With record numbers of Americans filing for unemployment insurance and many companies and public entities placing a moratorium on hiring, the once-tight labor market is suddenly overloaded with quality applicants. Stronger competition and fewer jobs make for tough sledding for recently displaced workers, but that is no reason to give up. There are plenty of companies who will survive and even flourish during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternative work arrangements, emerging industries, and government supports will provide ample opportunities for workers with the right skill sets and those who take the right approach to their job search.
Metasys has compiled a list of best practices for job seekers to follow during the outbreak.
Work your network
The health crisis has forced most workers to shelter in their homes, making it more difficult to socialize with friends and former business associates and clients. Thankfully, there are plenty of technological shortcuts for reestablishing connections with people who are willing and able to aid you in tracking down job leads. In fact, with the cancellation of job fairs and discontinuation of association meetings, online networking could be the most important tool in your arsenal. Professional and affinity groups abound online. Join a few, post to their forums, and establish yourself as a valuable resource. You never know who may be watching.
Networking includes reconnecting with former employers, ex-colleagues who have moved on to other firms, and places where you interviewed before. If you were exploring the possibility of changing jobs before COVID-19 struck, you may still be under consideration at companies to which you applied. Don’t write them off. It is likely they have slowed their hiring process. Email the human resources department to keep your name top of mind. Acknowledge the crazy times but express your interest in continuing the application process when it the company is in position to do so. You could mention your skills relevant to the current situation. You might land a freelance gig that can not only help pay the bills, but also give you a foot in the door come hiring time.
Prepare for remote interviews
As you grow and nurture your contacts, you and your network can help each other prepare for the new interviewing reality. Most organizations will conduct preliminary interviews ether on the phone or via video. Chatting with a friend or colleague who is also looking for work is a good way to practice for remote interviews. Ask each other the common questions: Why should we hire you? Can you give me an example of a time you demonstrated leadership? Disagreed with a supervisor? Overcame a challenge? etc. Practice not only your answers, but also your delivery, tone of voice, and facial expressions.
If you do score a video or one-way interview, download the platform and practice, practice, practice. Many video interview apps let you record sample answers and view the video as your interviewer would see it. You can experiment to find the location in your home with the best lighting, acoustics, and professional background, adjust the angle of your webcam to eliminate glare, and decide if you would rather sit or stand during the interview.
Diction, clarity, and appropriate volume is even more important during telephone interviews than they are on video. Your interviewer cannot depend on visual clues to understand the meaning of your words, so you must be precise and clear. Speak with enthusiasm. Smile when you speak; it really does come through on the other end. At the conclusion of the interview, when you are asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” the answer is always, “YES.” Show that you have done your homework about the company and are interested enough in working there to solicit additional information.
Learn new skills
Being unemployed is no fun, but it does provide the perfect opportunity to learn marketable skills that will expand your opportunities for finding work. Lots of sites allow free trials to their digital and video professional development courses. You could start by learning skills that are related to those you already possess. If you cut your teeth on traditional marketing, why not brush up on SEO, podcasting, or graphic design? Knowing how to put together an ad or web video from start to finish could make you a more valuable addition to a small advertising firm. There are plenty of technical, leadership, and office skills you can learn from universities’ extended learning and community colleges’ certification classes. Professional associations also offer certification. Earning them will help keep you busy and boost your credentials and confidence when you apply for jobs.
To help you choose the best courses, make note of job requirements and preferences as you search online listings. Which skills and computer program do employers in your field demand? You should also update skills you have but have not used lately. If you were a top salesperson before being promoted to sales manager, you could upgrade your communication and people skills with a refresher course.
Update your resume and portfolio
If you have been with the same company and haven’t gone job shopping lately, your resume and portfolio of work samples may be in need up a tune-up. What you may consider run-of-the-mill work for your employer may be just the thing another company needs. Take some time to collect your best work samples and build or add to an online portfolio. At the same time, tweak your resume by adding skills and responsibilities you assumed for your former employer.
Top-load your resume with your competencies and don’t worry so much about listing the job titles you have held and the companies you have worked for. While you’re at it, write an accomplishments-based biography you can use as a sort of digital elevator speech to introduce yourself to people who peruse your portfolio or visit your LinkedIn page. The biography also will familiarize the people in your network with your abilities and education so they can match you with hiring managers they may know.
Finally, construct a few different versions of a cover letter, each emphasizing one of your core skills. Use these as templates, picking the one that most closely matches each job you apply for. Remember to customize the letter to match the job qualifications.
No one knows how the COVID-19 pandemic will alter the world’s approach to work and employment. Be flexible when pursuing the next chapter in your career. Your next job may be as a freelancer, remote employee, or some other arrangement. Even before the virus outbreak, companies were unbundling job tasks from job titles, breaking them down into micro-jobs. The pandemic may accelerate that trend. Metasys has been in the vanguard of this change, meeting the challenge head-on and rewriting industry benchmarks. Leveraging our contacts throughout a range of industries, we highlight your skills and contributions and always seek out the best work environment and situation for you. Visit our job portal to browse available positions.