This is the time to go on the job search. If you are one of the millions of unemployed workers in the U.S., that is an obvious and painful truth. But as the U.S. economy wobbles into a new normal, job seekers of all stripes—those looking for work and those looking to leap from one job to another—are finding that the market is not quite so grim as you might expect.
“A lot of our clients are getting called back after being furloughed,” says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach and the founder of HallieCrawford.com Career Coaching. “Companies, like all of us, want to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible.” She says that one of her clients who was on the job search before the pandemic says that he’s seen no slowdown in the cadence of recruiters and employers reaching out. “I know that’s not the case for everyone, but my overall perspective is pretty optimistic.”
Part of the reason for optimism in general is that COVID-19 has reshuffled the deck. Work and the way we do it looks different now. Remote work has gone from a perk that managers hate to the salvation of the business world. With the realization that it works—and works well—comes the added benefit of removing geography from many jobs. A worker in Nebraska can excel at a job in New York City. The spouse of a worker in New Orleans can get a job in Los Angeles. And with entirely new markets opened to workers comes new career opportunities.
If you are going on the job hunt, make sure your resume reflects that. “We’ve told our clients to put some language in there about flexibility and that you’re adaptable—able to deliver your product, your service, your value whether working remotely through virtual meetings, in person, or however.” Moreover, Crawford says that her clients are adding to their resumes bullet points on how they handle crisis management. Post-pandemic, more than a few readers of ClearanceJobs can now claim to have turned around entire departments for major organizations, running remotely practically overnight. That’s an impressive, proven success. “Reference those kinds of things because they are important now, and are transferable.” They speak to leadership strength and consensus building at critical moments.
It’s not only the nature of the job that has changed; so too has the nature of the job search. “Try to be patient,” says Crawford. “It’s a little bit like holiday time, where people are a bit slower. But it’s definitely not completely dead in the water at all.”
WORKING YOUR JOb SEARCH NETWORK
“Now is a great time to look for a new position—but don’t quit just yet!” says Adam Sanders, the director of Successful Release, an organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged populations find financial and professional success. “There are a lot of new opportunities that are popping up, but we’re also dealing with a very high unemployment rate and a potential recession. Start looking for new opportunities but don’t do anything to jeopardize your current position.”
He suggests that you tell everyone you know what you’re looking for, career-wise, but try to keep it under wraps at work. “Your personal network of family, friends, and acquaintances can be your most powerful asset in your job search,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to let everyone know that you’re looking for new opportunities and where your interests lie. You never know who knows someone that might be able to help you out.”
Contacts from alumni and veteran’s networks are invaluable at a time like this. “Once you find them, reach out and ask to have coffee or have a brief phone conversation where you can ask them a few questions and get their advice.” Most people, he says, will be honored by the request and willing to help. “If the conversation goes well, there is even a good chance they will help you find a position or refer you to someone else who can help.”
Such internal referrals are going to be the secret to success in this job market. “The easiest way to get your resume to the top of the pile is to have someone within the company putting in a good word for you. Most companies have referral programs where existing employees can recommend people that they feel like would be worth hiring.” When applying to a company, he says, look for connections who work there. “The connection doesn’t have to be particularly strong. It can be anyone from your school, social network, church, or neighborhood that you can reach out to. Set up some time to ask for their advice on how to get hired and then don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll refer you.”
VOLUNTEER TO GET YOUR RESUME READY FOR THE JOB SEARCH
Crawford says that while the business world is still recovering from the shock of shutdown and quarantine, this is the time to spend on your career skill set. “For industry specific jobs, I would be looking at the certifications that I need to get, or could get,” she says. People don’t realize how many such certifications are available online and through remote learning, she says. Udemy and Coursera are popular learning destinations with real records of success. “Online learning is coming into its own given everything that’s going on now. It is gaining respect in the workplace, and I would put those types of classes on your LinkedIn profile and in your resume to demonstrate and show that, hey, I’ve already been working toward this career path for a long time.”
This is also a great time to strengthen your resume through remote volunteer work. “This depends obviously, on the field and topics that you’re interested in,” says Crawford, “but websites like Volunteer Match and Idealist have remote volunteer opportunities.” She explains that remote volunteer work is a cross-country enterprise. “We recently had a client in Atlanta work on a project for a nonprofit in California, working on upgrading their website.” It was a three-month, part-time task. Afterward, the client was able to point to the project as a success, and even got professional references from the client and the team leader. She encourages others to do the same. “I would be doing those things to help position you toward the career you would like. The more such projects you do, the more experience you can claim, even if it wasn’t a nine-to-five job. You can tell hiring managers, ‘I have testimonials and I have tangible results that I can show to you.’”
If you are going to go on the job search anyway, and if you need to further strengthen your remote work skillset, volunteering is a win-win proposition for everyone.