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Content Guy's Note:  The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is having an enormous impact on people of all ages, backgrounds, and places around the globe;  some are having shared experiences, and some are individual to specific people and circumstances.

Among the people I've been thinking about are the young people who have just started or are about to start their careers, and who now may be facing enormous uncertainty and questions about what comes next.

I decided to reach out to some young people I know - some of them former students of mine at Portland State University in Oregon, as well as at other schools with which I have developed relationships - to ask them to answer a pair of questions:

•  How has the pandemic has affected you personally or professionally?

•  How do you think the world - including but not just the business world - should be different whenever and however we come out of this.

This series of occasional guest columns continues this morning with a contribution by Paul Ruger, a senior Business major and first-year MBA student at Siena College. Paul operates a family maple syrup business in upstate New York and so is pursuing his degree in both accounting and management as well as Siena's Food Marketing concentration.

By Paul Ruger

How has the pandemic has affected you personally or professionally?

This pandemic has affected me in more ways than I like to think, not only personally and academically, but in a business sense as well. Personally, I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty self-sustaining person, comfortable around others but just fine on my own as well. This pandemic has made me acutely aware of how we take our society, our college community, and even the ability to go to events for granted. It was only after being home for five days in a row that I realized I am not entirely the person I thought I was. I’ve learned so many things about myself, namely that I’m more extroverted than I’d like to admit. I would give the world to be back at school again learning amongst my friends rather than stare at a screen all day. 

Professionally, I have begun to see the impact of this pandemic on my search for internships. I’m not entirely worried (yet) about my career search next summer, but I am starting to worry that if I don’t secure an internship this summer or fall, I will be at a disadvantage compared to my peers. Most companies are either cancelling internship programs to focus on the core of their business or simply do not have the financial resources anymore to support a paid intern, or to pay for an employee’s time to devote to one.

However, I think that this pandemic is going to be a revelation for companies allowing employees to work from home. For years companies have toyed with the idea but never implemented it because of cost or mistrust; but now, many had no choice but to move online in order to continue business “as usual.” I’m not sure if this will affect the number of jobs on the market, but it will definitely lead to more work-from-home positions offered. 

And finally, this pandemic has impacted my business as well. I know most 20-year-olds can’t relate to managing their own business, but that happens to be my case. I operate a maple syrup business with my father, and this all hit the fan as our 6-week season peaked and our largest selling event of the year, Maple Weekend, was supposed to occur. We suffered a 1200% decrease in sales and now have too much inventory and not enough cash. The SBA is working with the federal government to establish grant and loan programs, but who knows if we will ever see any of that money. Throughout this all, however, what can one do but remain optimistic.

Complaining will get you nowhere, so as the famous lyrics go, “put on a happy face!”

How do you think the world - including but not just the business world - should be different whenever and however we come out of this.

The world should be different in many aspects in general, but specifically to this pandemic, I envision a world that recognizes the value of healthcare, the value of global community, and less esoterically, a stronger global supply chain. This should be a wakeup call to all people that it can be difficult to rely on others in times of crisis. It’s certainly doable, but not always easy. We are the ultimate decision makers in this, and it’s dollars to donuts that after this pandemic subsides, more industry is going to move back to America, and maybe the healthcare system undergo some sort of overhaul.

On a more individual level, I think we’re already beginning to see how the world is going to be, or at least hopefully it will stay this way: people caring for one another. That’s the great thing about crises like this (perhaps a poor choice of words), that coronavirus has the potential to affect you whether you’re rich or poor, old or young, gay or straight, etc. Coronavirus turns a blind eye to money, politics, individual beliefs or practices, and while yes, the elderly are at more of a disadvantage, it levels the playing field. Suddenly everyone loses their self-actualization and drops right back down to fulfilling their basic safety needs. The world should realize this camaraderie long after this is over and seek to maintain it.

As far as the business world, companies, industries, and even governments are going to be more prepared.  Events like this occur once every century or so, so if a company can be prepared in the future for these conditions again, they’ll be even better suited to face the usual ups and down of business. Overall, I think the world is going to be a kinder but more-prepared place to live in, and while I don’t know how long that will last, I can only hope it’s indefinitely. We’ll just have to wait and see. 

We'll have more essays in coming days.  Stay tuned. - KC