The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe brings a lot of uncertainty to us all. For those of us with chronic health conditions, we worry about our health. If we love someone who is considered high risk, we worry for their health. We see our friends and neighbors in the essential industries on the front lines, and it is scary for many reasons. Many of us are guiding our children through their studies from home and perhaps working from home as well. This pandemic will quite likely impact social interaction into the next generation.

Likewise, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years. Some small businesses have been devastated, and that has, and will continue, to impact us all. Unfortunately, with a squeezed economy, many people will find themselves looking for new jobs.  If you find yourself in that position, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to get noticed and get that next amazing role.

Resumes DO Matter

There is so much to say about the resume – but hear me: it matters. You have one – maybe two – pages to concisely bring out the major points of your career. And while there is a 1:1 ratio for HR people to resume preferences, there are a few major points I want you to understand.

  • Your resume needs to be uploadable into a variety of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). A simple Word formatted resume is easy to parse, especially if you refrain from putting your contact info in the header. Here’s the thing – lots of recruiters are recruiting on mobile, so a simply formatted resume means recruiters can click on your phone number or email address right from their phone to get in touch with you. This makes you easier to contact.
  • Don’t worry about adding your address, your hobbies, or your personal demographic information. In fact – don’t. DO ensure your contact information is accurate, up to date, and that you can be reached by phone, email or text. (Pro tip: if you don’t plan to answer your phone because you’re worried about telemarketers, please call back quickly. Strike while the iron is hot!)

Work Your Network

Job hunting is – true story – a full time job. Think of it as waves of progress.

  • So your first wave is reaching out to your close, trusted network and let them know you are seeking a new opportunity, full disclosure. Don’t withhold the reason you’re looking – go with the real reason. Your close network includes people you have worked with that you stay in contact with regardless if you are looking for a job or not. These are people who know your work ethic and skill. Reach out to these people first to gather leads.
  • Your second wave is going to the outer circle of your network. Old boss you did good work for? Co-worker you saw eye to eye with? Someone who used to report to you and you got along swimmingly? Check. Check. Check.
  • Also look online for jobs that interest you – LinkedIn, Indeed, ClearanceJobs, ClearedJobs – and crosswalk that against your sphere of influence – those who you know would be comfortable recommending you. Gather all those leads – and then get to work. Pro tip: If you find that you’ve let your network get stale, make a note for your future self. Networking requires two-way communication regardless of your circumstances. It means you’re extending a helping hand sometimes, and sometimes you’re the one who needs it. It’s a, well, relationship! – and that requires work. Start cultivating those relationships now – and keep it up.

Follow Up Like It’s Your Job

All those leads are great, you’ve collected them, and organized them in a spreadsheet – bonus points! Now is time for follow ups.

  • Send emails and make phone calls (BOTH!) Think of big companies and how they market to you. They have elevator pitches (concise marketing points) and they repeat their company name and slogan in a short period of time. Over and over. They find you on Facebook, on LinkedIn, Alexa, TV, radio. Yet it’s somehow subtle. Your follow up is similar. Don’t forget to follow up by email and connect on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Indeed (NOT Facebook or Instagram – which are personal in nature).
  • Emailed thank you notes are the way to go when people are teleworking (Refrain from asking for addresses – creepy!)
  • In the midst of following up, work on interviewing like a boss. Be cheesy and look in the mirror while you’re answering mock interview questions. For most of us, practice makes perfect.
  • Keep your phone screening and interviewing concise, warm and conversational. Subtle name dropping is OK. Something like “Good morning, I’m Jamie Jones – I was referred to you by our mutual acquaintance, so and so, I wanted to reach out briefly to affirm my interest in your Network Engineer role. I’ve applied online, and I thank you for your consideration.” Employers are looking for team players who are teachable, confident and poised – but also earnestly interested in the role. Pro tip: Keep your confidence up and let it shine through on the phone and in email.
  • If it has been a month or so since your job loss, frame your situation: “Yes, I was let go due to a company down turn two months ago. Since that time, I’ve taken the opportunity to sharpen my skills, I’ve enjoyed much needed visits with family, and now I’m ready to find that perfect role – and yours sounded like a great fit.”

Sharpen Your Skills

During the pandemic, a LOT of training organizations are offering FREE training courses.

  • Sign up. People want to hire someone with sharp skills. Take the training class. It will sharpen your resume and your mind. While we always want to sharpen our skills in our discipline, learning in areas that are outside of your discipline, or even non-work related areas, is also very important. A well rounded, balanced person is a great employee. So go ahead and learn mindfulness. Emotional intelligence. How to cook. Take a painting class. This will also give you confidence to try something new – and that confidence will shine through in your interviews – and in your new job.
  • Finally, down markets are sometimes great opportunities to freelance. Freelancing hones your skills, provides income, and expands your network. Freelancing can also lead to new businesses. Businesses started in lean times tend to be sharpened for success. Small business ownership isn’t for everyone, but maybe it’s for you.

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