The most responsible advice ever dispensed by a World Leader in the context of COVID-19 was given by Ms Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, when she promoted that the best solution to mitigating the spread of the disease was to “act like you have COVID-19”. 

Underlying this simple recommendation, was a loaded message. It appealed to one’s sense of self-awareness, personal accountability, self-directed action and empowerment, in the face of a crisis. The actions and decisions that one takes during COVID-19 (at least until a vaccine is developed), will have a far-reaching implication on the individual and wider community. 

From a health perspective, wearing a mask and socially self-distancing, especially from the more vulnerable segment of the community, shows consideration for others and an awareness of how your personal decisions can impact you and the people around you. At a personal level, taking these prevention measures allows you to assert, to some level, a degree of control over how COVID-19 spreads. Self-care, such as taking Vitamin C, exercising and tending to your mental health, will go a long way, to ensure that you would be able to cope better with the disease even if you did indeed contract it.

Similarly, from a personal development dimension, taking self-directed and pre-emptive actions will be how one adapts to the new economic reality that COVID-19 and post COVID-19 will usher. COVID-19 has revolutionized how we connect, operate and even learn. It has disrupted industries and possibly made some businesses less relevant. The downstream effect of business closure and new ways of doing business will, unfortunately, make some existing skills sets redundant or less competitive. Instead of becoming paralysed with fear and despair, one needs to stay resilient, realistically optimistic and take advantage of the current slowdown to personally upskill or even acquire new sets of skills: expertise that will help businesses emerging from COVID-19 imagine, implement and execute new ways of engaging with customers and the world. 

Dispensing with the luxury of perfect solutions, COVID-19 has pushed the world to respond quickly, solutions need to be practical, not necessarily picture perfect. In the same vein, our efforts to upskill ourselves should take the same approach. New knowledge we acquire should not be merely paper certifications endorsed by big names, but skills that we can directly use to implement business solutions. Once acquired, these skills should be put to repeated tests and use, allowing the learner to become expert implementors. Recognising the need to acquire real skills versus protracted paper qualifications, independent efforts have resulted in more than 450 free Ivy League courses available online. One of them is Coursera, which as a result of COVID-19, has seen a 607% increase in enrolment in March and April 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.  

While COVID-19 has presented the world with a challenge, we shall not admit defeat. We need to remember that each of us has a responsibility in keeping this disease at bay and acquiring new skills sets ready to face an uncertain tomorrow.

About the Author

Rita King is a Senior Consultant with more than a decade of experience serving in government and international trade initiatives. She had worked on helping SME in trade issues and launched the iAdvisory programme when she served in International Enterprise Singapore.