Contact Tracing Wasn’t a Waste of Time: How to Make the Most of Pandemic Side Gigs

A woman loads groceries into her car while wearing a face mask.
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Did you make money contact tracing for a government agency in the last year? If so, the pandemic side gig skills you learned there might morph into another job, post-pandemic. Data entry, for one.

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things about the way we live, and the way we work is one of them. Whether you held a steady job throughout the pandemic, took some time off, or even joined the 55 million people working the gig economy, you’ve probably witnessed many of these changes first hand.

Because side hustles have become such an integral part of life as we know it, we thought we’d ask the career experts to tell us which gigs they think will survive the pandemic, and provide some advice for people looking to transition out of their side hustles and into full-time jobs. Here’s everything you need to know about these eight major pandemic gigs — and how you can use that side hustle experience in your next venture.

Grocery & Food Delivery

Whether it was takeout from Dumpling, groceries for Instacart, or something else entirely — food delivery services were huge during the pandemic, and author and career educator Dr. Steven Greene thinks they’re here to stay. “This is all about convenience first and safety second,” says Greene. “Families are always strapped for time and they want simplicity— and the time saved going to the market, shopping, and bringing the food home is precious.”

Not only has grocery and food delivery become a staple in our post-COVID lives, but it’s also a great way to rack up some seriously helpful transferable skills. Just like many other service jobs, delivering food provides valuable experiences you can take with you on your next career moves. Here are some ideas.

What To Do Next

If you spent part of the pandemic delivering food, Greene says you probably developed the ability to expertly manage your time and keep things organized, all of which lends itself well to any sort of administrative office job.

Contact Tracing

While this particular gig might not be around again for a while (we hope), that doesn’t mean you can’t take that skillset with you into your next endeavor. Founder and hiring manager Rick Hoskins of Filter King says that contact tracers likely developed an impressive array of skills when it came to research, handling customer data, and discretion.

What To Do Next

Given this type of experience, obvious next stepping stones seem to include data entry or analysis positions as well as any sort of medical receptionist position.

Homeschool Assistance

Parents couldn’t have done it without you, and fortunately this side gig is another important one that seems like it might stick around for a while. “This will be critical for parents who wish to continue to homeschool their children,” says Hoskins. “They might have discovered that their children thrive with a more personalized approach to their studies.” As the country continues the transition back into in-person learning and parents resume their normal day-to-day roles, their kids might still need your support with their schoolwork. Just remember, this won’t be the only thing you can do with your new hard-earned skills.

What To Do Next

Having acquired experience working with children in an educational environment, you might consider becoming a teacher’s assistant or even a childcare professional at a daycare facility. There are many types of daycare facilities including private and public school programs and those associated with large employers such as hospitals and universities.

Poll Work

Poll work is cyclical in nature, meaning it won’t always be so readily available. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take that experience into your next gig. “Poll workers had to have the ability to keep things extremely organized,” says Greene. “They also developed data collection and analysis, as well as people skills.” You could also lump U.S. Census work into this category.

What To Do Next

Don’t wait for another election or census to flaunt your new work experience. Consider applying for an administrative role in one of your local government offices.

Elder Assistance

Much like homeschool assistance, elder assistance was and is another critical role, even in our post-pandemic world. “Isolation in the senior community has been prevalent well before Covid,” says Hoskins. “Now the benefits have been seen and reaped, so the service will continue, and it will be such a relief for their children or neighbors who are unable to give the full assistance that’s needed.”

What To Do Next

If you want to continue developing the helping skills you obtained during the pandemic, you might consider working in a senior center, senior living facility, or even in an administrative role in a doctor’s office.

Online Tutoring

Online tutoring is another essential pandemic side gig that we really can’t imagine disappearing anytime soon. “Online tutoring is a huge and growing need,” says Greene. “Many parents (and students) remain wary of returning to conventional school due to concern over Covid exposure and safety concerns. Now that the door for online education has been ‘kicked open’ it won’t be closing— there will always be an online academic option going forward.”

What To Do Next

If you want to take your tutoring to the next level, consider expanding your offerings with online group classes or even approaching local school systems to become their recommended online tutor of choice. There are many companies looking for tutors though you might need certification. Teaching English online could get you $25 an hour.

Driving for Rideshare Companies

If you were one of the many drivers braving the pandemic to help people get around, we see you — and the good news is, your gig isn’t going anywhere. “Rideshare, and other services such as food delivery, will continue to expand and the number of drivers needed to perform these deliveries will continue to grow as well,” predicts Greene. “Driving is something almost anyone can do part-time to make extra, or in many cases, full-time money.” But the other great thing about being a rideshare driver? You’ve got people skills like no one else.

What To Do Next

If you want to move past the driver’s seat, consider finding a job in customer service, sales, or even public relations. And be sure to bring that 5-star rating mentality with you.

Pet-Sitting or House-Sitting

Enjoyed watching Spot and his pad during the pandemic? As things open back up and more people venture out into the world for work and vacation, this side gig seems like an obvious one to stick around. “As people return to their workplaces, the need for someone to watch their pets, walk their dogs, take in the mail, and water their plants will increase, as will the demand for people to perform these tasks,” says Greene.

What To Do Next

This side gig is a great one to continue, but don’t forget you have other options as well. If animals are your thing, consider finding work in a local animal rescue organization or pet store. If you enjoyed watching the houses more than their inhabitants, consider upping your game and becoming a luxury house sitter.

The Final Word

It’s easy to feel like time spent during the pandemic was wasted, but don’t. However you got through these past few months should be seen as an accomplishment, and as we head into a season of the “new normal” — remember to take your hard-earned experiences with you and wear them proudly in whatever venture you choose to embark on next.

Colorado writer Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.