How to Search for a Job During the Pandemic
If you have recently begun a job search or are anticipating you will launch one soon, you may be concerned about how to approach such an endeavor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The future looks promising with the arrival of vaccines, yet we are still most likely some time away from the work world returning to “normal.” This also begs the question, what will normal look like post-pandemic anyway? In what ways will work and employment be permanently altered?
When an economic downturn occurs, as has happened during the pandemic, employers tend to slow down or pause their recruiting efforts. This results in less job openings than we would usually find during a more robust economy. However, the news is not all doom and gloom. For one, there are still companies and organizations that are hiring, and there are even some industries that have been boosted by the pandemic (e.g., research related to public health). Students have graduated during recessions and economic slowdowns in years past and still have gone on to have successful and fulfilling careers. In other words, don’t panic! Consider the eight suggestions below for finding and securing a worthwhile employment opportunity that will set you on your new career path, even during the pandemic.
8 Tips for Your Pandemic Job Search
1. Adopt a creative and flexible attitude
Prepare to embrace a creative, resilient, and flexible mindset. Job searches during an economic downturn often take longer and seekers usually need to put more effort into their searches. Thus be ready for a longer job search than might be typical. Get creative about what you are looking for. Define your interests and ideal job, and then broaden the opportunities you will consider. Also, consider expanding beyond your target geographical areas. The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you will have. However, this does not mean you need to apply to everything under the sun; just make sure you are not focusing too narrowly during this time.
2. Plan your search
During a weaker job market, it becomes even more important to strategically plan your job search. Devising a job search plan can help you stay on target and know where you should best devote your time and energy. You might create a Job Search System to keep track of the various tasks you will engage in, such as networking, attending virtual events, reaching out to past employers and connections, conducting informational interviews, reviewing job openings, updating your job search documents, researching target organizations, and so on. When will you conduct these tasks? What steps do they entail?
Also keep records of who you speak to, the discussions you have with your connections, and jobs to which you’ve applied. This is helpful during any job search, but it is especially necessary during (what could be) a longer job search. Along with your job search plan, devise a schedule of when you will work on your job searching tasks, perhaps including what days and times.
3. Create a quiet space at home
Job searches are still mostly being conducted from home. Prepare your work area in a quiet, non-distracting place so that you can job search, have virtual networking interactions, and interview without disruption. Notice your surroundings, background, and lighting, especially for video calls. There are numerous articles on how to improve your appearance via these platforms, which share advice such as adding a ring light, making sure you are not sitting with a window behind you, and perhaps even upgrading to a higher resolution webcam.
4. Get to know your field
To stand out in a crowd, make sure you know your field(s) inside and out. What are the current challenges they are facing? What are the latest trends? How has the pandemic impacted the industry? Furthermore, determine what employers are looking for in your field so that you can tailor your job search documents as best as possible.
You might try this exercise: collect 3-5 job postings of the type of work you would eventually like to do (if this includes more than one type of work, collect a few job postings for each area). Then highlight the desired skills, knowledge, and experiences listed in each posting, noticing the words and phrases that repeat across the postings. Take special note of these replications and create a keyword list for your field. These keywords are extremely important to include in your materials and your online profiles. Finally, determine the match between what you offer (your transferable skills, knowledge, and experiences) and what employers in your field are seeking. Notice if there are any gaps, such as a software program that you can study up on via an online MOOC course, for example.
5. Focus on networking
Networking is always important in any job search but will be even more so during this time. Assume that you will most likely not secure an interview at an organization without some type of connection or outreach to a hiring manager. Create a networking plan, including who you will reach out to for informational interviews and how many people you will reach out to each week. Don’t forget to stay in touch with past connections and cultivate new ones. You should also keep track of any virtual networking events you will attend, such as those affiliated with a professional association in your field. Create a list of target companies or organizations where you would like to work, and use LinkedIn’s Alumni Tool to find professionals who now work at those organizations. This is a great way to find people for informational interviews.
For more information on using LinkedIn for networking, check out our blog post Networking on LinkedIn: Using LinkedIn to Expand and Maintain Your Network. We also have several other blog posts on networking and a few webinar recordings on using LinkedIn and on networking in general.
6. Always identify someone to reach out to
Sometimes you will not have a connection at an organization but would really like to apply for an opportunity. Use LinkedIn and other sources to track down a current employee who appears to be the hiring manager (or at least someone who works on the same team). Then reach out to this person to introduce yourself in a brief message and explain why you would be a great fit for the position. A professional message could help you get noticed and stand out positively amongst all the other applicants. For more information on this strategy, see our blog post LinkedIn Connections: Using LinkedIn to Network for a Specific Job.
7. Optimize your LinkedIn profile
There are many reasons to have a stellar LinkedIn profile, just as you want to have top-notch job search materials. But here is another reason to optimize your LinkedIn profile during the pandemic: you don’t want to miss out on another job search method, which is the passive job search or “the job-searching-while-you-are-sleeping” strategy. By optimizing your profile for your field, you are more likely to appear in searches that hiring managers and recruiters conduct on the backend, and you will rank higher in search engine results. Employers will then reach out directly to you about jobs.
To get your profile primed for passive job searching, focus on the industry research you conducted in Tip #4. For more information on getting your LinkedIn profile in tip-top shape, check out our blog post on Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile. We also have several webinar recordings about creating your LinkedIn profile.
8. Prepare for virtual interviews
For the time being, we can expect that the primary method for conducting job interviews will continue to be virtual—via telephone, video conference calls, or even artificial intelligence (AI) platforms. Prepare for these interviews in the same way you would for an in-person interview, but you will also want to take a few additional steps: test out any equipment involved and make sure you have all necessary contact information; consider how you appear on your camera, especially noticing your background and lighting (see Tip #3); pay special attention to your tone of voice, posture, and talking speed during the interviews; and, of course, practice as much as you can via these platforms.
For more information on virtual interviewing, review our blog posts on this topic: How to Ace the Job Interview from Home, Part 1: Phone and Webcam Interviews and How to Ace the Job Interview from Home, Part 2: Video and AI Interviews. We also have a webinar recording on How to Ace the Job Interview from Home.
Taking the above eight steps will help you put your best foot forward and secure desirable job opportunities, even in a challenging job market. The career advisers in our office are also happy to meet with you to assist in strategizing for your specific job search, as well as optimizing your job search materials and online profiles. You can schedule an appointment online. We look forward to working with you!