How to Job Search in The Age Of COVID-19
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels and still rising.
Job seekers are understandably devastated and grieving from layoffs. Others, who were mid-search, are unsure about how to carry on looking for a new role when companies are issuing hiring freezes.
How can you adjust your strategy and stay motivated to find work you love despite these unique conditions?
PRIORITIZE YOUR BASIC NEEDS FIRST
If you’ve been laid off due to COVID19, it’s important to prioritize getting your basic needs met first. Apply for unemployment benefits right away through the Department of Labor in the state in which you worked. Thanks to the recently passed CARES Act, the benefit amount was increased by $600 a week and the program was opened up to contract workers for the first time. Phone wait times are long, and some state websites are crashing due to being overwhelmed but keep at it. The sooner you apply, the sooner your benefit checks will arrive.
VERIFY STATUS WITH PRIOR EMPLOYER
Get in touch with your (former) employer to try to get a sense of whether or not they may be in a position to rehire you in the near future. As scary as it may be, you need to get clear about your personal finances and know what resources can tide you over until you have money coming in again.
STAND OUT FROM THE PACK
Unemployment has hit record levels, which means more people are job searching than ever before. To stand out from the pack, it’s important to ensure that your entire job search strategy tells a clear and compelling story. From your cover letter and resume to your LinkedIn profile and even how you present yourself in virtual interviews, people trust people who are consistent.
A professional resume writer can ensure the narrative expressed in your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile is consistent and competitive. A Career Coach can help you develop a clear story that explains the motivation behind your job search: why are you looking and what are you looking for? Explain what choices you've made in the past that have led you to where you are today. If you can distill all your experiences down to a clear story that's reinforced repeatedly throughout all your job search assets, you’re more likely to be perceived as memorable, trustworthy, and authentic.
PIVOT YOUR JOB SEARCH STRATEGIES
Given this new job search environment, certain strategies can be more effective in this new normal?
You can no longer look to coffee meetings and networking events. Now is the age of online networking. To network your way to your next job, it’s imperative you continue to grow and activate your network even while practicing social distancing.
So what does that look like? Sending lots of initial outreach emails - to former colleagues, mentors, friends, and friends of friends - and asking for a virtual meeting, preferably over video chat. Then, make the most of your meeting by sharing your story and asking about theirs. What’s motivated their past career decisions? What are the trends they’re seeing in the industry? What do they enjoy most about their current workplace?
Try to identify common values and shared experiences to foster connection. And then ask outright for their advice. Be specific about what kind of support you need such as resume feedback or an email-introduction to another contact, or putting in an internal referral with HR.
Do not drop the ball when it comes to the follow-up game. That's where you have the chance to show your contact that you're reliable, gracious, and professional. Send a timely (within 24 hours) thank you note and send along anything else they might need to help you - like a pre-written brief blurb they can use when making email introductions on your behalf, i.e.
And finally, give to them. Send them an article they might be interested in. Make a connection for them to someone in your network. Make a book suggestion on a topic you discussed that they might find interesting. Networking is a two-way street. You have opened a conversation, be respectful and generous.
USE THIS TIME WISELY
If you’re not hearing back from employers right now, use this time to build skills, enhance your knowledge, or broaden your perspective.
Seek out books, podcasts, seminars, etc., that cover professional development topics, or work on your leadership and communication skills.
Take this time to audit your online presence to ensure your online brand is helping - and not hurting - your job search odds. And if you want to come across as a polished professional, build out a CV website to ensure your digital footprint is one you can be proud of.
Lastly, if you are facing career uncertainty, take this time to do some Career Exploration. This work will help you define your unique skill set and what career direction beside your current one, can be explored to maximize your chances of finding a new position, as well as increasing your job satisfaction.
In times of uncertainty, jobseekers can panic and start applying to everything and anything. Resist this urge. What you're really grasping for is the sensation of progress - which is inherently motivating - but this way of going about it can be misleading. If you're applying half-heartedly to a job a day just to cross it off your TO-DO list, you may be falling victim to keeping score of a number that doesn't really matter.
Aim for quality instead of quantity.
A better way to measure progress is in terms of relationship-building since networking can have a much better return on investment when it comes to finding the right opportunities. Aim to have 3-5 informational interviews a week and give your all to the few applications you send out to job postings you really want. A targeted appeal will yield better results than the buckshot approach now made possible by all the emergence of “easy apply” buttons.
CONNECT WITH A CAREER COACH
Connecting with a Career Coach can help you sustain motivation amid the uncertainty.
We can all be our harshest critics. Get out of your head and talk to a Career Coach to gain clarity and perspective. When you’re feeling fearful, vulnerable, and worried, we need connection. It can be hard to seek out, of course, but it’s kind of like exercise in that way: it’s hard to get started, but you almost always feel better afterward. Set up a free consultation to talk through your search with a trusted ally. Odds are, they can revamp your resume to ensure it is optimized to showcase your value and can offer Interview Prep to heighten your confidence once you do secure an interview.
Of course, everyone is concerned about how long this will last, and what the impact will be on our lives, families, and careers. Re-setting expectations for career advancement has been frustrating. If you’re fortunate enough to have a stable job right now, it feels like moving up or pursuing progress of any kind is on hold. Many others are experiencing job insecurity, too, which can induce panic as we focus our most immediate needs like security and safety, food, and finances. It's difficult to access higher-order strategic thinking when your basic needs feel threatened. A Career Coach can be the advocate you need to keep you from being overwhelmed and to ensure you are always focused on the right things.