Were you in the middle of applying for a new job before the coronavirus pandemic hit, or are you now looking to find a new career?
It’s a difficult time for job seekers, but don’t panic – hope is definitely not lost. Here, careers coach and author Nieves Rodriguez offers her advice on how to find your dream job during this time.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on every area of our lives. In a matter of months, the global outbreak and subsequent UK lockdown has changed the way we live dramatically, and there’s a lot of uncertainty around when things will return to “normal” (as well as numerous questions around what that “new normal” might look like).
One of the main areas of our lives that has been impacted is work. A huge number of us are now adapting to working from home, juggling the need to look presentable for Zoom meetings with the desire to stay nestled in our pyjamas all day, as well as learning how to be productive and manage our time effectively outside of the office.
Working from home is part of the new normal for many of us.
Unfortunately, many people have also faced redundancies or job cuts, as the UK economy struggles to stay stable during the crisis. And this struggle means it’s a difficult time to be looking for a new job, with fewer roles now being made available.
New figures from CV-Library, one of the biggest job search sites in the UK, report a 15% drop in job postings on the site between February and March in 2020, alongside a 10% drop in applications.
“The pandemic is giving us more time and space to consider what we actually want out of our jobs, as well as what the next step in our career might look like”.
However, while it might not be an ideal time to be looking for a new role, it’s certainly not an impossible one – and there are still nuggets of good news to be found, with some industries actually advertising more job vacancies this year compared to 2019. According to site data from CV-Library, there has been a 103% rise in job vacancies in the public sector and a 98% rise in advertised roles in agriculture, followed by a 17% rise in social care roles, a 2.9% rise in education roles and a 2.1% rise in distribution roles.
Plus, the pandemic is giving us more time and space to consider what we actually want out of our jobs, as well as what the next step in our career might look like. Perhaps we’ve volunteered to help our local community and found it so rewarding we want to move into the social care sector, or maybe we’ve flourished working from home and want to find a job that allows us to work remotely.
If you’re actively seeking a new role, or you’re keen to explore new ventures, or even if you were interviewing for jobs before the crisis hit, don’t panic – hope is certainly not lost. Below, we’ve asked career coach and author Nieves Rodriguez to share her best advice for job seeking during the coronavirus pandemic, from how to apply for your dream role to how often you should be following up with an employer.
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#1. Manage Your Job Search Expectations to the New Normal
The world has changed with coronavirus, and we all need to adapt to the new normal.
When looking for a new job, this means that we have to:
Be patient with the longer lead times from job applications. But that doesn’t mean you forget to follow up after 1-2 weeks.
Remember that our job is to look for a job. It can be challenging to look for a job whilst still working for another (but it is a good place to be) or tempting to chill and play video games instead in your spare time. Which brings me to the next point…
#2. Start Now. Be Organized. Spend Your Time Wisely.
Start your job search now: You know a recession is coming. You know the job search lead times are longer. While it is really tempting to use this lockdown “downtime” (for some of us) to relax, things may not look so rosy a few months down the line and it is best to start practicing your interview skills and reach out to all potential leads, now.
Organization is key. Your new job is to find a new job and you will get a return proportional to your investment.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure so use a spreadsheet to track your job-hunting progress, so you can keep tabs with follow up timeframes, who you’ve applied to, etc. This will pay dividends down the line as you can update and tweak your approach as you progress and receive feedback about the market.
- Create a list of your target market and companies.
- Log each contact you have made for each company (1st degree, 2nd degree…)
- Log each job you have applied for.
- Log when you have contacted the company.
- Log when you have interviewed.
- Log when you need to follow up.
And each day log how many hours you have dedicated to job search. That way you will create awareness and decide if you are putting enough effort into it.
#3. Update Your CV and Cover Letter
Prior to any application, it would be a good time to give your CV and cover letter a proper update and look through.
Remember to save a master version of each, as you would need to tailor to individual applications (or industry).
Always, always, adapt your CV and Cover Letter to each role you are applying for.
#4. Enhance Your Digital Presence
With work-from-home being the new normal, it is time to upgrade your digital presence, especially when it comes to looking for a new job.
This means that it is time to:
Update your LinkedIn profile to make sure it is aligned with your CV. Consider an updated professional photo of yourself too, and request for skill recommendations that you would like to highlight to potential employers and recruiters.
Clean up your other social media pages, basically removing anything you don’t want a potential employer to see. A simpler move may be to adjust your privacy settings to make everything private.
#5. Search for Jobs Effectively
Once you’ve completed Steps 1-4 above, it’s time to kickstart your job hunting.
Given such extraordinary times, here are a few recommendations to improve the effectiveness of your job search (in order of priority):
Prioritize recently posted roles: It may sound obvious, but you will be surprised how many people do not have correct filters when doing a job search.
Diversify your search sources: After you’ve gone through the typical online job sites of your preferred industry and LinkedIn, it is worth considering directly checking a particular company’s website to send a direct application. It may be that there are more up-to-date information and job listings there, given the chaos human resources departments are experiencing right now. Networking online is also a great, alternative source (see Step #6) to do concurrently.
Be more open about your ideal job: In this less-than-ideal world situation, it may pay off to be more open-minded about the industry, job type and/or contract length. For example, let’s say ideally you would like to apply for permanent equity research roles in top-tier investment banks covering the pharmaceutical sector. But in an extreme case, if an opportunity appears for an investor relations role of a large, listed pharmaceutical company on a contract basis, it could be a great career path to explore at this stage, as it is a useful experience to add on your resume/CV when you revert to your preferred career path job search later on. Having a job (and income) in the current climate is always better than unemployment.
Consider alternative jobs if things are difficult: If you’re currently unemployed, or if financial situation is tough, it is worth considering alternative jobs altogether as a stop-gap measure. Whether it is part time work, contracting, supermarket or delivery jobs (assuming it is safe for you to do so) – every little helps in alleviating the money stress and it does show resilience during such difficult times.
Whatever you decide to do, ensure you have the filters and alarms aligned with your goal: industry, company, type of job, title, location…
Remember that you need to adapt your CV and Cover letter to each role and be proactive contacting the recruiter so if you apply to anything you are not going to have enough hours to do it properly.
Less is more. Less but better.
#6. Embrace Online Networking
80 % of the vacancies are not published. 80 % of the roles are filled up by networking.
So, if you want to find a job you need to shift your attention and job search to networking and spend most of your time here. Talking to people.
Learning some online networking skill during this lockdown would also help diversify your job-hunting sources, as outlined in the previous step.
The good news is:
it is not too different from ‘normal’ networking, it’s just that any coffee meetups will be done virtually.
it is a matter of practice and getting used to this new medium of communicating.
your contact may be quite keen for a chat for after being locked down for so long anyway, which may make things less awkward and more fun.
To do this, start by looking at your first- and second-degree connections on LinkedIn, prioritizing those who currently or previously worked in the industry or company you’re keen on. Then, reach out – via email, InMail message, text, or a call – to the person to touch base for advice. Important the word advice here. You are not asking them for a job. You are asking for advice.
Another strategy worth executing concurrently is to personally seek out the hiring manager of a particular company on LinkedIn for opportunities in your area of interest – they are more likely to respond to a direct message. Don’t forget to follow up after a week or two, and if there aren’t any suitable roles at present., do ask them on tentative dates of future hiring plans so you can follow up again soon.
#7. Master Telephone & Video Interviews
You should be comfortable with phone interviews as nothing much has changed in this respect despite the pandemic, but it is definitely worth practicing and brushing up on the first step of the interview process.
On the other hand, video interviews are probably something rather new. Sure, you’ve had video conference calls before, but it’s probably not for such a long time with you as the primary focus, so there is a little bit of pressure there to get used to.
Here’s what I recommend for video interview preparations:
Control your environment: aside from the usual job interview preparations, now you have the added challenge of preparing the right space within your home for this important meeting. Find a quiet, clutter-free, and well-lit space in your home, preferably a room which you can close the door and focus.
Download and test video call software beforehand: Download the latest versions of any software you need ahead of time and test the equipment with a friend to ensure your lighting, audio volume, and the positioning of your camera is perfect. Make sure your internet connection is working smoothly beforehand too.
Have a backup plan: In case there is a technical issue, share your contact details before the interview or meeting as a Plan B. That way, you can swiftly rearrange or move to a telephone call – and continue the interview calmly without panicking!
Most importantly, treat it like an in-person interview: This is probably my pet peeve, but the same rules apply for a video interview as they would during a face-to-face interview. This means:
Dress appropriately (including your bottom half!) as if you’re physically at the company’s office.
You still need to connect with the interviewers, even though they are not in the same room as you. Be mindful of your tone, mannerisms and “eye contact” through the monitor. Start by asking them how they are doing, we are all experiencing difficult times after all!
Prepare some real questions to ask during the interview. Questions around the company’s response to COVID-19, or how it impacts them, and the industry is a good example, as it shows your concern about the stability of the company and are evaluating them as a potential employer seriously as well.
Ask about suitable follow up timing and when you expect to hear back before the interview ends. In absence of that information, I would check in once every 2 weeks.
#8. Upgrade Your Skills
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected jobs with lower education attainment in US, UK, and Europe.
If you find yourself having some spare time during this lockdown period, after covering your job search/work/family/life commitments, it is time to consider whether you can upgrade your skillsets and qualifications.
What training and resources are available?
From April 2021, the government is offering almost 400 different free courses, worth the equivalent of an A-level qualification in subjects such as accountancy, engineering and business studies.
Many universities and other institutions are also currently offering free short courses.
For example, the University of Edinburgh is offering courses in fields such as statistics and data, the University of Oxford has a free course on economic development, and the Open University offers many free courses too.
The Prince’s Trust is offering free personal development sessions to help 18–30-year-olds get into the health and social care sector. The charity offers mentoring, CV help, and can match jobseekers with suitable local employers.
Ans last but not least reach out to a dream mentor or coach. Some jobs never actually get posted online – they get filled through personal contacts first. We all have that one person we’ve been dying to get a meeting with, and now might be a perfectly good time to just go for it. Introduce yourself via email and ask out a dream mentor for a virtual 30-minute meeting.
Remember: you will find your way. Take baby steps forward whenever you can. Consistency is key. Back away from the laptop on the days when you can’t be forward-thinking and proactive, and you’ll manage to get through this and stick to your landing on the other side.
Hope to see you there!
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