Tips for Job Hunting During COVID-19

Tips for Job Hunting During COVID-19 was originally published on Springboard.

It’s undoubtedly a dire time for job hunters. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to record unemployment claims in the US and an uncertain job market that analysts say will take years to bounce back.

Despite this, career experts are advising job seekers to persist in their search. Not only are industries like tech, IT, essential retail, and certain financial services like mortgage brokering still hiring, some are actually reporting an increased demand for workers.

“I think the options for job searching will become more abundant,” said Kelvin Nguyen, a Springboard mentor and former software engineer at LinkedIn and Intuit. “As more companies explore remote work as the norm, there will be more opportunities where new grads can apply.”

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re job hunting during COVID-19.

1. Start networking online.

In a fraught job market, the best thing you can do is to build relationships with recruiters and decision-makers. Be wary of job boards. Openings on sites like Monster and Indeed often remain posted even in the event of a hiring freeze or after the position is filled. Under the current circumstances, sending your resume “into the void” means an even higher likelihood a recruiter never sees it.

If you do use a job board, prioritize recent posts (within the last seven days) to avoid wasting time on companies that have suspended hiring. 

To start networking, join professional or career-oriented groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Observe what topics members are discussing, and contribute to the conversation by commenting or posting your own status updates to generate debate about something buzzworthy in your industry.

Make yourself known to other members of the group. You have three options:

  1. Respond directly to another member’s status post about a job opening you’re interested in. Make sure to ask if you can direct message or email the poster to discuss more.
  2. Write an icebreaker status post introducing yourself to the group. Keep it light and conversational and no more than 3-4 sentences, but do mention your qualifications and what you’re looking for. If you can, inject a little humor or tell a story—these posts tend to elicit higher engagement.
  3. Direct message those whom you want to connect with. Find a member of the group whom you admire—perhaps someone with your dream job or in a senior position—and introduce yourself. It’s best to engage with them before you DM them, such as by commenting or liking their posts. Explain your situation, how you found them, and why you’re interested in their work (don’t say it’s because they have your dream job). Close with an invitation to chat by phone or set up a video call on Zoom.

Remember, an informational interview does not entail asking for a job. You are simply there to get advice. If you ask insightful questions and express an interest in the other person’s work, they may mention the job opening, in which case you can request a referral. If they don’t, apply first, then follow up and mention you applied for the position and ask if he or she might be able to connect you to the hiring manager.

2. Find the best professional groups on social media.

The more specific your search, the better your results. Some groups are very general; for instance, LinkedIn’s Remote Workers on LI posts industry-agnostic work-from-home positions from all over the world. On Facebook, search for localized groups in your city plus a keyword to weed out jobs that are geographically unavailable, such as Austin Digital Jobs or SQL Bangalore.  

You can also target specific industries or job titles. If you’re daunted by the sheer volume of search results on Facebook or LinkedIn, try Googling “best Facebook/LinkedIn groups for [industry/field/job title]” and see what comes up. Member counts tend to be a good indication of whether the group is active and if members find value from joining. 

For instance, LinkedIn’s Software Engineer Association has 19,566 members at the time of writing, while Media & Marketing Professionals Worldwide has 678,693. This may be because developers tend to congregate on GitHub, Behance, and Reddit, while marketers rely more heavily on mainstream social media sites.

3. Attend a virtual career fair.

Career fairs are often considered time-wasters, but virtual career fairs can actually be more high-touch and targeted than an in-person one. Employers and job seekers meet in a virtual environment through chat rooms, teleconferencing, and webinars. 

Since anyone can attend a virtual career fair without geographical constraints, the companies sponsoring the fair will often have mechanisms to prequalify registrants—usually by requiring them to submit a resume and answer a questionnaire beforehand. Some automatically match you with employers seeking your skillset based on your questionnaire responses. 

Some career fairs are just simple websites with links to employer “booths” that contain more information about the company and current job openings. Others consist of elaborate virtual environments designed to recreate a convention center setting. At each company’s booth, there may be an opportunity for personal contact, such as a chatroom, or you may be able to submit your resume or email the company. 

Be sure to follow up with recruiters you’ve spoken with. Mention how you met, reaffirm your interest in the position and attach your resume even if you already submitted one at the career fair. Finally, if you have the recruiter’s phone number, offer to call to set up a time to discuss the position in more detail. Be sure to also add the recruiter on LinkedIn; the more touchpoints you make with them, the more they’ll remember you. 

4. Update your skills.

During the 2008 recession, community college enrollment surged. Workers laid off in an economic downturn often end up rethinking their career path. Some further their education in their current field; others switch careers. Whether you’ve been laid off, furloughed, are working fewer hours, or simply feeling uncertain about your job security, upskilling is your best form of insurance for securing a new job or keeping your current one when the economy stabilizes. 

From Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to online bootcamps like Springboard, your options are endless. Most online bootcamps offer a job guarantee or deferred tuition, which lowers your investment risk.  

Paolo Lucchino, a data scientist and Springboard mentor, said completion rates for online courses are much higher for those who aren’t holding down a full-time job, so now may be the best time to study. “You might as well upskill if it doesn’t currently require you to leave a job that’s paying you well, or work nights and weekends because you have a full-time job.”

Springboard is currently hosting weekly live AMA sessions featuring expert job searching advice from Springboard’s best career coaches. These sessions are free and open to everyone

5. Reflect on your goals.

While career experts advise job seekers not to suspend their search, it’s also important to change your approach and acknowledge that we’re living in uncertain times. If you’re having trouble landing a full-time job in your industry, your next-best alternative may be taking a short-term job outside of your field while working on your portfolio or a passion project, freelancing or working part-time. 

6. Pitch your services as a freelancer.

Freelancing is a great stopgap for when you’re in between jobs. However, also consider that in an unstable economy, companies may roll back full-time positions with benefits and opt to hire contractors or freelancers instead. Freelancing enables you to build your portfolio by working for a variety of clients, and it also forces you to learn how to market yourself. 

Freelancing is more commonplace in some fields than others. According to remote job board FlexJobs, there are the highest-paying freelance gigs: 

  • Software developer ($42/hour)
  • Programmer ($38/hour)
  • Copywriter ($38/hour)
  • Graphic designer ($36/hour)
  • Web developer ($35/hour)

The best place to find freelance gigs is on job sites focusing on freelance or remote work, such as:

You can also create a profile and bid on projects on a freelance marketplace like the following:

7.  Be prepared to do a virtual interview.

Most companies, including Facebook, Google, Target, and Amazon, have switched to fully virtual interviews. Acing a video interview is different from an in-person one. Exhibiting positive body language is still a crucial element, but it’s harder to project via webcam.

Make sure you’re dressed professionally and set your computer up in front of a pleasant, well-lit background. You can lose a recruiter’s attention easily if you’re conversing through a screen rather than in-person, so make sure your answers are extra concise and to-the-point. 

Read more tips on how to ace your video job interview here.

8. Stay in touch with recruiters.

Even companies that are actively hiring may be slowing the hiring process. If you don’t hear back from a recruiter, follow up with a short note. Acknowledge that you understand things may be uncertain under the current circumstances, express sympathy for what the recruiter may be juggling at the moment, and ask if the position is still open or if there is a tentative timeline. 

If a position is closed or you don’t hear back from the recruiter, offer to reach out again at a more opportune time. 

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Would you like to upskill to find a new job or keep your current one? UCalgary Continuing Education has over 1200 courses and seminars for personal and professional development, offered at times that fit your schedule.  

By Kindra Cooper - Springboard
Springboard
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