Job Seeking in a Crisis
for when you’re unemployed, but only considered “unemployable” because of the current state of the economy
The job market is a bit of a mess right now. Currently, this is because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but multi-industry job security has taken beatings before and will certainly take many more hits in the future. So it’s advantageous—not only for those who are unemployed right now, but for any adult who relies on a regular and long-term income that secure employment brings—to be armed with a plan for when they are job seeking and their search is unavoidably interrupted or altogether put on hold.
First things first: please remember that this pandemic* is not permanent, and so your job search won’t be either! Even if your lack of employment is not due to the current craziness COVID-19 has caused, and have actually been stuck in a longer-term job search, you still should not lose hope! Life is an ongoing cycle of ups and downs; so when things get way down, that only means the way up will be that much longer.
*To make this post more evergreen if you are reading it in a future wherein the coronavirus outbreak is thankfully in the past, replace “pandemic” with whatever crisis situation or unforeseen event is getting in the way of your prospects of employment. The concepts and advice that follow will still hold true!
Of course, it can be really difficult to put that positive, forward-thinking outlook into focus when everything feels so downhill. Still, if your job search is currently sluggish or completely stalled due to circumstances out of your control, that doesn’t mean that your entire life has to go on pause too. It’s beneficial to keep a pulse on the facts and to take inventory of your different emotions and stress levels. Even while spending a lot more time alone and at home, there is plenty of proof that some good can come out of unfortunate situations.
So, in order for you to be as prepared as ever once things are back to normal, here are some things you can make your new priorities in the meantime:
don’t wait to file for unemployment
You may have already done so, but sometimes the reality of being without an income can be hard to face due to feelings of pride or anxiety or simply lack of information. Make sure you are getting the benefits your government affords you until you are able to fully provide for yourself again. For readers in the United States, use this as a starting point.
increase your value
Since you can’t find employment with your current background, a logical path forward is to add to it. Learn a new skill—related to your current industry or, more appropriately, your dream industry. This may mean taking an online class (many have been discounted or made free during this crisis, including some from ivy league schools, so take advantage!), or maybe seeking out YouTube videos, books, or other resources to self-curate lessons.
Another great way to use your free time is to create a simple portfolio site—or even just a robust LinkedIn account if you don’t yet have one—to showcase your achievements. Now is the time to really perfect your resume too. Or, outside of professional development, you can choose to conquer a personal goal or dig deep into one of your lifelong passions; now is the time to explore something you’ve always had an inkling of interest in but never the ability to give it a chance. Anything you do that is outside your comfort zone or your typical range of activities will make you stand out. Especially if you can frame it as such in future applications and interviews.
network, network, network!
Even in times when the job market is hot, certain opportunities require you to have an ‘in’ in order to even get a fighting chance to have your resume looked at or get a face-to-face interview.
Networking starts with an email or LinkedIn message. Once a connection is made, you can ask for a 30 min to an hour slot in their (currently more-open-than-usual) schedule for a phone or video call. Don't forget to come prepared with questions so that you can learn more about their experience and get advice. You also don’t have to focus your networking efforts solely on people in your desired industry, company, or profession. People have all sorts of connections, and once you make contact with one, your network expands exponentially because of it. You never know who may be able to help you land your next role!
act as if you are employed
Having a job means having a schedule. Being able to be productive while working from home is becoming an increasingly more desirable skill, and so even without an actual job you should be able to prove that you can handle one. Whether this means just checking things off of a to-do list or sticking to a daily routine of activities—keeping your job search alive, reading, connecting with loved ones, exercising, watching tv, etc., it’s advantageous to put yourself into the mindset of someone with a nine-to-five.
You can also interpret this advice to mean countless different things. A few options are to:
seek out some freelance work that can be done remotely, so that you can set your own schedule and allow yourself time for your other goals;
find ways to volunteer for individuals (like picking up groceries or other essentials for neighbors) or an organization (either in monetary or time donations); or
get a part-time job in an essential industry, if your health allows and other personal circumstances require.
No matter what, showing that you can manage your time wisely is one of the most important soft-skills out there, and future employers are going to want to know how you spent your time in between jobs (and especially during the coronavirus-induced quarantine) for years to come.
focus on helping yourself + others
At the end of the day, your health (mental and physical) and general wellbeing is what should be top priority. Being jobless or underemployed can feel like a crisis under normal circumstances, so floating a job search while in quarantine because of a global pandemic is full-on calamity. It’s absolutely critical that you make sure to focus on you.
This will mean different things to different people. To some, this will involve creating an at-home workout routine, indulging in personal care, starting a business, knocking through their reading list, or making big plans for post-quarantine life. To others, this may mean not doing much else besides sleeping in, enjoying free time on the couch with your favorite media and comfort foods, and connecting with friends and family over video chat. To the rest, this will be a combination of any or all of the above.
Because all of your time can’t be spent on just yourself, try to add some selflessness to the mix. Again, the extent may vary from person to person. Simply checking in with others to show them you care is a good place to start, but of course there are so many ways to volunteer your time, money, and resources. No matter what, the one constant through all of this should be taking care of yourself by staying at home so that you can protect and help others who are (able to be) doing the same. That is the bare minimum standard we should all set for ourselves, as it will drastically improve our timeline for defeating this virus and getting life back to normal. Even if there wasn’t a pandemic, it’s altruistic to think of others and how our everyday actions can affect them for worse or, ideally, for better.
As mentioned above, these are the kinds of things that will speak volumes about your character and motivation when applying for jobs in the future, and are also the basis on which you can ask about potential employers’ policies and culture to understand whether or not you want to work for them.
We hope that these suggestions inspire those who need it. Whether unemployed, employed, or just generally anxious about the job market, we’re all in this together. To link up with fellow young professionals and uplift and commiserate with one another in equal parts, consider joining our open networking group. You can also share your stories with us anytime.