How To Job Search In The Age Of COVID-19, According To A Career Coach

by Melody Wilding via Forbes

Woman Job Hunting CB & Associates

Over 22 million Americans have lost their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. Unemployment is hovering at 18%, and is expected to rise in the coming weeks.

During this time, I’ve heard from many job seekers in my community. Many are understandably devastated and grieving from lay offs. Others, who were mid-search, are unsure about how to carry on looking for a new role when companies are issuing hiring freezes.

There’s no one better suited to help job seekers navigate these issues than Emilie Aries. Emilie is a speaker, podcast host, author, and the Founder and CEO of Bossed Up, an award-winning personal and professional development community where she helps women craft happy, healthy, and sustainable career paths.

In this interview, Emilie shares advice about how job seekers can adjust their strategies and stay motivated to find work they love despite these unprecedented conditions.

Melody Wilding: As the founder of Bossed Up, you have your finger on the pulse of how professional women are reacting to the career-related fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. What types of questions and concerns are you hearing from your community?

Emilie Aries: Of course everyone is concerned about how long this will last, and what the impact will be our lives, families, and careers. For the ambitious women in our community in particular, this means re-setting expectations on career advancement, which has been frustrating.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a stable job right now, it feels like moving up or pursuing progress of any kind is on hold. Many others are experiencing job insecurity, too, which can induce panic as we focus our most immediate needs like security and safety, food and finances. It’s difficult to access higher order strategic thinking when your basic needs feel threatened.

Wilding: Reports are saying women will be hardest hit by this coronavirus-driven recession. What advice do you have for someone who has just been laid off?

Aries: If you’ve been laid off due to COVID19, it’s important to prioritize getting your basic needs met first. Apply for unemployment benefits right away through the Department of Labor in the state in which you worked. Thanks to the recently-passed CARES Act, the benefit amount was increased by $600 a week and the program was opened up to contract workers for the first time. Phone wait times are long and some state websites are crashing due to overwhelm, but keep at it. The sooner you apply, the sooner your benefit checks will arrive.

Your next best bet is to get in touch with your (former) employer to try to get a sense of whether or not they may be in a position to rehire you in the near future, and then to get crystal clear about your personal finances. As scary as it may be, you need to know what resources can tide you over until you have money coming in again – whether it be in cash or credit. I shared more details on how to remain calm in taking these preliminary steps before launching your job search in a recent blog post and podcast of mine here.

Wilding: Unemployment has hit record levels, which means more people are job searching than ever before. What can readers do to stand out from the pack?

Aries: Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that your entire job search strategy tells a clear and compelling story. From your cover letter and resume to your LinkedIn profile and even how you present yourself in virtual interviews, people trust people who are consistent.

So develop a clear story that explains the motivation behind your job search: why are you looking and what are you looking for, really? Explain what choices you’ve made in the past that have led you to where you are today. If you can distill all your experiences down to a clear story that’s reinforced again and again throughout all your job search assets, you’re more likely to be perceived as memorable, trustworthy, and authentic.

Wilding: How should readers think about pivoting their job search strategies? Are certain strategies more or less effective in this new normal?

Aries: Well, gone are the days of coffee meetings and networking events. Welcome to the age of online networking. I am such a big believer in networking your way to your next job, that it’s imperative you continue to grow and activate your network even while practicing social distancing.

So what does that look like? Sending lots of initial outreach emails – to former colleagues, mentors, friends, and friends of friends – and asking for a virtual meeting, preferably over video chat. Then, make the most of your meeting by sharing your story and asking about theirs. What’s motivated their past career decisions? What are the trends they’re seeing in the industry? What do they enjoy most about their current workplace?

Try to identify common values and shared experiences to foster connection. And then ask outright for their advice. Be specific about what kind of support you need most like getting resume feedback or making an email-introduction to another contact, or putting in an internal referral with HR.

Finally, you cannot drop the ball when it comes to the follow-up game. That’s where you have the chance to show your contact that you’re the reliable, gracious professional you say you are. Send a timely (read: within 24 hour) thank you note and send along anything else they might need to help you – like a pre-written brief blurb they can use when making email introductions on your behalf, i.e.

Wilding: If you’re not hearing back from employers right now, what else can you do to stay active in your search?

Aries: Job-searching is a skill in and of itself. So if you find yourself feeling a bit stuck, skill-building in this department might be a wise use of your time. Seek out free guides and podcasts that cover professional development topics, or work on your leadership and communication skills over on platforms like LinkedInLearning.

Take this time to audit your online presence to ensure your online brand is helping – and not hurting – your job search odds. And if you want to really come across as a polished professional, build out a CV website to ensure your digital footprint is one you can be proud of.

Wilding: What mistakes should women avoid while job searching during the COVID crisis?

Aries: In times of uncertainty, job-seekers can panic and start applying to everything and anything. Resist this urge. What you’re really grasping for is the sensation of progress – which is inherently motivating – but this way of going about it can be misleading. If you’re applying half-heartedly to a job a day just to cross it off your TO DO list, you may be falling victim to vanity metrics — basically, you’re keeping score of a number that doesn’t really matter.

Aim for quality instead of quantity.

A better way to measure progress is in terms of relationship-building, since networking can have a much better ROI when it comes to finding the right opportunities (did you know that referred candidates are 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants from a job board?). Aim to have 3-5 informational interviews a week and give your all to the few applications you send out to job postings you really want. A targeted appeal will yield better results than the buckshot approach now made possible by all the emergence of “easy apply” buttons.

Wilding: What tips can you offer for sustaining motivation amid the uncertainty?

Aries: We can all be our harshest critics and most anxiety-riddled echo chambers. Get out of your own head and call a friend or loved one. When you’re feeling fearful, vulnerable, and worried, we need connection. It can be hard to seek out, of course, but it’s kind of like exercise in that way: it’s hard to get started, but you almost always feel better afterwards. Pick up the phone or hop on video chat and talk through your search with a trusted ally. Odds are, they’ll not only be ready and willing to cheer you on, but they might even share a helpful tip or offer to provide support in moving your search along.

Need help finding your next great job? Contact CB & Associates today.