As if a contagious, life-threatening virus spreading around the world wasn’t stressful enough, millions of people across the country have now found themselves without a job – due to the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the economy and as a result of several workplaces being closed at the moment. According to The Washington Post, more than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the last week of March 2020 alone.
Freshen Up Your Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn
While this job hunt experience will differ from the norm in many ways, when it comes to presenting yourself as a viable candidate, through a well-crafted cover letter, comprehensive resume, engaging LinkedIn profile, and appropriate social media presence, it’s business as usual. “Make sure your resume, cover letter, and social media profile are updated and send an extremely professional impression,” says Ron Auerbach, author of Think Like an Interviewer. “Use this period of unemployment to really improve and hone your job search materials to make them as best as you can.”
In addition, if you’re not online yet, don’t wait to make your mark on the web. Auerbach points out that since more and more people are working outside of the office right now, they are relying even more heavily on sources like LinkedIn and social media accounts to find candidates and get a better sense of them.
Find Companies That Are Hiring
Based on news headlines and unemployment stats it might seem like nobody is hiring at the moment. While it’s true that many companies have had to lay off or furlough a lot of their staff, there are still jobs out there – you just might need to dig a little deeper. “A huge mistake job seekers are making is the presumption that since physical locations are shut, that means they won’t be hiring or needing you. That’s not necessarily true!” says Auerbach.
If you don’t see listings on job boards, search for contact details on company websites and try contacting them directly. “Remember that a lot of businesses have moved to keeping operations running to an extent by using online and remote workers and activities,” he adds.
In your search for current openings, you should also pay attention to the industries that are thriving right now. “You may need to widen your job options, given that some industries may be more adversely affected by the current situation,” says Orbé-Austin. For example, if you worked in the tourism industry in the past, you might find your skills and experience transfer well to a position in the healthcare industry or online grocery field.
Don’t Forget to Network
Networking is always an important element in job hunting. “Only 5 to 10 percent of jobs are gotten through cold online applications, with more than 70 percent secured through networking,” says Orbé-Austin. While it is certainly more challenging to go about networking while under quarantine at home, it is not impossible.
Whether it’s an old colleague, a classmate or someone you’ve been following on LinkedIn, it never hurts to reach out and see if someone would be interested in catching up and connecting over the phone or via video chat. “Now is not the time to worry about how you’re being perceived,” says Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer at Credit Karma. “Many people are looking for ways they can be helpful, so this is the best time to ask for a virtual coffee, an introduction, or advice. It’s always flattering to be asked.”
The benefit of the current situation is that a lot of your contacts might have more time on their hands at the moment and will be more open to a long chat. Just remember, they might be going through a tough time right now, too. Will Bachman, co-founder & Managing Partner of Umbrex says you can mention that you are job hunting, but first “check-in to see how people are doing, and catch up on their journey since the last time you spoke.”
Even when the economy is doing well the job market can be pretty competitive, so now especially you’ll want to make the extra effort to stand out from the pack. Think outside the box a little when it comes to your application and in the way you approach companies and contacts.
This could mean putting a message out on social media that you are available for work, creating a video application and posting it on YouTube, showing off graphic design skills online or writing up a blog post to show off your knowledge of a certain field. “It’s somewhat common to see employers utilize their social media platforms to announce employment opportunities at their place of work, but recently I met a candidate that did the reverse,” says Ilysa Raphael, Vice President of Marketing at Power Home Remodeling. “She posted on her own social media asking if anyone is hiring and it was an amazing tactic.”
Bachman adds: “Create content on what you know – your industry or your function. Or interview experts and learn something new. It is wonderfully satisfying to hit publish and share content with the world – it gives a sense of agency and a sense of purpose, and eventually, it can create a body of work that increases your credibility with a future employer … If you are out in the market creating content and contributing to the conversation, it is a good way to get noticed.
Get Ready for Digital Interviews
You might have had an initial phone interview for jobs in the past, but going through the entire interview process on the phone or via webcam will take some getting used to.
The key is to treat it as you would a regular interview, including dressing for the part and preparing answers and questions accordingly. “Just because you aren’t in an office setting doesn’t make your interview less serious of an opportunity,” says Raphael. “Your appearance should be as professional as if it were in person, at least from the waist up, so ask the HR Rep what they recommend and follow those directions. Make sure you are keeping eye contact and paying attention — no matter what your screen shows, the interviewer can always see you.”
While you might be stressed about your dogs barking or your kids interrupting the interview process, Raphael says to let those worries lie “everyone understands the circumstances we’re all facing,” she adds
Sharpen Skills and Be Patient
It might be difficult to remain positive at this time, but if you keep at it things will turn around eventually. Since most HR teams are working remotely, the standard application and interview process will likely take longer than usual. You have to be a little patient with the process and with yourself.
Bachman recommends using this time to sharpen skills that may have become rusty and try learning some new ones. “Any knowledge worker should be an expert at Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Those who have relied on subordinates to build the model should refresh their Microsoft Excel skills and re-learn how to do pivot tables or create charts,” he says.
“Job hunters should also use this time to develop new skills relevant to today’s market, and the good news is that there is a nearly unlimited range of free or very affordable resources, such as edx.org, Udacity, Coursera, or LinkedIn Learning to develop skills in areas such as data science, search engine optimization, or graphic design.