Quarantine Career Prep

Job Hunting & Career Prep During Quarantine

These are “unprecedented times” for sure, and this phrase certainly applies to millions of career-seekers right now. With the staggering reality of an unemployment rate inching into the 20%s, our closest economic precedent could be 1929.

Here are a handful of ways to prepare for navigating a radically changing job market:

Network and Nurture Referrals

Referrals are the way in. Applicants with referrals have a 50% chance of getting an interview, versus only 3% without it. And when the referral originates from a director-level employee or above the chance of being hired soars to 91%. 

It’s a great time to politely nurture your existing connections with those inside of your target industries. You can also verify with three or four references that they’re willing to vouch for you so that you have a list ready to go ahead of time. 

ATS-Optimize and Target Your Resume

The majority of resumes are read by applicant tracking systems (ATS) before – or if – they ever reach a human. In order to pass by these bots, you need a resume that’s designed with the simple formatting and fonts they can read, keywords they’re searching for, and skills and degrees they require. Taking the time to build an ATS-optimized resume now will give you an advantage when applying. To do so, scour the position posts that appeal to you. What keywords are repeated? What expertise do they all require? What kinds of soft skills keep coming up? You need those in your resume to withstand the de-selection process.

If there was ever a time for a targeted resume, it’s now. In an expanded field of competition, the generic, one-size-fits-all resumes will not stand out. It’s wise to create a few versions of your resume, targeted towards each niche position that interests you. 

Complete Your LinkedIn Profile

Give yourself an edge, both immediate and long-term, by completing your LinkedIn profile. Those with links to completed LinkedIn profiles on their resumes significantly improve their chances of scoring an interview.

The basics for a “complete” profile are a smiling headshot, neutral background image, title, location, experience, education, and a customized url

Utilize your title as a headline targeting industries and positions you’d like, rather than pigeon-holing yourself in your current role. Fill out your skills section, and make it a point to respectfully grow and nurture your network. All of this will improve your visibility to prospective employers. 

Finally, figure out what image or professional brand you’d like to project. Align your LinkedIn, resume, and any other career/social presence to support that brand, which should speak to what your industry’s leaders and decision-makers value.

Bridge the Gap with Temporary Work

While many industries are suffering, others are needed now more than ever: delivery services, grocery stores, remote communications, and online learning, for example. Though the surge in demand for workers in these fields may be temporary, it’s an option many are using to bridge the gap between long-term positions. 

Likewise, many companies currently need help conveying messages, positioning advertising, and creating new ordering options. Freelance skills like copywriting, website maintenance, marketing strategy, and social media advertising all hold tremendous value. 

Finally, if childcare options remain limited as parts of the workforce reopen, the demand for in-home caretakers will increase. 

Pivot

The opportunity for reinvention is ripe. It’s a great time to take inventory of yourself and consider what valuable skills you can redirect, and in what ways you’d like your future career path to change. In this new climate, sudden 180°s will become more common and acceptable to prospective employers.

According to Dawn Graham for Forbes, the pivoters and career-switchers are actually ahead of the game. She writes, “Switchers have an advantage in the current market because they already know they need to bypass the online path and create their own strategy to get in front of decision-makers.” However, it’s important to measure whether the stress and time investment of a career switch are too much.

One obvious way to pivot right now is by offering your services online and remotely. This can apply to individuals just as well as organizations. Though an online presence takes time to build, there’s no reason to wait to begin sharing your new services via LinkedIn and through email. 

Another way to pivot is by mining and marketing your transferable skills. This includes soft skills you may have developed in most any industry, such as collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. Reframe your resume so that these stand out. 

Develop New Skills

If you find yourself with more time due to furlough or unemployment, you might want to consider developing a new skill set. 

Udemy is a wonderful, affordable resource for skill development. There are thousands of courses spanning everything from Human Resources to Financial Compliance, SAP, and even musical instruments. 

No one is alone as we navigate these new, strange, and often stressful times. Hopefully, we can use the time granted us by quarantine to reflect, reinvent, and relaunch better than before.

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