Is anyone hiring?
Not really. There are, indeed, industries and companies that are going strong, but they’re not necessarily adding to their headcount right now. Everyone’s in waiting. HR departments are in an Arctic freeze. People with jobs are clinging to them like driftwood in the cold open sea. Unemployment numbers are rising, which means the competition for life rafts is growing.
It’s hard to be cooped up in your house, knowing all of this is going, feeling like you should be “out there” looking for work.
Still, it’s always better to take action during a crisis. Action delivers a sense of progress. It fans the flame of hope in the night while we pray for the sun to come back over the horizon.
Here are some ways to stay productive and generate your own warmth in this time of uncertainty:
#1) Work on your arsenal.
Everyone’s job search requires the same ammo. At the very least, you need a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Make sure you have each and that they’re honed to perfection.
To further differentiate yourself, consider a reference sheet, an executive bio, or a “Highlighted Accomplishments” list, where you dive a bit deeper and break down your most impressive accomplishments into specific challenges, actions, and results.
Tell the whole story.
#2) Develop your portfolio (finally).
One of the most popular back-burner items on everyone’s list is creating an online portfolio. Usually, we’re too busy doing the work to worry about showcasing it. But now, many of us have more time than we’re used to, trying not to feel the drift.
Particularly in times of unsureness, it’s important to remember your achievements and to celebrate your wins. What better way than to go through and write about them, organize them in neat little rows, design a website dedicated to your legacy of greatness?
Immortalize your high points. You’ll impress yourself as much as your target audience.
#3) Come up with a short list.
The most successful job seekers run targeted job searches. That means they take more time to apply to fewer jobs overall.
There may be a bazillion companies out there in your field, but probably only 10-20 that are a really great fit for you. Find out who and where they are. If you already know them by name, get to know them better.
Go further than scouring their website. Read the news on them, check out employee and customer sentiment on review sites, subscribe to industry journals, follow their leadership on social media, map out their employees’ public profiles, read their blog. Learn their timeline, their trajectory, their challenges and triumphs.
Become an expert and write it all down. Then revisit your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, and make sure they line up with who they are and what they’re all about.
#4) Practice your webcam interviewing.
Interviewing over a webcam is an entirely different talent than doing it in person or over the phone. Get good at it.
This means ensuring your setup casts you in the right light, literally. Run a few tests to make sure you and your background look professional. You needn’t go out and buy new equipment; your phone or laptop probably has a good enough camera. But try it out now.
Practice talking into the camera, not at the screen. (You’ll develop a new appreciation for newscasters and video bloggers.) It’s counterintuitive, but you’ll build rapport more if you stare at the camera aperture instead of looking at your interviewer when you talk.
#5) Become better at something.
There’s always room for improvement.
Take a class at any number of reputable online programs, such as Udemy, Coursera, or General Assembly. They cost anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred dollars. You can take a short 1-day course or an entire bootcamp.
Follow your interests. Burrow into your field. Figure out the part of your candidacy that is lacking and build it up by getting a certification. It’s fun. You’ll have new assignments to keep you busy and something impressive to put on your resume.
#6) Talk with people.
Everything you can do in person, you can do via video chat, phone, text, and email. It may not be as invigorating, but it gets the job done.
Try to connect with at least 2-3 people per day, in a very real and personalized way. Set up an appointment with friends, family, former colleagues, friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues, and long-lost alumni.
Be able to say what you would like to do next in 2 sentences or less, but don’t feel the need to let your elevator pitch drive the conversation. Then, send a follow-up email/text/IM expressing gratitude and a reiteration of what you’re looking for and what you can do for your next employer.
Stay connected in this time of isolation.
#7) Do something different — for now.
One thing about a global pandemic is that everyone is going through it, which means your unemployment period will be forgiven.
You are free to do anything you have to do to make money, so go for it. Make money any way you can. Don’t worry about how it’s going to look on your resume. You won’t have to put it there, even if you do it for several months.
Identify your transferable skills. In other words, what are the core skills you have that are not specific to your industry or job title? From that list, isolate the skills that you can use remotely. Check out job boards and bulletin boards such as Craig’s List and look at the jobs through this new lens of transferable skills to see what you can freelance as.
Best-case scenario, you develop a new part of yourself that actually fits into your longer-term career. Worst case, you do something suboptimal to stay busy, contribute, and bring in some cash.
Both are important.
The whole world is standing still. Now’s the time to assess what you’ve been doing and figure out if you want to keep doing it.
Break down your most recent job into 4 parts: your company, your work group, your role, and your industry. Evaluate each and see if anything is out of whack. If talking it over with a loved one isn’t enough, consider reaching out to a career counselor or life coach to go a bit deeper.
Just because hiring has slowed and the future has clouded over doesn’t mean you have to put your career on hold. You can reshape it and grow it into something better than it was before.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be well.