Job Searching in a Pandemic
Elizabeth Shultz, M.E.d, CRC, CPRW
Job Searching in a Pandemic is not an easy task to complete. Whether you suddenly found yourself unemployed or realize job security is not to be taken for granted and have spent time recently looking for employment, then you know the job search game has changed. Less than six months ago, the job market was an employee market meaning the average job-seeker would likely have multiple options. However, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 2020), there are now approximately 16 million unemployed individuals in the U.S. That’s a lot of competition. Even the most qualified job seekers are having to make concessions.
Résumés Are More Than Keywords
Pre-COVID, only 2% of applicants received an interview after submitting an online application. Consider this, if there are 14 million people unemployed and half of those folks are applying for work by sending out a conservative estimate of 25 resumes per month, then 175 million resumes are hitting the job boards and career portals across the US. Then how do you stand out?
Think culture. An employer will hire someone they like over someone with more qualifications. After all, you can’t teach personality. (Think about the impact of one personality that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team. It could be a detrimental hiring move that can undermine the productivity of an entire department.) Check the employer website for clues about the work environment and company culture. Then take it a step further and check out their social media sites. What type of image are they projecting? From the website, you may also be able to determine who you will be working with directly. If so, check out their LinkedIn pages. Then tie this information directly into the professional statement of your résumé or cover letter in a genuine way.
Job Search Strategy
First, let’s explore what jobs are available now. As of July 2020, these areas saw gains: government, professional and business services, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and warehouse, real estate, and social assistance. Although, many of these industries continue to be well-below employment levels in February. You can increase your chances of finding employment if you consider crossing industries. Start with an inventory of your transferrable skills or skills that are applicable across multiple industries. Some examples include customer service, leadership, data analysis, adaptability, and technology literacy.
Networking is a must, even in a pandemic, and LinkedIn is your friend. Yes, it can be intimidating. But remember we all started out with zero connections. Additionally, look for opportunities within trade and professional organizations which could include organized activities. Set time aside weekly to engage in posts or privately messaging connections to nurture relationships. They will bear fruit.
Remember, the hidden job market. This term refers to the jobs that are not publicly posted. By networking, you are more likely to become aware of job opportunities that are not available to the general public.
Keep a Positive Outlook
Keep hope. Remember, this is a super competitive market. Little victories should be celebrated such as getting an employer response even if it’s a rejection. It still takes time and effort to respond to applications especially considering the employers could be seeing thousands of resumes for one opening. It may take longer to find the right job, but don’t be afraid to accept a job offer in the meantime. Some work is better than no work. Job seekers with gaps in their resumes are going to be at a disadvantage compared to those who worked through the pandemic.
With all the competition, don’t dare pull a template off the internet for a résumé. Nor should you neglect your LinkedIn profile and summary. These are the pillars of your job search; it makes sense to invest time and effort in them. If writing isn’t your thing or if you’re having trouble coming up with accomplishments or powerful adjectives, there are resources. Kentucky Career Center, the Urban League, and even the Library offer free services to the general public. If you feel you need a more personalized approach, you should try hiring a career counselor or professional résumé writer. They will have the expertise to establish the best platform to showcase your skills and attributes to the right potential employers giving you a competitive edge over other applicants.