In fact, four out of five of CEOs are concerned about skill shortages in their workers, according to The Economist. In 2012, that number was 2 out of 5.

So here’s the good news:

Given the above scenarios, any job seeker has a tremendous opportunity to build his or her own set of offerings and reach out to businesses and contacts for project based or fractional work. This is a win-win: Businesses get the help they need without having to make a commitment to a full-time employee. Job seekers have the potential to earn income, make connections, and most importantly, learn and try new methods. Plus, given that no one knows how an economic recovery looks or when it will happen, a full-time job may in fact offer less security than building your own portfolio career.

While working contract roles, you’ll also be expanding your network, connecting you to potential employers, and giving their organization a test drive. Would you want a full-time job at some of these places? Now you can try before you buy.

Where do I start?

Now’s the time to get reacquainted with such inspirational business authors as: Dale Carnegie, Jim Collins, and Angela Duckworth. It’s time to reconnect with those tried-and-true or new ideas, invest in them, and go test them out. We have massive and inexpensive resources enabling and empowering us to move forward. Information flows inexpensively and conveniently, whether we listen to free podcasts or enroll in free webinars or university courses on EdX or Couresera.

There’s a freedom to being an outsider — you don’t necessarily have to work the way the client company does, and that is in fact what they are looking for, an outside perspective.

My tips for creating and sharing your portfolio career:

  1. Shape your perspective.
  • How do you think your last position is or has changed based on the global pandemic? How could you be helpful?
  • What have you always wanted to incorporate into your work, but never had the time do?
  • Who do you know who you could test drive your ideas on? (I’ve found business leaders to be incredibly approachable and willing to help).
  1. Gather and organize your thoughts — writing or drawing them (on paper!) helps tremendously.
  2. As a wise friend told me, practice creates confidence. PodFest founder Chris Krimitsos has a now famous phrase for this: Start Ugly. Keep learning and refining.

Once you have a project lined up, make sure to create clear agreements on rates and the timing of the work, and most of all, keep hustling and building forward. You’ll create your own momentum and good things will happen.

The global pandemic is forcing most businesses to change the way they do business, from sales to operations to marketing to management. This requires innovation. Innovation takes time and critical thinking. Each of us unemployed workers suddenly has more time (more than we want of course!), but if we put it to good use, we’ll create opportunity for ourselves, value for the businesses we work with and we’ll build our way forward to slightly different future than we had in mind, but a fruitful future that we have influence over.

Bio: Carlton Dunn has two decades of experience driving growth at small businesses by innovating for customers and building high-trust leadership teams. He currently lives in Colorado, and is laser focused on helping growth companies scale as he builds a killer portfolio career.

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