As a career coach, my day-to-day work is guiding people toward a successful search to land a job. The pandemic has created distinct challenges for employment. One part of the challenge is emotional: coping with the unprecedented pain and loss. But the core, nuts-and-bolts strategy for a successful job search remains the same, although with added voltage that requires more focus, energy and creativity than ever before.
lots of competition to land a job
With more than 13% unemployment in the United States, there are millions of people out of work right now and competition for jobs is fierce. It’s not uncommon to go after a listing along with hundreds of other applicants. The most common question I am asked these days is, ’Are companies even hiring?’ The answer is yes.
When job seekers ask this, there’s often a hidden subtext, which goes something like this: ‘Because no one is hiring, why put a concerted effort into my search to land a job, when I’ll just be disappointed?’ Banish this thought completely. In a crowded market like the one we’re in now, the only way to land a job is to put your whole heart into it. This pursuit starts with setting tangible weekly goals and committing to a job-search schedule to achieve them.
looking for work when children are home
I’ve been hearing from many parents who are searching for a new job while dealing with the additional challenge of taking care of restless children at home –and without the usual distractions of school and social activities. This is tough and time consuming. If a spouse is also working from home, it can be even more complicated.
If this describes your situation, the job-search remedy is the same, although maybe pared down. The bottom line is that you’re going to have to carve out an uninterrupted stretch to work on looking for a job. Maybe all you’ve got is 30 minutes a day during the week. That’s okay. If you’re focused, you can get results during those 150 weekly minutes. Commit to a schedule, do what it takes to make it happen and use the time well.
find ways to network
One of the cornerstones of any strategy for landing a job is networking. I realize it’s a word that makes a lot of people break out in a cold sweat. So, let’s rephrase. Networking means reaching out and connecting with purpose. It doesn’t have to happen in bulk. It starts with one person.
Reaching out is always important for landing a job because much of the job market is hidden, consisting of positions that are never advertised – but in this competitive market, networking is absolutely critical. By connecting with others, you can learn about a wider range of job opportunities, sometimes even before they’re listed, and gain insights into companies. The people to whom you reach out might be able to personally recommend you for a position, which will give you an upper hand, or provide you with additional contacts at the company.
A common refrain I hear from clients during this pandemic is, ‘How do I effectively network when I can’t meet in person?’ We’ve all had to adapt to connecting virtually and making it count, whether it’s by Zoom, Webex or phone. I find that this moment actually has one advantage for networking. A significant number of people who are employed right now are working at home, with less structure than what they had in physical workspaces surrounded by others. If you’re trying to reach them as part of your networking strategy, they often have more leeway to break away for a call.
Along with creating a job-search schedule, committing to reaching out to people every week is essential. In this competitive environment, you can’t let up. Whether it’s a modest two connections or a robust 15, pick a number that seems achievable and go for it.
what are your transferrable skills?
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on an array of industries, particularly the travel and hospitality sectors. Many of my clients come from these industries and they’re figuring out how to transfer their skills and experiences to another industry.
One of my clients, Sarah, has worked in the travel industry for 20 years and is researching what it would take to consult with companies who may need help managing the special requirements of corporate travel during the pandemic. Similarly, another client, Leah, designed office interiors for a global hospitality brand before she was laid off. She’s pivoting her experience to advise companies as they adjust their workplaces to bring employees back on site. Both will have to learn new requirements to become experts, but it’s the kind of out-of-the-box creative thinking that’s needed in this moment.
who is hiring?
If you come from an industry that’s contracting because of the pandemic, part of the unique challenge of your job search is to discover the industries that are thriving. It takes research and brainstorming.
Here’s a personal example of how brainstorming might work. My printer is on its last legs. After some research, I found a brand and model that would fit into my home office and was ready to buy until I discovered that the printer was sold out everywhere. It took me a few minutes to realize why. With all the remote work, more people suddenly need printers – and webcams and ergonomic desk chairs – at home. If I were looking for a thriving industry right now, one avenue would be the companies that make these types of equipment.
If you think about the various products and services you’ve needed to survive the past few months, that will give you some clues. And that’s exactly what my client, Megan, who was a merchandising manager in retail, decided to do. As a result of a brainstorming session we had, she has started to explore the ever-expanding online grocery industry, for which she has passion and most importantly, connections.
prepare for video interviews
At the time of this writing, I’ve not heard of any companies that are conducting in-person interviews on-site. That may change in the coming months as more businesses start opening their physical workspaces. For now, employers are relying on video interviews to hire staff. This requires getting relatively comfortable with being on camera.
To be competitive, you’ll probably have to practice – and practice is part of any interview prep, even in the best of times. The video interview will also necessitate a few technical checks, starting with knowing what’s in your shot. You’ll need as uncluttered a backdrop as possible. Lighting and sound need to be adequate as well. Whatever you wear, it’s got to work on camera (e.g., solid colors are better than prints). The good news is that you can test all of this ahead of time, so make time for these checks. Find reassurance knowing that this is a level playing field because most other candidates are just as unfamiliar with the medium as you might be.
when you land a job, make the most of virtual onboarding
Virtual onboarding is definitely a work in progress, as companies are still trying to understand how to do this effectively. First, there are the logistics of shipping the right equipment to a new employee’s home. The more complicated part is getting employees culturally integrated into an existing team without the usual, more organic activities like having coffee or lunch together. Some companies are creating buddy systems, so a new hire has a dedicated point of contact. As we navigate these unprecedented times, we’ll adapt because we have to. For now, make these virtual connections count.
I could offer a variety of platitudes for this unprecedented moment. But platitudes won’t help you land a job. The basics will, however: setting weekly goals, creating structured time for the search, connecting with purpose (one person at a time) and doing the research about industries that are expanding. And I’ll add one more to-do: Practice self-care and find the support you need to get up every morning with added voltage and try again.