Job searching is always hard, but COVID-19 has made it even harder. Thousands of employees have been laid off, and many who kept their jobs are working more with less stability. We’re all asking the same questions: Are our predictions worth anything at all? Forget about five years – what will the market look like months from now? Is anyone safe? But it’s not all doom and gloom. Times of churn are always rife with opportunity.
Some industries are in crisis, but some are unaffected and still others are booming. Jobs have disappeared, but in many cases they’ve popped back up elsewhere. So, how to network for a job during this pandemic?
Remote work has taken off, setting the stage for more job mobility than ever before. And companies are still hiring at a higher rate than at any point from 2000 to 2017. There’s debate as to who has the upper hand now (employers or job seekers), but if you’re part of the 61% of job seekers looking to switch industries, now is the time.
You will need to adapt your job search to the pandemic, just as employers are. This is where we come in.
Before You Begin Interviewing:
Ensure Your Basic Needs Are Met
You won’t perform well if you’re freaking out about paying rent. Browse these FAQs if you need help with essentials like rent, food, or healthcare. Next, set up a clean, functional workspace with reliable internet. Here’s a list of office essentials suggestions curated by long-term remote workers.
Finally, plan your search. Decide how much time you’ll dedicate per day, make a list of your top target employers, and go through your network to identify contacts who may be able to help. Don’t forget to include frequent connection with your support network in your plans. Job seeking is incredibly draining, but you’re not going through it alone.
Do Your Research
It’s a good idea to stay apprised of how your industry (or your target industry) is adapting to the pandemic. You might join a LinkedIn group or keep tabs on an industry subreddit to find out where the demand is, and find ways to market yourself as a candidate to fill that gap. This might require you to change your thinking about your own experiences. For example, product managers in many industries have had to scrap product roadmaps and start from scratch. Experience making big, last-minute changes is going to look good in a way you probably never predicted.
Of course, you’ll also want to keep tabs on who’s hiring and connect with other job seekers like yourself. You never know what could come of it.
Upgrade Your Pitch
You may have to up your game in attracting the attention of employers as competition is high. You’re unique – emphasize that! Take some time to think about what differentiates you. Keep a spreadsheet with every career accomplishment you can think of in as much detail as possible.
You’ve probably already optimized your LinkedIn, but as a job seeker it’s time to give it another pass. Ensure you put the best version of yourself on social media. Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues and ask them to list your best qualities, or to describe you in three words.
Outside input is very important during times such as these – it’s easy to become overwhelmed with self-doubt and your perspective may become distorted, so make sure you’ve got easy access to evidence of your success. It will boost your confidence, and it’ll give you plenty to talk about once you start interviewing.
Throughout Your Search:
Plan for Engagement With Top Potential Employers
You knew this was coming. Take that list of target employers and do a deep-dive. You’ll want to pull all the standard information – mission and value statements, sample interview questions from Glassdoor, employee LinkedIn profiles – but you also want to get a sense of how they’re dealing with the pandemic. Find out how they’ve handled COVID-19; what is the emergency plan for staff? If they’ve laid-off workers, how were they notified and supported in their job search?
Prioritize from there. Look for openings, find relevant contacts to introduce you to hiring managers, and work on resume-building projects to showcase your domain credibility.
If you’re unsure of how to craft your resume according to target employer needs or you’re struggling to find inspiration for a few projects, check out these tips courtesy of a former Google Software Engineer.
Move Your Network Online
Jobs are not ‘gone’; they have been adapted to a virtual space. You need to do the same. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it will be hard to avoid the necessity of making connections online. Many great jobs aren’t posted publicly, and a colleague-advocate will always help your chances at securing an interview.
How to network for a job during quarantine? You can connect with companies you’re hoping to work with and follow them on all social media platforms so you can stay informed. If you’re in tech, now is a good time to finally start that Medium blog.
Post your work on GitHub and share your insights – you never know who is watching, and contributing to the community will give you an entry point to speak to those who might be able to help you.
Upgrade Your Skill Set
42% of job applicants don’t meet posted job requirements, but 84% of HR managers report that their company is open to hiring trainable (if unqualified) employees. This is a call to take advantage of the time spent at home and work on yourself.
Boost your skills and qualifications by taking online classes. If you’ve followed our suggestions above, you’ve got an inventory of what you’re good at, and you know what your target companies/industries are looking for – now is the time to bridge the gap. Determine what you can reasonably learn in the time frame you’re working with, and figure out how to get it done.
You can learn almost anything online – most of it for free! Want to learn about machine learning? Try Google’s Machine Learning Crash Course. How about graphic design? Here’s a list of 14 free resources. And that’s without even mentioning Massive Opening Online Course (MOOCs), EdX, Coursera and Udemy, all of which offer classes on everything from project management to data science.
Practice Video Interviews
There’s a big chance you land at least an interview reasonably quickly, and right now, we are all social distancing. You won’t have a physical interview which means much less information to intake on body language, tone, etc. Still, there can be benefits to this.
You’ll be interviewing on your own turf. You’ll sit in your own chair in your clean, functional environment (it matters!) and you can draw comfort from that. But if it’s your first time interviewing virtually, you’ll need to prep.
You’ll dress appropriately just like you are going for an actual interview (of course). Make sure your background is tidy and not distracting. Most importantly, choose a quiet environment- one you have control over.
Next, test all the technology you’ll need to use. If your interview will be via Zoom, make sure to download ahead of time. Ask friends or family to do a dry run with you so that you know how to work the platform and to test your internet connection. It may be uncomfortable at first, but practice looking directly into the camera when speaking.
Finally, Take Care of Yourself
You’re probably sick to death of hearing the phrase “unprecedented times”, but we’re still in the thick of it. The emotional cycle of excitement, tension, and disappointment inherent in any job search is going to be amplified by all the uncertainty in the world. It’s going to be hard. Even if you’re eminently qualified, you’ll have down days. Thousands and thousands of people are struggling – and not just fellow job seekers. Recruiters, hiring managers – everyone you interact with. Because of that though, there’s incredible empathy to be found.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and share your experience. If you can, lend a hand to someone else. In the meantime, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy food, and call your loved ones. Alternate between pushing yourself (attending that virtual networking event, taking that scary course) and rest. You’ll land a great new job soon. Good luck!
Interviewing for an upcoming tech job? Check out Exponent’s free online courses to get the prep you need