The isolated search: Finding a job in the middle of a pandemic

by Hanna Horvath
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The isolated search: Finding a job in the middle of a pandemic

The job market was roaring just a few months ago. But the coronavirus has transformed the employment landscape, sparking millions of job losses and transforming work for those who still have jobs. At the same time, it’s also changed the way people look for work, from networking to interviewing to the search itself.

If you’re looking for a new job, expect networking to stand out in a tight market — and plenty of virtual interviews. We talked to career experts for the best tips to conduct an effective job search while isolating at home.

Assess your finances

Consider your financial situation. Do you need to work part-time or freelance while you search for a full-time option?

“Crunch the numbers and think of all your monthly necessities,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. “If it makes more sense for you to work a different, part-time job while you look for something permanent, do that. It’s really up to the person and their economical situation.”

If you are working a part-time job in your industry, network inside the organization. Stand out with a “can-do attitude,” said Salemi. It may lead to a full-time position or, at the very least, a recommendation for your next job.

Tap your network

“The job search has changed during the pandemic in that people are much more accessible digitally,” said Weiner. “We are all very dialed in.”

Now is a great time to set up information interviews. Executives or recruiters may have more bandwidth to chat in isolation. Take the time to fully research them before reaching out, and be earnest in your request. While most will be inclined to help, the interaction shouldn’t feel transactional, said Salemi.

Before reaching out, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. It’s often the first page that appears when someone searches your name online, said Weiner.

“It’s not just an online resume,” she said. “Your profile should speak to your unique value and what your key focus is in the industry.”

Additionally, tap your current network, including friends, acquaintances in your industry and old co-workers. Attend virtual networking events, said Salemi, which can typically be found via LinkedIn or other industry professional groups. Let them know you are looking for a new opportunity. They may be able to connect you with the right person.

Embrace the virtual

Virtual interviews may be the new norm.

“The nature of work is changing,” Salemi said. “There’s more video chats, more video job interviews. Simply the manner in which we communicate with one another has changed.”

Download a video conferencing software like Zoom, if you haven’t already, and practice your answers beforehand, said Salemi. You can practice with friends or family over Facetime, or reach out to your alma mater’s career center for additional help.

The same Monster research found tech fluency will become increasingly important in hiring, as employees will be expected to navigate the tech requirements and challenges of working from home independently. Consider enrolling in a technology crash course to get up to speed.

Create a makeshift interview area in your home that’s quiet and well-lit. Have your resume and notes printed out and hung up next to your screen, so you can easily refer to it throughout the conversation. And even though the camera only captures your torso, fully dress the part, said Weiner. That includes putting on pants.

Do you need to change industries?

This is also a good time to consider whether you want to stay in the same industry. Some industries have been hit harder than others, and may not recover for some time. Consider exploring other options or industries, said Wendi Weiner, personal branding and career expert.

“For example, if you do sales in one industry, you should have no problem making a pivot to doing sales in a different industry,” she said. “It’s about looking at your skills and how you can beef them up to be a target candidate.”

Some industries are doing better than others. Monster research found that at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a surge in demand for jobs directly related to the crisis: Grocery store workers, delivery drivers and health care workers. Now, said Salemi, as the economy starts to reopen, there are job postings in business operations, supply chain management and technology companies.

“We are starting to see jobs that aren’t temporary, that are in stable industries that aren’t going anytime soon,” said Salemi.

Decide what you’re looking for

Get organized before you apply. Create a written plan that includes your industry, companies of interest and any specifics you’re looking for — including benefits, workplace culture, team dynamics or even office location, said Salemi.

“Have some introspection,” she said. “People think that during desperate times they have to put aside their ‘wants’ and take what’s available. But your dream job may be out there. You don’t necessarily have to be stuck doing something.”

Think about your favorite and least favorite parts of your current (or former) job, said Weiner. What would you like to see out of your next role? Getting your thoughts down in once place will help keep you focused and centered through the search.

Emphasize your soft skills. They may come in handy as more companies adjust to the new reality of working from home. Research by Monster found that employers expect a wider range of soft skills from candidates, as they anticipate needing less staff to do more. Soft skills include adaptability, effective communication and problem solving.

“Being able to adapt and work remotely is a huge change for a lot of people,” said Weiner. “Recruiters want to know how you’ve handled current challenges and how you’ve been actively communicating with your team.”

Make your application stand out

Update your resumeif you haven’t already. Think about parts of your work history that show your key contributions, including projects and initiatives you’ve led. You want a result-focused resume, said Weiner. If you need ideas, look at targeted positions in your industry and career level.

“If you’re a sales director and are looking for a lateral move, look at companies currently hiring and what skills and qualifications those companies are looking for,” Weiner said. “That may help articulate the language in your resume or LinkedIn.”

Include any relevant hard skills. Now may be a great time to take an online course or boot camp to revamp your skills or acquire a new one.

Salemi recommends restructuring your resume to match the job description of the role you’re applying for. As a former corporate recruiter, she would structure the job description duties in a list from most to least important. Adjusting your resume to “mirror” the job description will help your application stand out to recruiters, who often only spend a few seconds reviewing each one, she said.

“Your resume should absolutely still be factual, but it doesn’t hurt to adjust it to relate more to the position,” Salemi said.

Clearly defining what you can bring to the table can help you set yourself apart from the competition.

Focus on companies who are hiring right now

News sources like Fast Company and CNBC often cover “hot” or growing companies in different industries, said Weiner. Following or connecting with recruiters who are focused in your career field can also point you to the right companies.

“Not all jobs are posted,” she said. “Some are internal positions that you may be able to get access to through your connections.”

Sign up for job alerts in your inbox, said Salemi. Job posting boards like Monster and Indeed have curated emails based on your preferences.

“You can set up a parameter to include factors like location, the type of job and industry,” she said. “You may find a pattern based on the jobs available and can tailor your application to reflect that.”

See a posting that fits your interests? Apply the same day you see it, if possible, said Salemi. This will increase the chance of your application landing on the top of the pile. Even if you aren’t sure about the exact fit, you can always ask questions later in the interview process.

“Apply, apply, apply,” said Salemi. “Don’t talk yourself out of it, don’t overthink it. You can always negotiate later, when you get an offer.”

The bottom line: Finding a job in a pandemic is possible, but may take a little extra preparation. If you want to learn more, read our guide on how to conduct a long-distance job search.

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko