If you’re one of the millions of Americans who has lost their job due to the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, it may seem daunting to job hunt given the sheer amount of other people looking, as well as the logistics of finding work amidst safety restrictions and social distancing.
First, remember that you’re not competing against the whole workforce. People in numerous fields are dealing with unemployment now. Focus on what kind of job you’re looking for. Take inventory of how your education, training, experience, skills and qualities set you apart. Once you start to do that, you’ll feel more confident as you proceed with your job search.
Job hunting at a time when just about everyone is working at home can present some unique challenges. However, the fundamentals are basically the same.
Create or Dust Off Your Resume
Whether you’re creating your very first resume, writing one for the first time in years, or you’re just fine-tuning a previous version, making a resume stand out is both an art and a science. You want the hiring software to spot it, but you also want it to look clean and organized when a person eventually looks at it.
Typically, a resume has the following components:
- Name and contact info
- Professional objective
- Work history – listing not just your job duties, but your accomplishments
- Additional skills, certifications and honors
- Education – Include all degrees and majors. You don’t need to list your graduation year(s).
There are a lot of good sources for free resume and cover letter help. Resume.com, Kickresume.com and ResumeGenius.com are three sites that help you build a resume. They provide templates as well as examples for people in specific careers.
If you have already have a resume, update it with your most recent job experience and consider deleting some of your earlier jobs, especially if they have little relevance to your current career and/or if they’re more than a couple of decades old.
Unless you’re applying for jobs in vastly different fields, you’ll probably need one basic resume. However, you may want to tweak it as you send it out in response to various job postings. (Save variations of your resume with different titles, so you can easily grab one that fits the job opening.) Try to incorporate terms in your resume that are used in the job postings. This will help your resume get selected by the applicant tracking systems and databases that most employers use.
Cover letters can be just as important as resumes to getting an interview. Use your cover letters to highlight how your skills and experience fit the job to which you’re applying.
Enhance Your Repertoire
Are prospective employers looking for skills you don’t have or haven’t mastered? Now is the time to expand and improve upon them. Kickresume.com has a list of top sites for online learning, where you can brush up on coding, website design, digital marketing and more. If becoming more fluent in Spanish, Mandarin or another language would help your career, RosettaStone.com, Duolingo.com and other sites offer online language learning. Just about anything you’d like to learn can be found on a website or app.
Don’t forget your managerial skills. If you were promoted to a supervisory position by your last employer, but never really had any training in managing and motivating people, now’s the time to work on those skills. If you don’t want to spend the money for an online class, find a few good books. Typically, ebooks are less expensive than paperbacks or hardbacks. Audible.com has a 30-day free trial if you prefer to listen to your books while you’re working out, gardening or doing laundry.
Learn to Sell Yourself – Via Video
When you land an interview, take a minute to congratulate yourself! Given social distancing precautions, the interview may very well be on a videoconferencing app like FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. Make sure you have it downloaded on your computer or phone and have allowed for plenty of time to test it out. Also be sure to test your Wi-Fi connection. If you need to use your phone, make sure you can place it somewhere secure so that you don’t have to hold it. If you can, practice with a friend or family member using the device, videoconferencing service, and room you plan on using for the interview so you can check the video and audio quality in advance.
Some tips for the call:
- Dress professionally (and not just from the waist up). If you dress for a video job interview in the appropriate attire head-to-toe (including shoes), you’ll feel more professional and confident.
- Make sure you won’t be bothered by kids, animals or whomever is at home. Arrange for adult supervision for your children if they need it. Close the windows to prevent outside noises from distracting you. Unless you’re using your phone for the interview, turn it off and put it away. If you’re doing the interview on your phone, make sure you put it in “Do Not Disturb” or whatever mode you need in order to keep it from making noise if you get an incoming call or message. Shut the door and put a sign on it so that no one interrupts you.
- Keep the area around your computer free of clutter other than a pen, notebook or pad, and a copy of your resume and cover letter. Have any correspondence you’ve received from the prospective employer available for reference as well. Take a look at the area around and behind you. Are there any photos, posters or artwork on the walls that could be considered inappropriate or controversial? Take it down or cover it up.
- Be ready early and be sure to have the log-in information and code. Make sure you’re clear on which one of you is initiating the call. (And what time zone it’s in! Never assume the HR department is local.)
- Remember to look at the webcam on your device and not just the screen. That’s the best way to engage directly and appear to be making eye contact.
All the normal job interview advice still applies. Do your homework about the company, be prepared to ask questions that show you’ve done your research. Sell yourself by emphasizing how your experience and characteristics fit with the job for which they’re hiring.
Your potential employer may need people who can work remotely — either temporarily or permanently. Let them know you are logistically able to work at home (if you are) and that you’re also someone who doesn’t need constant in-person supervision to meet goals and deadlines.
Ask for Help
You can still network even if you can’t have lunch with former colleagues or go to networking gatherings. Update your information on LinkedIn and any other online industry profiles you have. Your college alumni association likely has some networking resources.
While checking in with colleagues, be sure to use tact if you ask for help on job leads. Many may be in the same boat as you employment-wise and worried about getting another job themselves. When you check in, be sure you actually “check in.” Find out how you be of help to them. The whole idea of networking is to help one another.
How you go about your job search will depend largely on what kind of work you do. If your whole industry has been impacted by the pandemic, consider in what other industries your job skills are applicable. Many industries are increasingly relying on remote workers, and are putting processes and technology in place to allow employees to work from home long-term.
Of course, some types of work will always be necessary. That’s where showing that you’re able to learn new skills and adapt to new situations—and even getting into a new line of work—will benefit you as you look for a new job. By showing potential employers that you’re not just willing, but eager, to try new technology and learn new things, you’ll be demonstrating that you have a positive, “can do” attitude that will make you an asset to their company.
In addition to looking at individual company websites, there are a lot of job search sites, including:
Look at sites geared to your line of work. Don’t rule out looking at temporary or temp-to-hire jobs. Some companies may not be in a position to hire “permanent” employees right now. A temporary job can help you get in the door, prove your value to the company and get hired when the company is able to do so.
Good luck, and stay positive.