In April, employers scrapped 20.7 million jobs due to the pandemic, leading to a 14.7 percent jobless rate and 33 million Americans filing for unemployment aid that same month—the highest since at least the 1940s. That’s according to a report the government published Friday, which also revealed that the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 13.3 percent in May, due in part to employers adding 2.5 million jobs in May. Whether you view this as a glimmer of hope amidst the current economic downturn, the ramifications of the pandemic persist: many people’s incomes have been slashed or dropped to zero either due to layoffs or furloughs, recent grads’ jobs are being rescinded and some are still waiting for their stimulus check.
All things considered, it’s safe to say now is an inopportune moment to launch a job search. Nevertheless, some companies are still hiring. To pivot your job search during coronavirus, we spoke with Shanna Hocking, a leadership and career development expert who's the founder of a daily career podcast, One Bold Move A Day and the author of an eBook, All Your Biggest Career Questions—Answered. Ahead Hocking shares her tips on finding a job and sticking to your dream career for recent grads, handling layoffs and pivoting job search for current professionals, networking from home and nailing a video interview.
Recent Grads: Staying True to Your Dream Career in the Time of Coronavirus
First, I want to acknowledge this is a hard time to graduate and be out there looking for a job. You have worked hard to get to this point. None of that goes away because the world is in crisis. Keeping showing up for yourself even if it looks different right now. The world needs you.
I also want to share about my own experience working toward my dream job after graduation. During college, I spent four years working as an intern in fundraising. During my senior year, I sent 100 applications around the country to be a major gifts officer at a university. After many lengthy interviews at different organizations, I received rejection after rejection. (I often heard I didn’t have the experience needed for the role.) In the end, not one university offered me a job. At that point, I had to acknowledge that I wouldn’t get my dream job on the timeline I planned—but I also refused to give up the dream.
You may have to take a “for right now” job, like I did, while building your skills for when the timing is a bit better. Stay focused on your dreams and follow through.
After 10 months, I got the job I’d been waiting for. Now nearly 20 years, I am in the same industry, continuing to pursue my dream as a senior-level leader.
Recent Grads: Pivoting Job Search
- Spend time updating your LinkedIn profile with your experience, skills, and special projects. This is your opportunity to highlight what you want people to think about you and position yourself as a great candidate for a specific industry or role. Additionally, I recommend following influencers and leaders you admire, so you can stay informed of their content. (Yet another way to stay apprised of emerging trends and best practices—a key theme in differentiating yourself as a candidate in the future).
- Stay connected with people who have mentored you, industry contacts, former colleagues, and others who have been helpful to you in your career. Reach out to them to wish them well and see how they are doing. This is your chance to reconnect with them as people, not just as job search connections.
- It may seem a bit obvious, but it’s frequently overlooked: Build your skills, so you have more to offer when applying to future roles. Pursue certifications or online courses (then be sure to add them to your resume!) to develop experience directly related to your target industry. It’s never been easier to develop new skills by accessing learning online. If you’re not sure where to start, think about the jobs you didn’t get and review those job descriptions to see what may have been missing from your skillset.
Managers and Employees: Navigating Layoffs and Job Hunt
Layoffs are not easy for managers or employees, especially when it’s due to the company needing to adjust in an economic downturn.
- When considering your next job, think through what you loved about your last role and what you didn’t. This is your chance to find a role that brings you new learning and hopefully leverages your strengths.
- Reach out to other people for support, whether friends or family, mentors, or people who have been helpful to your career. Everyone experiences difficult moments in their careers and lives. You don’t have to do this alone.
- Make time to care for yourself. There are many stresses related to living through this experience. Prioritize your mental and physical health in addition to problem-solving for next steps. Building muscle through exercise is great practice for building resilience.
Networking Tips for When You Can't Leave Home
Because there aren't built-in networking opportunities, such as conferences, industry meet-ups, or other gatherings, you'll have to be even more intentional in making connections. Consider social media chats, webinars, and online discussion groups. The same guidance applies that you should schedule your networking time or it won't be a priority.
Throughout my career, I have reached out to many people I don’t know. It’s led to job opportunities, mentoring conversations, meaningful email exchanges, and learning. If it feels intimidating to think about what to say, Episode 10 has a template you can use, along with other tips. Now even more than ever, you need to put yourself out there with one bold move a day—and follow through.
Nailing a Virtual Job Interview
Prepare for a video interview similarly to how you would prepare for an in-person interview, while being aware of the differences. Practice answering the interview questions you anticipate. The more comfortable you feel about how you’ll navigate the interview itself, the more you’ll be able to handle anything unexpected that happens in these new circumstances. In thinking about how you’ll present yourself on the video, consider the background that will be visible in your video screen. Everyone understands you’re working from home. Hopefully you can find a corner with a plain wall or that is at least less cluttered! I recommend dressing for the virtual interview as you would for the in-person interview to show your professionalism. Finally, be sure to check your technology. If you do all the right things to prepare, but you can’t get connected, it will be a missed opportunity. Pro-tip: When speaking, make an effort to look directly into the camera (not the whole time, which would feel creepy!) to give the interviewer a chance to feel like they are connecting with you. After the interview, be sure to send a thank you note or email to your interviewer to show your appreciation and continued interest in the role.
Job Email Etiquette in Coronavirus
I always think it’s okay for a candidate to thoughtfully follow up after an interview if you haven’t heard anything within the timeline they shared with you, or generally about two weeks after you sent your thank you note. I don’t advise pressuring a manager to share information they may not have. It’s better to share how you will be able to contribute to the company. Recognize that managers are people, too and they are also dealing with a lot right now in terms of managing their teams during this crisis and navigating potential return-to-work plans (as well as caring for their own families), in case they don’t respond to you right away.
What Comes After Coronavirus?
I am hopeful that what comes out of this experience is more compassionate managers. This crisis has reinforced that everything is truly integrated with work and family. As a leader and working mother, I have worked to role model for others that you can love your career and your family. This feels like our opportunity to support employees in bringing their whole selves to work and meaning it.
I think candidates should dig deeper on questions about the culture of the office and how the office is managing and supporting staff during the pandemic. This crisis has shown which organizations truly care about their people. I’m fortunate to work somewhere that does.