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How to Match Your Qualifications to a Job

Close up of gold and silver puzzle pieces
•••

By Alison Doyle Updated January 14, 2020

One of the most important things you can do when job searching is to show companies how well you’re qualified for the jobs you’re applying for. Doing so will make it easier for the hiring manager to consider you a candidate well-worth interviewing.

Employers will usually only spend a few seconds deciding whether you are a good enough fit for a job to warrant a more thorough review of your resume and cover letter.1 So, it’s essential to make sure it is immediately apparent that you have many of the skills, experiences, and qualities that they value most highly.2

Tips for Showing Employers That You’re a Match

It’s important to focus on your most relevant skills and strengths when writing resumes and cover letters, and when interviewing. The more closely you can demonstrate your match to the position and show the employer how you would add value to the organization, the better your chances of job search success.

Carefully Analyze the Job Listing

Job postings are typically broken into several sections. Expect to see:

  • Information about the company
  • Details on the desired qualifications of applicants
  • A description of the responsibilities involved in the role
  • Directions for how to apply

Some job postings are brief, while others include more details about the job and the company. Take the time to review the job posting carefully, so you are familiar with what the employer wants. 

Here’s how to decode a job advertisement, so you can decide whether to apply and start work on your resume and cover letter.

Make a List of Your Qualifications

If the job is a good match, the next step is to make a connection between your skills and the employer’s requirements by creating a list of the preferred qualifications for the ideal candidate for your target job. If a job advertisement is well-written and detailed, you might be able to assemble much of your list straight from the ad.

Extract any of the keywords describing skills, qualities, or experiences that the employer has listed as required or preferred. Also, review the job duties and make some assumptions about the qualifications needed to carry out those duties.

For example, if the ad mentions that you would organize fundraising events for potential donors, you can assume that event-planning skills would be highly valued and should be added to your list.

Get More Information

Sometimes, ads for jobs are very short and don’t reveal much about the employer’s expectations. Try looking on the employer’s website, since there might be a longer description in the jobs section of their site than in the ad that you saw.

Another strategy is to search job sites like Indeed by the same job title, in order to get a sense of what other employers are looking for in candidates. Also, search Google to see descriptions of similar jobs. For example, if you are applying for a credit analyst position, try searching by using the phrase “credit analyst job description.” Here’s how to use advanced search options to find job information.

Need Skills to Include?

When you’re not sure about what skills or qualities to include, check this list of skills for resumes, cover letters, and interviews. It includes lists of general skills most wanted by employers, plus skills for a variety of occupations. Include the most relevant skills in your resume and cover letter.

Ask for Advice

If you are really motivated to land a particular job, interview professionals in the field and ask them what it takes to excel in their role. Reach out to college alumni through your college’s career office and alumni office, LinkedIn contacts, and family friends to generate a list of contacts for these informational consultations.

Match Your Qualifications to the Job

Once you have assembled a detailed list of the qualifications for your target job, review each item on the list and try to think of how you might prove that you possess that asset. Write a sentence about as many of the qualifications as possible, detailing how you used that skill or exhibited that quality in a work, volunteer, academic, or co-curricular role.

Whenever possible, point to any positive results or recognition you received while applying the skill. For example, if a job requires strong writing skills, you might say:

While working as a campaign intern, I wrote press releases about the candidate’s platform, which resulted in two articles in the local media.

Prioritize Your Qualifications in Your Cover Letter

Prioritize the sentences about your qualifications and incorporate the hardest-hitting statements into your cover letter. Compose a thesis statement for the beginning of your cover letter that references 2 – 4 assets that make you an excellent fit for the job. Your goal is to sell your credentials to the hiring manager.3

For example, for a bank teller job you might say:

My strong mathematics skills, customer service orientation, attentiveness to detail, and ability to work with precision make this job an excellent fit for me.

In subsequent paragraphs, you should provide examples of how and where you applied those skills.

Review and Tweak Your Resume

Review your existing resume and make sure that you have incorporated as many statements about the preferred qualifications for the target job as possible. List the highest-priority phrases at the beginning of your descriptions to get the most attention.

If you have a couple of jobs that are more qualifying than others, you might develop a lead category towards the top of your resume, like “Related Experience” (if they are not your most recent jobs).

Take a few minutes to update the descriptions of the positions you’ve held. Jazzing up your resume job descriptions can make your resume much more impressive.2

Include Headlines

Some candidates will have clusters of experiences that correspond to key qualifications. Take, for instance, the example where writing and event planning are highly qualifying for a particular job.

If a candidate has experience that fits those categories, then they might create headings like “Writing Experience” and “Event Planning Experience,” and place the related experiences in those sections of the resume.

Relevant headings will draw the employer’s attention to key qualifications at a glance.

How to Mention Your Qualifications During Job Interviews

Before interviewing, review the list of your most relevant strengths that you created when working on your job application. Look for opportunities during the interview to interject statements about your specific skills and assets. 

When asked open-ended questions like “Why should we hire you for this job?,” relate 4 – 6 of your most valuable attributes that match the key qualifications for the opportunity at hand. The most compelling statements will include evidence of how you have successfully applied those strengths to add value in past situations. 

Your interview is another opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager by showing how strong a match you are for the job.

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bussiness

How to Answer Interview Questions About Being Laid-Off

Job interview
•••

By Alison Doyle Updated July 30, 2020

If you are job searching after a layoff, take heart in the fact that your situation is far from rare. In just 19 weeks in 2020, over 53 million jobs were lost during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, during the years following the Great Recession, one-fifth of American workers were laid off. 1

Even the best employees can find themselves out of work due to a reduction in force.

That said, hiring managers sometimes have a bias against job seekers who are unemployed, so you will want to prepare to answer interview questions about your layoff. You do not want interviewers to see a layoff as a reflection of your ability to do the job well. This may be complicated by your own strong emotions about the experience. It is normal to be sad or angry after losing your job.

Learn how to navigate this situation in an interview, and how to prepare in advance to ensure that being laid off does not diminish your employability.

How to Explain a Layoff in a Job Interview

Interviewers will often ask questions to determine the reasons for any length of time that you were not employed. You will need to assure the interviewer that you were performing at a high level and that your discharge was not in any way a result of your productivity.

Be prepared to explain any circumstances at your organization that necessitated your layoff. For example, a merger or acquisition might have caused a round of layoffs to eliminate staffers with duplicate responsibilities. Perhaps there was reorganization and all employees in your category were eliminated. Maybe your company was losing market share and needed to cut costs.

Many layoffs occur mainly due to business-wide decisions, not specific performance issues. If you were laid off as part of a group, mention that in your response. And, if you were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic, you can mention that as well. 

Whatever the reason for the layoffs at your company, keep your explanation brief.

Keep it Short

One or two sentences is typically sufficient. Make sure you maintain a neutral or positive tone as you describe your previous employer. Avoid disparaging remarks about former colleagues, bosses, or upper management. As always, be honest in your response, since the company may decide to check with your former employer on the circumstances behind the layoff.

Show How You Added Value

You will also need to share how you added value in your role while you were employed. Make a list of your accomplishments, particularly those that impacted the bottom line for your department.

Explain what you did to increase sales, save money, raise funds, improve quality, resolve operational problems, etc. Emphasize the skills, qualities, and knowledge that you leveraged to generate those results. Provide specific anecdotes, examples, and stories that illustrate how you helped your department to reach its goals.

Fill in the Gap

If you have more than a brief employment gap on your resume, the interviewer will probably ask you what you have been doing while you have been out of work. Emphasize anything positive you have done to upgrade your skills during that time, such as taking online tutorials or doing freelance, consulting, or volunteer work. It can land a bit flat to say, “I’ve been looking for work since I’ve been laid off,” so try to come up with a response that goes beyond that.

If you were laid off in the past and have had other jobs since then, mention any steps you have taken to address weaknesses or enhance skills related to your target job in your more recent employment. Employers value candidates who are committed to self-improvement. 

Get References

Testimonials about your performance by others can help offset any concerns by prospective employers about your layoff. Secure as many employment references as possible from former supervisors, subordinates, customers, members of your professional association, and former colleagues.

Provide prospective employers with easy access to these recommendations through your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio.

Showcase Your Past Work

Build a portfolio of work samples from past jobs including the one from which you were laid off. Include samples of writing, design, spreadsheets, reports, case studies, presentation slides, lesson plans, and other projects. Be careful not to divulge any proprietary information about past employers.

Share with employers via a link on your resume to your professional website or LinkedIn profile. Organizations will be more likely to believe that you have the right skills and knowledge for their job if they can see evidence of high-quality work products.

Differentiate This Job From Your Previous Job

If there is any hint that you were laid off due to inadequate knowledge, skills, or job fit, make a case for how your job target is a better fit.

Emphasize skills, knowledge, or personal qualities that will enable you to perform at a higher level.

For example, you might say “I believe your job is an excellent fit because it will tap the journalistic and storytelling skills that I honed as a reporter. My previous position was much more focused on event planning and fundraising.”

Use Your Connections

Endorsements of candidates from employees at prospective employers can have a strong impact on hiring decisions. Seek referrals from primary contacts to second level contacts working at the employer and arrange informational consultations to show a face and ask for advice. 

If you make a positive impression, these individuals might put in a good word for you that can serve to counterbalance any concerns about your layoff.

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bussiness

What Notice Must an Employer Provide for Job Termination or Layoff?

Job Terminations Are Not All Covered by Employment Law

Layoffs and job terminations are never happy but deadlines for employers exist in only a few cases.
•••

By Susan M. Heathfield Updated April 07, 2020

Employers have a variety of responsibilities to their employees in a layoff or employment termination situation. Some are required by law and others are important to promote your employment brand as a brand of choice to your current and prospective employees. How you treat people really does matter in a layoff or employment termination situation.

But employment termination is not an area that the federal government legislates except in a few instances. Do you need to understand how much warning an employer needs to provide to an employee in a variety of termination scenarios? Read on for additional information.

Job Termination

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has no requirements for notice to an employee prior to the termination of his or her job. No matter the reason for the termination, the employer can ask the employee to work for several days, but it is more likely that the day of termination is the employee’s last day.

In certain cases, employers must give the workers advanced notice of mass layoffs or plant closure. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the WARN Act) provides specific information on advance notice, employer responsibility, and workers’ rights during mass layoffs or plant closure.1

Note that some states may have requirements for employers to notify employees prior to termination or lay-off. You need to stay in touch with your state department of labor.2

To avoid lawsuits and to be fair to the employee and employer, if you fire an employee, make sure that your path to employment termination has been ethical, legal, and thoughtful. The ethical and proper paths, as well as the thoughtful and kind paths to employment termination, are covered in how to fire an employee in detail in these resources.

In an employee firing, it is normal for the employer to walk the employee out of the workplace after helping retrieve his or her belongings. If an employee does not want to return to their work area, the employer can make arrangements to meet the employee after work or on the weekend so they can pick up their belongings. Note that in the instance of immediate employment termination, the employee would receive no advance notice.

Employee Layoffs

In a layoff situation, in some cases, employers must give employees advanced notice of mass layoffs or plant closure. The WARN Act requires 60 days written notice of the intention to lay off more than 50 employees during any 30-day period as part of a plant closing.3

Additionally, the WARN Act requires employers to give notice of any mass layoff, that does not result from a plant closing but will result in an employment loss of 500 or more employee jobs during any 30-day period. The Act also covers employment loss for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce.4

In a layoff situation that is not covered by the WARN Act, the employer is not required by federal law to give any notice. Situations vary. If the reason for the layoff is economic, employees will usually experience immediate employment termination.

In other circumstances such as the elimination of a department or function, employees may be asked to stay on for weeks, or even months, with the promise of bonuses and employment recommendations for an orderly shutdown or transfer of responsibilities to the employees who remain.

In all cases, please check with your state or governmental authorities at your equivalent to the U.S. Department of Labor. Notification rules may vary by state or jurisdiction.5

In the case of layoffs, always work with an attorney who specializes in employment law from your region. Many countries worldwide have layoff and termination restrictions that are more severe than those in the US

Note, too, that some states may have requirements for employee notification prior to job termination or layoffs.

Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.

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bussiness

How Do Employers Know Whether to Enact Furloughs or Layoffs?

Both Furloughs and Layoffs Have Positive and Negative Consequences

Woman informs employee that the business has to implement employee furloughs to keep the business from going out of business.
•••

By Susan M. Heathfield Updated May 19, 2020

When businesses hit hard times, or want to make a significant business change, they can reduce their headcount through either a furlough or a layoff. But what’s the difference?

Furloughsare a temporary reduction in headcount. When you furlough employees, you do so with the expectation that you will recall them. During a furlough, employees take an unpaid leave of absence, though companies can continue their healthcare benefits.

Layoffs, meanwhile, are a permanent reduction in headcount. Employees affected by this decision should not expect to be rehired and should begin looking for a new job immediately. Layoffs may or may not include severance pay and extended benefits.

Why a Furlough Makes More Sense

In several situations, a furlough makes more sense than a layoff. For instance, if your business is seasonal, you can furlough employees during the downtime and then bring them back during your busy season. 

You cannot require your employees to wait for the furlough to end; They can find a new job. As you are not paying them, your workers can also receive unemployment payments until employed again, either by your or another employer.

Another situation in which a furlough makes sense is when there is a temporary disruption in business. For instance, with the COVID-19 shutdowns, many companies are expecting that their closures will be brief and have furloughed employees rather than terminating them. There are several other examples of why a furlough may be a more ideal option:

  • You need flexibility—A furlough can last for any period, although exempt employees must be furloughed in full week increments, or you have to pay them for the entire week. But, if you need a two week shut down, a furlough makes a lot more sense.
  • Furloughs reduce administrative burdens—You do not have to terminate and then hire employees; people on furlough are still employees.
  • You need to reduce headcount and financial obligations (i.e. payroll) temporarily—During a furlough, you can require employees to use their paid time off (PTO), which allows them to receive pay and reduces your future liabilities.
  • You can afford to continue benefits—This depends on your state and plan rules, but often the state requires you to continue to pay the employer portion of healthcare while employees are furloughed.1 

Consequences of Employee Furloughs

Furloughs can help employers manage short down periods, but there are consequences. Your employees may build resentment during furloughs—especially if they receive no pay at all. Cutting staff may also affect your ability to run your business in the future.2

If your organization is unionized, you will have strict rules for furloughs in your union contract. If your agreement doesn’t allow for what you want to do, you’ll have to renegotiate, which can be a complicated process.

Furloughed employees also have rights that terminated employees do not have.34 For instance, non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked. So, if you call up a furloughed employee and ask questions that last more than a couple of minutes (known as “de minimis” or insignificant time), you’ll have to record that time and pay it.

An exempt employee must be furloughed in full-week increments. If, for example, you email an exempt furloughed employee and ask work-related questions that require their time and response, you must provide a full week’s paycheck. Because of scenarios like this, it’s best to have exempt employees turn in all laptops and company-provided mobile devices so that they don’t accidentally work.5 

If you furlough an employee, they are most likely eligible for unemployment payments. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, some additional benefits, like a $600 federal supplement to unemployment, are available to furloughed and laid-off employees. Make sure you’re complying with all of the laws including the new Families First Corona Response Act (FFCRA) if your business has fewer than 500 employees.6  

When Layoffs Are Necessary

Layoffs should be permanent terminations. Whether it’s a reduction in force, where you let go of people with the express purpose of reducing headcount, or a reorganization where you terminate people in one group but may hire people in another, the people who lose their jobs should expect that the action is final.

When determining if layoffs are necessary, consider the following factors:

  • Do you expect this change to be permanent? If you close a plant, that’s a permanent change, and you will need to lay off employees. If you are closing the plant to do a thorough cleaning or fix machinery, a furlough makes more sense.
  • Can you use the employees in a different area? If you’re closing one product line, does it make sense to terminate the marketing team for that product, or would it be better for the business to move that team to support a different product? You don’t want to fire great marketers for product A, only to have to hire new people for product B.
  • What financial consequences should you expect? If you lay off your sales force, will your sales drop to the point that you’ll need to conduct future layoffs?

Like furloughs, layoffs can be financially and emotionally difficult for employees. Furloughed employees will come back, so you’ll need to focus more on keeping them happy while they are off work. Laid-off employees should be clear that they have been terminated. However, you must treat laid-off employees fairly and professionally, or you’ll lose the trust and support of those being retained.

Both furloughs and layoffs may be subject to federal and local laws. For instance, the Workers’ Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN) requires 60 days’ notice before certain layoffs. If you believe a furlough will last longer than six months, then WARN applies as well. States have different rules. There are limited exceptions, such as force majeure or “act of God,” that remove your requirement for WARN.78 

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bussiness

7 HR Tips for Handling Employee Layoffs

By Rachel Bolsu

01.14.20 An HR professional shares best practices for laying off employees and handling employee terminations

HR is all too familiar with the hazards and consequences of company downsizing. Delivering news of layoffs, paycuts, and furloughs is never easy, but unfortunately, it’s a responsibility that falls on many HR professionals. 

While delivering difficult news never gets easier, HR can help make the process as painless as possible. While letting employees go is always going to be a difficult conversation, we spoke to seven HR professionals about how to layoff an employee with compassion and grace. Here are some best practices for laying off employees they had to share: 

1. Show Empathy

“Remember that while it is uncomfortable for you to communicate your message, it is life-altering for the employee receiving it.” – Anonymous, HR Manager

2. Depersonalize the Decision

“Know and make it clear that it isn’t a personal decision, but a business decision. It has nothing to do with performance.” – Jackson Stodgel, Human Resources Coordinator at IXL Learning

3. Be Considerate

“Be considerate. All parties in a layoff have families and personal situations that should be reflected in the way the layoff is occurring. Employee layoffs are a part of business but can be handled in a respectful manner.” – Mary Lanier-Evans, People & Culture Officer at 360training.com

4. Plan Ahead

“Be organized in your approach. Layoffs are never fun, but for HR, it’s one of the most critical times to be cool, calm, and collected. Carefully planning who knows what, when, and in what way can make the difference between a well-orchestrated event, and mass chaos and confusion. Owning communication and working closely with management to ensure the right people are in the know ahead of time is one of the best ways of still preserving relationships and mutual respect among your existing and departing teams. When faced with an upcoming layoff, plan everything that’s within your scope of control, like the time you’ll meet to share the news with managers, peers, departments, and individuals. Document what you’ll discuss in each so that everyone is given information that is accurate, timely, and pertinent.” – Anonymous, Director of HR

5. Be Direct

“While employees will always remember how a layoff was handled, they may not remember why they were laid off. Don’t beat around the bush. Be straightforward and don’t draw it out. No one wants to be limbo about their job and the second the phrase ‘layoff’ is uttered, you can expect the office to get tense. If possible, offer basic resources to the employees being laid off such as a partnership with a local recruiting agency where the employee can send their resume. It won’t cost the company anything and shows a good-will effort.” – Caleb Wood, Administrator, Payroll and HRIS at Kestra Financial, Inc.

6. Offer Transitional Support

“Treat employees the right way. When you set your employees up for success with severance, benefits, and references or assistance finding another job, you can make the employee layoff process a little less painful. Knowing that your company takes care of their employees during hard times will also help the morale of the employees staying at the company.” – Jessica Neves, People Operations Manager, Longboard Asset Management

7. Provide a Physical Takeaway

“If the situation allows for it, prepare! Before delivering the message, get a packet together that explains the following: last paycheck info, 401k info, COBRA info, any required notices. Basically, anything that you would want to know if you were laid off.

One of the benefits of doing this is that whoever delivers the message can conclude by encouraging the employee to carefully review the information packet, and then follow-up with questions at a later time. It makes for a natural and less uncomfortable end to the conversation. Hopefully.” – Jovanny Chonillo, People Manager at Labelmaster



Employee layoffs can be detrimental to company morale and employee engagement, so it’s important to act as an ongoing resource to the remainder of your workforce. Consider the reactions and fears of other employees during and after a period of layoffs, and be sure to let them know you’re there to support them through the difficult times. HR faces some of the most difficult workplace conversations. Our guide will help you through them all. Read Now

Topics: Talent, Employee Experience

https://blog.namely.com/author/rachel-bolsu

Rachel Bolsu

Rachel Bolsu is a Content Marketing Specialist at Namely, the HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today’s employees. Connect with Rachel and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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bussiness

7 Ways to Cope with a Layoff

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief Last updated: 8 Jul 2018  ~ 7 min read

Unhappy Woman at WorkWhen the economy — or a company’s business — goes south, the quickest way a company can chop its costs is by laying off its employees. It’s never popular and often companies will try other cost-cutting measures long before they have to cut workers, but if you’re among those who get the pink slip, you don’t really care. You just lost your job.

For many, being laid off is something that will be unexpected and shocking. Unless you work in a seasonal industry where layoffs occur with annual regularity, a layoff is akin to having the wind knocked out of you. You become a powerless pawn in a company’s efforts to cut costs. And while it’s never about a single employee, it doesn’t make it feel any less personal.

A layoff is out of your control, but how you react to it is not.

1. Keep Your Emotions in Check

One of the first things you should do is give yourself some time with the impact of being laid off. If unexpected, you will likely feel more upset, shocked and disappointed than if you had some idea layoffs were coming. Even when an employee knows layoffs are in the works for the company, you may not expect that your own head could be on the chopping block.

The workplace is not a good place to express this disappointment and upset, however. Such reactions might be mistaken or misunderstood. It’s also best not to burn bridges, no matter how bitter or upset you may feel in the moment. You may need references from your manager or supervisor, and want to keep in touch with coworkers you’re close to. Ask for personal email addresses and act calmly, no matter how you may feel inside.

If you need to vent, do so to close friends (or your family, or your therapist) outside of work. Don’t feel bad if you feel confused and uncertain about your future. Take your time and don’t try to rush into feeling “okay” with the layoff.

2. Get the Information

Sometimes in our shock and upset at the news of a layoff, we forget to listen or to get all the information we need. Is there a severance package or a benefits package I get to leave with? What about my family’s health insurance? Will the company help me with finding new work or offer any kind of resume service? What about job references? Do I have to return the company laptop that I use at home?

If you can’t handle getting the information in the moment or feel overwhelmed, not to worry. Employers generally provide the information in a letter form as well, and your HR personnel can answer any followup questions you may have via email or phone. The key is to remember that the more details you have, the easier it’ll be to answer others (e.g., your significant other) and make the tough decisions that are yet to come.

If your employer offers you nothing, you may be in line at the unemployment office to look into unemployment benefits paid for by the government. Sadly, these are going to be a lot less than what you were making, but it’s better than nothing. And it may help make ends meet until you can find another job. While most hard-working people hate the idea of accepting “charity,” sometimes we simply have no other choice. And unemployment benefits aren’t really “charity” anyway — they’re a benefit each state provides by taxing employers, and are regulated in part by federal law. Your benefits will be determined by your hours worked and earnings over the five calendar quarters preceding your layoff. In other words — you earned the benefits you’re now receiving while you were working.

3. Regroup and Reframe

Don’t let your disappointment and upset turn into a new pessimistic outlook on your life or career, or into a full-blown depressive episode.

Therapists have a technique they call “reframing.” It basically means taking a negative situation, thought or feeling and looking at it from a different perspective for some positive aspects. Being laid off is a time to regroup in your life and especially in your career. This is a time to reassess your career path and make sure you’re still doing something you have an interest in doing. Even in a bad economy, you need to consider your own longer-term happiness.

Which is not to say there may not be much you can do about it right now. But it may help you decide between two job opportunities in the future, one that keeps you on your current path, or another that may open up a different set of opportunities for you. A layoff may be just the ticket to get you out of the dead-end job you would’ve stayed in forever had it not occurred.

4. Take Stock in Your Finances and Budget

This is not the time to pull the wool over your significant other’s eyes (or your own). Take a realistic look at your finances and budget, and see how long a severance package or unemployment benefits are going to last you. Whatever you do, do not put this off longer than a week. While we may not enjoy dealing with our finances, failure to do so could result in a far worse situation down the road (which always arrives sooner than you think).

Be creative in analyzing your budget for places to cut. Most of us assume we need things like digital television and unlimited mobile calling plans. But most of us don’t. When I met my wife six years ago, she didn’t even have cable (and lived quite happily without it). Do you need to go out to dinner twice a week? Do you need that new flat-screen TV? Now’s the time to put aside your wants temporarily and focus exclusively on your and your family’s needs.

Keep in mind, too, of your savings, rainy-day funds, and even your 401(k), which may offer you some temporary financial relief. Borrowing from your 401(k), for instance, is usually less expensive than adding to your credit card debt, as you are paying back the loan with interest to yourself (not a credit card company). However, such borrowing is usually recommended only as a last resort.

5. Take Care of Insurance

We often don’t think about insurance until we’re faced with a layoff and find out just how expensive it really is. You will likely be offered something called COBRA, which allows you to continue your current employer’s health benefits with one catch — you now have to pay what your employer was paying for your benefits. Be prepared for sticker shock. Most people are amazed that a family of four’s health insurance on COBRA might be as high as $1,000 or even $1,500 a month (for a single or couple, it can be anywhere from $500 to $800). When paying bills is already going to be a challenge, COBRA might be out of reach when the monthly cost of health insurance exceeds your unemployment benefits.

So shop around. You may find other health insurance coverage for your family that is less expensive and not cut your benefits in any significant way. You may have to pay a higher deductible for inpatient hospital stays to achieve a lower monthly premium, so weigh the costs with what you can afford. Nowadays, there are a lot more plans available to most people at a wide range of costs.

If you have to consider going without health insurance where it’s legal (in Massachusetts, for instance, you’re required by law to hold health insurance), be very careful in your life. Put aside risky behaviors and hobbies that might put your future health at risk.

If you have chronic health issues that may make insurers reluctant to take you on, check with your state’s office of the commissioner of insurance. (Names may vary from state to state.) Most states have “high-risk pools” for people who can’t get health insurance any other way.

6. Hit the Classifieds

Nearly all job classifieds are now online, so searching through them is far easier than it was 10 years ago. Although it might seem like nobody is hiring (and in your specific profession, that may very well be true), you should keep an eye out anyway. Jobs sometimes become available as people retire, or a company’s focus changes. Extend your search somewhat outside your profession as well, just to see what else might be available.

Check out your “dream profession” as well, as that may help you make a very different decision. Some people use a layoff as an opportunity to go back to school to learn a new profession, using government grants and subsidized loans to pay for tuition. Of course that’s not always possible if you are the primary breadwinner for your family, but it’s something to keep in mind throughout this process.

Use the unemployment resources available to you, whether through your ex-employer (such as resume writing services) or through your local government. Libraries, too, often offer a great set of employment and career resources.

7. Don’t Give Up Hope

In the months to come, as unemployment may stretch out much longer than you had wanted or anticipated, you’ll benefit from remaining as optimistic as possible. A pessimistic attitude can easily snowball into full-blown depression when job hunting, especially in a down economy when hundreds of companies are laying off hundreds of thousands of workers. It’s a tough market to be looking for a job, of that there is no doubt. However, people who stand out in such markets usually can find a way to bounce back.

If you feel especially down on your luck, join a free support group or skills-building group in your local community (or online), and learn from others who’re going through similar circumstances. Although it may be hard to remember, try to keep in mind that layoffs aren’t a judgment about your own abilities, experience or skills that you bring to a position.

Some days it may feel impossible to do, but try to stay positive. Although many people define their self-worth and value in this world by their job, it really isn’t everything and doesn’t have to be the defining feature of one’s life.

In Summary…

Look, unemployment isn’t easy. I know, I’ve been there too. It stinks and the feelings you have after losing your job are right up there with losing a close loved one in your life. But you can get through this without having your entire life fall apart.

  • Layoffs aren’t personal, although they often feel like they are.
  • Being upset with a layoff is normal, but don’t let your upset turn into obsession or depression.
  • Pessimism after a layoff is a dangerous vice; avoid stinkin’ thinkin’.
  • Don’t burn bridges; keep in touch with ex-coworkers you had good relationships with.
  • Work it out if you need references and set them up sooner rather than putting it off.
  • Focus on and plan for the career you want to have in the future, not the job you just lost.
  • Don’t put off being realistic with your finances and your own personal budget.
  • Explore all your options when it comes to unemployment and health insurance. Don’t dismiss any resources available to you out of pride or ignorance.
  • Be prepared to be in it for the long haul during tough economic times. This is a reflection of the poor economy, not your skills or abilities.
  • Stay positive as much as possible and keep an optimistic spirit. Set realistic job goals (sending out resumes, replying to classifieds, etc.), and stick to them.

Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, others will have an even more difficult time believing in you.

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5 ways to keep employees productive before, during and after a layoff

5 ways to keep employees productive before, during and after a layoff

Worker productivity is easily impacted by outside factors – from stress levels and lack of sleep to the economic and political climate. While we, as HR leaders, can’t control what employees do on their own time or the external factors beyond our collective control, we can act to keep productivity high when we know a particular distracting event, like a layoff, may be on the horizon or when we’re in the midst of a challenge such as the current business disruption due to the coronavirus. So, what can employers do to maximize productivity?

When business leaders act with transparency, honesty and openness, their actions help mitigate potential productivity loss.

Here are five steps for keeping employees focused when a layoff is possible or definite, and ideas for actions you can take before and after a layoff occurs to set up your company for future success.

1: be transparent

Many organizations are doing everything they can to hold on to their employees during the pandemic – from furloughs and re-assigning employees to reducing work hours and instituting temporary pay cuts. Maintaining employer brand and minimizing the impacts of talent scarcity when the economy recovers are on the minds of many employers.

Layoffs are usually the last resort for companies, ideally occurring after a concerted effort to curb spending, cut costs in other ways and offer employees alternatives such as voluntary separation or early retirement. In many cases, employers have some time to honestly communicate the financial situation to employees before a layoff takes place, although the economic shockwaves released by the pandemic have shortened that window for some employers, especially small and medium-sized businesses.

Being transparent with employees about business conditions when a layoff is possible is essential. When people are left out of the conversation, they tend to make up their own reality and the rumor mill enabled by social media can undercut HR’s ability to direct the message, maintain calm and promote authenticity, which is so crucial at this time.

Signs that a company is having financial difficulty are easy to sense from within an organization. Any level of insecurity can lead to distraction. Instead of remaining focused on how help the company remain profitable, employees spend time thinking about possible consequences of a layoff and may even start looking for other work in anticipation of losing their jobs. All this worrying can lead to an immediate drop in productivity that may not rebound until up to a year after the actual layoff event takes place, and in the current economy, that rebound could take even longer.

As an HR leader, when you address the elephant in the room – the fact that the current situation is less than ideal – it gives employees the chance to act. If employees understand the company is struggling, they can do their part to reduce expenses. You’d be surprised how much money can be saved at the departmental level. Teams find creative ways to push spending out a few quarters or do more with less. Employees would much rather cut spending than see their colleagues, friends and themselves released from employment.

What’s more, efficacy can be empowering because it gives people a sense of control. Engaging employees in being part of the solution can actually improve the employee experience by helping them feel that they have collective and individual capacity to deliver value by finding ways to be more efficient. It’s especially important now for managers to listen to and consider the ideas their direct reports may have for increasing efficiency and generating new sources of revenue.

Redeploying employees, even temporarily to other roles, can help you address the dichotomy between a slowdown in one area of your business while there are shortages in other areas, and serves as a way to circumvent a layoff or reduce the number of employees affected by one. If there’s one truth borne out by the pandemic, it’s that employees have shown tremendous flexibility in adapting to new roles.

When business leaders take the initiative to communicate openly and honestly before a layoff becomes an unavoidable reality, employees can step up and focus on creating solutions within the company instead of worrying about finding other employment opportunities for themselves.

2: train managers to coach employees

As soon as cost-cutting measures are put into place, managers should receive resiliency training to prepare them to listen to their employees and offer appropriate support. The object of resiliency training is to teach managers how to acknowledge the change while providing relevant information without creating panic. These days, managers are under a tremendous amount of stress themselves and will also need guidance in how to best support their teams.

During this period, managers can play a vital role in encouraging employees to stay focused on what they can control, instead of what’s outside of their control. This subtle change of attitude increases productivity as employees learn to work on creative solutions and their own professional development instead of worrying about what may or may not come to pass in the future. Managers who are transparent and honest about the current business climate will earn the trust of their employees. The right training will prepare managers to be effective coaches for employees in the event of a layoff or involuntary job transition.

3: encourage thoughtful innovation

If you must let go of employees, immediately following a layoff, shift your focus from the business of downsizing to effectively creating a productive workplace that encourages thoughtful innovation. Particular positions may have been eliminated, but the workload hasn’t and may be higher, at least for awhile. Remaining employees and managers will need to find ways to modify processes and redistribute the workload. Involve everyone in the business of finding solutions and acknowledge the impact of the layoffs on teams, workloads, workflows and relationships. The same principle of efficacy applies.

You can get employees back on track by helping them set short-term goals and letting them know how their contributions will help the other members of their team. Taking steps toward accomplishment and being part of innovative solutions is good for a person’s emotional state and will do more to improve productivity than only discussing what employees can do for the company.

Encourage employees to continue pursuing their career development and skill-building as a way of aligning their career interests and passions with the evolving needs of the business. Digital transformation has accelerated as a result of what McKinsey refers to as the ‘distance economy.’ Organizations that succeed will need to have agile workforces whose skills can continually and rapidly evolve.

4: have a plan and communicate proactively

As Michelle Riklan wrote for Huffington Post, ‘layoff survivors are often not sure why they made it while their peers didn’t. Sure, they have an inkling; a good performance, a not-so-expensive paycheck and tenure come to mind. But these are nothing but speculations, and until you confirm them, layoff survivors will continue fearing for their future in the company.’

Management and HR must have a plan for reaching out to employees with one-on-one meetings designed to reiterate the messaging of the layoff. During these meetings, managers need to address why the layoffs occurred, remind employees that colleagues have been let go through no fault of their own, acknowledge how hard the situation is on surviving employees and assure employees that there are no more layoffs happening at this time. While these conversations should be reassuring, be careful not to make promises or predictions that may not come to pass. Be honest and kind, but don’t sugarcoat the message. Developing trust is the number one goal at this time.

It’s also essential for managers and HR professionals to remind employees of their importance. People want to know their value, and are inspired and motivated when it’s clear that the work they’re doing is meaningful. HR should have resources in place for employee’s who find the changes particularly challenging. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great solution, especially when communicated in a way that helps people understand the confidential nature of the resource. It’s also important to help employees understand what an EAP can do for them – including general counseling, assistance with work/life issues, financial planning conversation and other resources.

Before, during and after a layoff, communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s not enough to have an ’open door’ policy because some employees might not feel comfortable approaching management when a layoff has just occurred. Just because people are silent, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about the impact of the layoffs or worrying about their own future. In the absence of communication, people will make up their own reality – and that reality is rarely positive. Failing to maintain a dialogue in a timely fashion, or avoiding sharing pertinent details with employees, will derail attempts at a return to normalcy and productivity.

While organizations and managers may want to just move on from a layoff, many employees won’t be ready to put it behind them immediately. This is the time for a proactive approach to employee communication. At a time when so many of us are working remotely, keeping lines of communication open is challenging. Encourage members of management to resist the temptation to isolate themselves.

As part of resiliency training, managers and HR leaders should be directed to remain visible by holding ‘open office’ hours remotely, making themselves available for virtual water-cooler chats and meeting with individual teams – even if via video – to find out how they are doing. Some employees who may be hesitant to speak up in a video meeting might be more comfortable discussing their concerns virtually one-on-one or in small group setting with their manager present.

Whatever your approach, keep in mind that the goal is to listen to employees, show genuine interest in their mental state and look for those people who don’t seem to be as productive or positive as before. Talk to them about what they like about their job and help them to find ways to show some immediate wins. Bear in mind that they may be dealing with additional stresses outside of work.

5: benchmark your progress three months out

Immediately following a reduction in force or a restructuring event, organizations often focus on minimizing the damage to culture and productivity. Although many companies are still experiencing the effects of a reduction in force for more than six months, most don’t have long-term programs in place to address the influence of the layoffs on productivity and employee satisfaction.

Before layoffs occur, plan to revisit employee concerns at the 90-day mark. Consider additional resiliency training for managers and employees. Schedule one-on-one meetings between managers and their team members to check the temperature of employee sentiment and assess who needs additional support. Many impacted employees may still be looking for work and the sting of the increased workload is still being felt by the survivors.

The three-month mark might be a good time to schedule an all-hands meeting to discuss the state of the company and plans for improved financial success. A town-hall style meeting is a good forum to answer questions from employees and to provide transparency into company business plans where appropriate.

Follow-up on whole-company meetings with department meetings to discuss how the contributions of individual departments tie-in to corporate goals and schedule individual meetings with team members to discuss how their efforts affect the success of the team.

The days, weeks and months before and after a layoff are often an emotionally challenging time for everyone at a company. Having a plan and taking specific actions can help mitigate the loss of productivity and instill an increased level of trust for those employees who remain. Open and honest communication creates a more positive environment that encourages employees by demonstrating appreciation for their contributions, providing transparency into the business climate and encouraging personal growth.

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how rapid redeployment can help companies avoid layoffs and decrease costs.

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Editor’s note: For a deep dive into rapid redeployment, please watch our webinar, ‘Avoiding layoffs and cutting expenses with rapid redeployment’ on demand here.

No company wants to lay off its employees. The Great Recession of 2008 taught many organizations that letting go of people has downstream negative consequences to employer brand, employee morale and productivity. Anat Lechner, a clinical associate professor of management at New York University’s Stern School of Management has noted that employers often underestimate the direct and indirect costs of a layoff – everything from legal fees and severance to lower productivity among surviving employees, loss of institutional knowledge and future costs of recruiting and training new employees once the economy recovers.

redeploying talent offers short- and long-term gains

By looking for ways to keep employees through redeployment, companies retain tribal knowledge and can help employees upskill in their roles, engage in internal gigs and develop new skills – or exercise ones previously unknown to the employer. In this way, organizations can continue to strengthen their workforce and innovate their way through even the most difficult of economic conditions. And once the bad times have past, organizations that have redeployed their employees can reap the rewards of having a more loyal group of workers and higher employee satisfaction ratings on sites such as Glassdoor.

Companies that have done everything possible to retain their people are also likely to be more agile and competitive ‘out of the gate’ when business picks up than those who have let go of talent. The recent era of low unemployment has also made organizations acutely aware that the talent shortages and skills mismatches that existed until just a few short months ago will likely reappear once the economy recovers.

In the past 10 years, many company cultures have also transformed to become more focused on employee experience. Business leaders have declared that corporate responsibility extends beyond traditional stakeholders to include employees. In 2019, the Business Roundtable redefined corporate responsibility, creating a new standard for delivering stakeholder value to include ‘investors, employees, communities, suppliers and customers.’ This creates an atmosphere where employers must consider their options before letting go of good talent.

Yet, with the magnitude and length of the current pandemic-induced recession unknown, many organizations may feel they have no choice but to lay off a percentage of their workforce. A recent working paper by the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago concluded that just over 40% of the layoffs occurring during the current crisis will likely be permanent, not temporary. While it’s true that permanent layoffs may be an unavoidable option for some companies, they don’t have to be the first or only option. Several organizations are successfully redeploying employees, both internally and externally as shared talent.

Rapid redeployment is gaining attention as companies look for opportunities to transfer current employees to internal roles, projects and temporary assignments within a matter of days or weeks. In the short term, redeployment can help organizations shift talent from low-demand or low-volume work to high-demand areas of the business, as well as help companies avoid the costlier option of laying off members of their workforce. Longer term, redeployment can be a wise strategy as companies alter their business models to incorporate digital offerings and find new ways to work with suppliers and partners, as well as serve customers. The ability to leverage the institutional knowledge of the existing workforce and employees’ familiarity with their customers will be critical to a company’s ability to smoothly shift to new business models and will minimize the time to productivity by reducing onboarding time of new employees.

The short- and longer-term opportunities require organizations to look at talent mobility, which includes redeployment and career development, in a new way.

As we find ourselves in the midst of reinventing the way we work, companies may find their existing redeployment systems inadequate to meet current needs. The fix is not complex or difficult. It does, however, require having the right resources and tools in place to help both employees and HR.

redeployment needs of employees

The redeployment requirements of employees will vary based on the speed with which they need to redeploy – from a matter of days or weeks to perhaps months. In some cases, redeployment may carry a time restriction that requires employees to transition to outplacement if an internal role isn’t secured.

Whatever flavor of redeployment an organization chooses, the company will be best served by providing employees with online resources that are specific to the timebound nature of the redeployment initiative. These resources typically include focused decision-making and preparation tools that enable employees to get ready for internal roles by helping them assess their suitability for open roles, understand and convey transferrable skills, perhaps upskill or reskill if time allows, learn job search strategies, network and prepare for internal interviews.

Online resources should be supplemented with career transition services. These would include coaching to enable employees to make smart decisions quickly, resume writing services to help employees put their best foot forward and compete on equal footing with external candidates, and job sourcing assistance that efficiently surfaces the best-fit opportunities.  

redeployment needs of HR

For HR professionals, the ability to hold virtual job fairs will increase employees’ visibility into open roles and project work. Knowing the skills and interests of current employees through a formal skills inventory – or even informally through assessments and performance reviews – will enable HR to match these with organizational needs, especially within a condensed time frame. Ultimately, having a line of sight into the skills of the workforce will improve redeployment outcomes.

Managers should also be able to proactively search for and approach employees for potential new roles. Managers can be encouraged and incentivized to share, rather than hoard, high-performing team members, whose redeployment may have a net positive impact on organizational outcomes, even if a particular manager loses a star performer. As with any process, data analytics and reporting tools are essential to track the progress, outcomes and cost effectiveness of redeployment efforts.

In the long-term, successful internal redeployment is part of a larger organizational culture of talent mobility – one that values continuous learning, reskilling and upskilling, and stretching employees’ capabilities. One of the surprising outcomes of today’s disruption is the realization by companies that employees are willing and capable of learning new skills and remaking themselves as needed to meet the needs of their companies. Now is the time for organizations to continue building on this momentum by making continual career development and reskilling available to all employees.

Redeployment and career development promote the employee experience and bolster employer brand, in turn strengthening the appeal of your firm as an employer of choice.

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michelle gouldsberry

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8 Tips for Handling Layoffs

Layoffs, according to Wayne F. Cascio, a professor at University of Colorado Denver who has studied layoffs for decades, “have been pretty constant over the years, and it seems to happen no matter what the economy is doing. When the economy is down, it’s always the argument that we’ve got to cut costs, and when it’s doing well we often hear we need to improve profitability, because it’s the best time to do it. The tune hasn’t changed.”

While media headlines and news only report the layoffs happening across big companies, small and medium sized businesses are not immune. While layoffs may be viewed by larger companies as just another business decision, the owners and executives of small and medium businesses (SMBs) make these difficult decisions only after all other remedies have failed, and with a large degree of guilt and sadness. When a company employs less than 1,000 the decision weighs exceptionally heavy on owners and managers that have come to see employees as family.

While media headlines and news only report the layoffs happening across big companies, small and medium sized businesses are not immune. @EmilyM_Elder #SmartTalkHR http://bit.ly/2p9AY51

Before now, the option of engaging with established outplacement providers didn’t exist. Recognizing that companies, regardless of size, understand the financial and brand impacts of a layoff, SMBs now have a quick and easy mechanism to offer career transition support to one person or multiple people.  This allows the company to demonstrate that they care for their employees and their community while meeting their financial goals and helping to minimize long-term tax liability through helping people get back to work quickly.

Because “doing the right thing” by employees is often top of mind for small and medium business owners and managers, we’ve compiled a list of 8 ways to take care of your employees following a layoff.

#1: Build a business case

By the time you are ready to layoff employees, chances are, you’ve done everything else to reduce spending and cut costs across the business. This is why it’s so critical to communicate during every phase of the process, and create a concise business case for the purpose of the downsizing event. This business case will inform sequential communications, like notifications, general internal and external announcements, and notices to employees. By explaining, with a concise business case, why a layoff was necessary, employees are less likely to criticize your actions.

#2: Host manager notification training

It’s critical that managers and business leaders understand their role during a layoff. RiseSmart offers Manager Notification Training (MNT) to help HR and functional leaders understand their role and that messaging is consistent throughout the organization. Even if you’re only going to lay off a few employees, manager notification training can help those who will be delivering the message understand the importance of following best practices and legal guidelines, it also helps your management team prepare emotionally for the event. Managers, Human Resource business Partners (HRBPs), and benefits providers have distinct roles during a layoff. A successful transition requires all groups to be supporting employees in unison. Getting everyone together in a meeting before the event will create the synergy you’re seeking.

#3: Plan and prepare emotionally

It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions when facing a layoff. Sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety, confusion, cynicism, embarrassment, and resentment are all on the spectrum of normal. As we tell managers during MNT, it’s normal and expected that you would have an emotional reaction to the event. Acknowledge these feelings and try talking it out with other managers or HR professionals in the organization. The more you can do to process and feel your own emotions prior to the event, the more empathetic you can act toward impacted and retained employees. 

#4: Assemble a layoff team

Gather internal folks, including leaders from HR, finance, legal, and other key players, as well as the heads of departments impacted by the layoff to be on your layoff “team.” This team should then be driven by an HR project manager or other key executive team member.

Externally, it’s smart to connect with legal counsel and employment attorneys who are experts in handling workforce reductions. The size and scope of your external team should depend on the percentage and types of population affected by the layoff.

#5: Hold a planning meeting

Meet with each leader or manager responsible for making decisions about who will be retained, and who will be impacted by the event. It’s important to discuss, either as a group or one-on-one, all of the legal, ethnical, and organizational ramifications of a layoff decision. It’s helpful at this point to have a step by step plan of established best practices and assign responsibilities to team members.

#6: Communicate consistently and quickly

Try to deliver all layoff notifications within a short period of time to alleviate the concerns of employees who will be retained. When you spread it out across multiple days or weeks, employees are left wondering if they are next. This in turn creates feelings of anxiousness and emotional turmoil for the employees left behind.

We recommend that mangers schedule a group meeting with remaining employees in the department once the layoffs have been communicated.  Plan to meet one on one with each remaining employee as quickly as possible after the layoff. This sends an immediate signal to the employees that you respect and value them as individuals, which will not only help you preserve your reputation as an employer and a company, but it will also help the organization return to its new state of normal as quickly as possible.

#7: No apologies, only appreciation

As you communicate the news of a layoff with impacted employees, it’s vital to demonstrate care and kindness. Instead of apologizing, express appreciation for what your employees have contributed to the team during their tenure. Revisit the business case for the layoff, and calmly and non-defensively reiterate the decision and rationale for the separation. And, above all, even if it feels like you have a million things to take care of, truly listen to employees.

As you communicate the news of a layoff with impacted employees, it’s vital to demonstrate care and kindness. Instead of apologizing, express appreciation for what your employees have contributed to the team during their tenure. @EmilyM_Elder #SmartTalkHR http://bit.ly/2p9AY51

#8: Partner with an outplacement provider

Sure, it’s possible to handle a layoff without an outplacement provider by your side, but it’s not always easy. When considering a vendor, be sure to choose one that has programs and packages designed specifically for small or midsized companies. The last thing you want is to reach out to an outplacement provider only to be told that you’ll have to sign an expensive long-term contract and sign up for services you’ll never use.

Due to the rising demand from small and midsized businesses, RiseSmart offers an “Express” version of its outplacement and career transition services technology. RiseSmart Express is designed with SMBs in mind. Businesses can purchase outplacement resources a la carte, depending on the position of the transitioning employee, as well as manager notification training and other services.

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how to find a job during the pandemic.

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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.

submitted by

wendy braitman