Despite the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of many Jamaicans, some young people are finding ways to adjust to be able to survive and thrive, during the crisis.
“I’m a positive minded person; therefore, I don’t take challenges in a negative way and I never waste a crisis. Consequently, I did my best to take advantage of the opportunities that came about due to the COVID-19 crisis,” noted Rochelle Harris, educator at Campion College.
She was speaking during a section of the JN Bank Redesigning Your 2020 Goals, online series. The social media series, which started on May 21, will continue to July 9. The series promotes practical conversations about how Jamaicans can maintain or adjust their plans, based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miss Harris, who teaches biology and integrated science, said she was more prepared than the average person when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Jamaica, based on her background in science.
“Once I heard about what was happening in China, I started to do my research and to make preparations. This was something I also did with my students, and it certainly eased some of their anxieties.”
The former JN WAY (Wise Aspiring Youth) Ambassador, also stated that she worked with her students to ensure that they completed the curriculum ahead of time. “Therefore, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Jamaica, my students had already completed the syllabus, their lab sessions, and their school-based assessments (SBAs),” she said.
Consequently, by the time the government declared its stay-at-home orders for students across the country, to curtail the spread of the virus, Miss Harris and her students were way ahead of the curve and were basically working on reviewing the curriculum.
Apart from ensuring that her students were prepared for their exams, Miss Harris also used the opportunity to start her own YouTube channel, Care Beyond Reach Academy, an educational page providing study tips and CXC preparation guidelines for students.
She has also decided to volunteer with the Jamaica Teaching Council, where she provides online training for educators in distance learning and digital teaching techniques.
“What the pandemic really pushed me to do was to dig deeper into my area of expertise; and to put myself out there a bit more, which was something I always wanted to do,” she related.
Similarly, Carlyle Grant, a young entrepreneur, specialising in digital marketing, content creation and event planning, has also used the pandemic to realign his business.
Mr Grant, who is also a former JN WAY Ambassador, admitted that the pandemic had some negative effects on his business.
“Some clients paused their use of our services, while others down-sized their orders, which signaled a slash in our earnings,” he said.
Mr Grant, however, noted that COVID-19 has also provided some positive experiences for his career, which he has made every effort to maximise.
“A lot of companies are now doing LIVE streaming and that’s a service I can provide. There is also an increase in the need for online content, such as videos and graphics, which are also things that I do, and they are opportunities for me to earn. Therefore, I shifted my focus to maximise on these opportunities and have put myself out there even more, to ensure that I get noticed,” he related.
He pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has opened more doors for him, particularly because he works in the digital space. “There are also a lot more eyes on my content and products, because more people are online,” he reasoned.
Dr Hume Johnson, personal branding expert and author, who was also a guest on the programme, advised young people to think about their transferable skills and how they can use them to survive during challenging times.
“The industry in which you have a degree may be suffering under COVID-19. They may not be hiring right now, so what do you do? You need to look at those cross-over skills. Ask yourself, ‘do I have skills that can be relevant to others in their industries’,” she urged.
“You may have really strong communication skills. You may be a very good team leader. You may be excellent at listening. You may build relationships positively; and, therefore, those are skills that you can use to cross over,” Dr Johnson advised.
She further noted that persons should also look at developing their soft skills, which would inherently help them to adapt to changes in their environment or to shift their strategy.
“Think about your ability to pivot and adapt. You really pivot when there is a crisis, or when there is an important problem that needs to be addressed. Therefore, the global pandemic is a problem. It is a massive crisis that has hit us and suddenly turned our lives upside down. This has created the situation for many of us to seek a shift in our focus,” she said.
Dr Johnson also explained that pivoting is really taking advantage of the opportunities that are available. She, therefore, advised young people not to become too attached to their job titles, or their chosen field of study; but, to get attached to their personal brand and the value that they bring to an organisation.
“And if you cannot find a job, it’s time to create your own employment. I think that is the best pivot for young people in the contemporary Jamaican economy. Create the jobs, find the problems in your industry which needs to be solved; and then, create the solutions, and pitch your services to industries and companies,” she recommended.