by Kathy Kristof  

How and where you can find jobs is the question of the hour in a nation that’s starting to reopen from coronavirus-induced shutdowns.

May job figures shed a ray of hope, reporting that some 2.5 million people went back to work last month. However, government jobless data also showed that millions remain unemployed and that the economy’s recovery from the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic will be slow and uneven. Some industries are showing signs of life, while others remain depressed and may remain so for months to come.

Recovering industries may be good places to start to look for work. But if your experience and skills are in a depressed segment of the economy, you may need to retool.

Here’s what experts say about what you should expect in this pandemic-scarred job market and how and where you can find jobs.

Don’t be discouraged

Today’s employment scene bears little resemblance to the job market six months ago, when jobs were plentiful and recruits were in high demand. Though it’s better than in April, there still is roughly one opening for every 10 applicants, according to job-search site Zippia. It is likely to take longer to find a position — particularly, an attractive one.

On the bright side, enhanced unemployment benefits offered through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program are available through July. Those benefits provide $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits to people who are out of work as a result of the pandemic. After that, unemployment benefits are likely to return to normal, far less generous levels.

Time is opportunity

That gives you a month to prepare. Experts suggest you use this time to consider your long-term career goals and gain whatever skills necessary to take your career to the next level.

“We are seeing a lot of people using this collective pause as a time of self-reflection to figure out the work that they’re most passionate about,” says Amy Pocsik, co-founder of Rise Recruiting. “If you aren’t using this time to think about what you want to do long term, you’re missing an opportunity.”

If you’re hoping to switch careers, Pocsik suggests asking former colleagues what they think you’re best at — the talents they’d put on your job recommendation — to find your core strengths. Are those strengths transferrable and valued in your targeted field? If not, what skills should you develop to be an attractive candidate?

If you simply hope to jump to a higher level in your existing career, take a look at the requirements for that next-level position. Then find a free or low-cost training program through a community college or online classes.

“I’m sure we’ve all looked at job listings and realized the skills that we don’t have and need,” says Kathy Morris, head of content at Zippia. “This is a really good time to take a course, get a certificate, and jump-start your career.”

Pockets of hiring

Where are the best hiring prospects now? Telecommunications, energy and insurance, according to Zippia. All three of these fields have a relatively large number of openings compared with potential recruits. Healthcare firms, finance companies and nonprofits are also looking for a fair number of workers compared with the numbers of applicants they’re receiving, Zippia’s data say.

Restaurants, hotels and retailers are also hiring a lot of workers as communities open up. But the number of people seeking work in these hard-hit industries remains overwhelming compared with the number of jobs available.

Anticipated second-wave opportunities

The market for teachers currently appears depressed, too, Morris says. But those figures may be misleading. Public schools are understandably uncertain about what may happen next fall. Many stopped hiring when schools closed. But summer vacation season allows schools time to watch the course of the pandemic. They may simply wait to address their staffing needs closer to the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, online teachers and tutors are already in high demand. And COVID-19 could move the job market for teachers from public schools to private schools with smaller class sizes.

“It’s hard to say how comfortable people are going to feel with sending their kids to school in the fall,” Morris says. “For private companies, that may be an opportunity.”

Freelancers in demand

Whether the current recession, fueled by unprecedented government-mandated shutdowns, will follow the pattern of other recessions is hard to handicap. But if it does, freelancers are also likely to find plenty of work in coming months, Morris says.

“During the Great Recession [of 2007-2009], a lot of companies didn’t hire full-time employees. They hired freelancers,” she says. “When you don’t know what the future holds, freelancers are really attractive — even when you have to pay more per hour.”

Why? Hiring is expensive. A traditional hiring process, which involves background checks and training, often costs tens of thousands of dollars. Furloughing and laying off employees, which typically requires notice and severance, can be equally costly.

Not surprisingly, companies are reluctant to make that economic commitment, until they are fairly certain they’ll need that new hire for years to come. Thus, in the tentative early stages of a recovery, many companies lean on freelancers to handle increased workloads.

A number of trade groups and online platforms connect freelancers in professional fields, such as accountinginsurancetechnologymarketing and communications. Other platforms, such as UpworkRemote and FlexJobs, connect workers with freelance opportunities in a wider array of fields. You can also search freelance opportunities by industry group on’s work page.

New skills needed

However, companies in virtually every industry are likely to require new hires to have remote-working skills to cope with the possibility of a second COVID-19 shutdown. The key skills in this category include:

Teleconferencing: If you haven’t yet participated in a Zoom or Skype meeting, call a friend and set one up, Pocsik says. These popular teleconferencing platforms allow multiple people to participate in video calls. They’ve been invaluable during the pandemic and are likely to remain popular for corporate interviews and staff meetings. Practice using them, she suggests.

Active listening: When working at home, it’s easy to be distracted by kids, pets, cellphones and household tasks. That makes it all the more important that you use active listening techniques when involved in work calls. What does that mean? Eliminate all other distractions, including your cellphone, so you can pay full attention. Take notes. And restate the main points of what you heard at the end of the conversation to make sure you heard accurately.

Communication and follow-up: When a workforce is scattered, it’s easy to lose track of who is doing what and when it’s due. Communicate regularly with your co-workers. After project meetings, it’s also wise to write a follow-up email that reiterates what the meeting was about; establishes who has agreed to do what; and the timetable. This helps ensure that your team has the same understanding and expectations.

Research and networking

When looking for positions in a tight job market, it’s more important than ever to use your connections to get an edge, Pocsik says. These connections can not only provide a job recommendation, but also fill you in on the corporate culture. That can help you understand how to position yourself to better fit the job opening.

Comb LinkedIn for connections in the industry that you’re hoping to break into, she suggests. If there’s a particular company that you want to work for, see if you — or if anyone you know — knows someone who works there.

If your network feels thin, perhaps because you’re a new graduate without a lot of professional contacts, don’t be shy about contacting former teachers. Instructors often have rich networks.

Schools, alumni associations and industry networking groups are also important, says Pocsik, who is also co-founder of the Women’s Business League. Spend some time researching what groups might help you meet people in your chosen field. 

Amy Kristof is an award-winning financial journalist, who writes regularly for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and CBS MoneyWatch. She’s the author of Investing 101, Taming the Tuition Tiger, and Kathy Kristof’s Complete Book of Dollars and Sense. 

The Principles of People Who Love Their Job and Their Career - TedX by Tony Beshara


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The best graduate programs will also provide opportunities for students to deepen their power-skills. These include critical thinking, communication, and decision-making. Again, these are the top skills that recruiters are looking for and are finding increasingly difficult to find. Students should look for graduate programs that incorporate specific opportunities for students to practice and reflect on these skills. For example, at Nichols College, all our graduate students complete a 3-credit Foundations of Critical Inquiry course as they begin their master’s degree programs. This course allows students to hone the analytical thinking, communication, and habits of inquiry required by today’s professionals.


The truth is that most jobs are filled before they are posted on any job-search site. Landing your dream job might depend on whom you know. Many of my prior students have said that one of the most valuable parts of their graduate experience was the people that they met during their studies. Look for schools that support students networking with each other, as well as with alumni and other community members. Do the program faculty have practical experience? What types of events does the program have to encourage networking within the community?  Do they offer a mentoring program? Is the career services center equipped to help graduate students with their job search?

I understand that many recent grads have student loan debt and are anxious to begin making money, but there are good economic reasons to delay. The opportunity cost of pursuing a graduate degree in the current economic climate is relatively low. When the next best alternative is continuing an unsuccessful job search, there is very little to lose by investing in an additional degree. While the differential between salaries for those with a bachelor’s and master’s degree varies depending on discipline, employers across sectors are willing to pay more for those with an advanced degree. So, taking a year off from the job market to develop advanced skills and gain valuable experience when the job opportunities that currently exist are likely much lower-paying is not a bad idea. 

There is no doubt that these are challenging times for new grads. Deciding to go back to school is not a decision to take lightly but is one that is worthy of consideration. Taking a year or two to get an advanced degree will position new grads well for opportunities once the economy starts to improve, especially if they choose a program that expands their practical experience, enhances power-skills, and builds their network.  

Robin Ayers Frkal, Ph.D., is Director of the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Chair of the Human Resource Management Department at Nichols College. Her research interests include use of peer coaching in graduate business programs to advance student's vertical development.


by Amy Morin, LSCW

The stress of unemployment can take a serious toll on your well-being under any circumstance. But during the coronavirus pandemic, your stress levels may be even higher than usual.

With our current situation and the state of the global economy, there is a much lower chance of landing a new job anytime soon. And it’s unclear when social distancing measures will end or what shape the economy will be in when you are able to return to work.

Add in the fear of getting sick, the inability to leave home, and the need to educate your children, and you’ve got a recipe for an increased risk of mental health issues.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cope with the stress in a healthy way if you’ve lost your job. Managing your distress and taking positive action may help you maintain your mental health during this crisis.

The Link Between Unemployment and Mental Health

Unemployment has been linked to a greater risk of depression, anxiety, suicide, substance abuse, and violence.

In fact, studies show people who lose their jobs are twice as likely to report depression and anxiety symptoms when compared with people who remain stably employed.

Here are several reasons why not having a job can take a serious toll on your psychological well-being: 

  • Difficulty paying for basic necessities - Reduced income makes it difficult to purchase food and pay for housing. The associated stress makes it difficult to stay mentally healthy.

  • Lack of purpose - Not contributing to society and not bringing home any income to support the family can leave some people feeling as though their lives lack meaning and purpose.

  • Reduced social interaction – Not having a job can mean less social interaction, which takes a direct toll on mood and well-being. 

  • Fewer resources available to maintain mental health – When your time and energy have to go into managing your life (food, housing, and basic necessities), you have fewer resources left to devote to behaviors that promote good mental health (exercising, maintaining social relationships, etc). 

  • Unhealthy coping skills may be more tempting – While some people may respond to unemployment by cutting things that cost extra, others turn to unhealthy coping skills like drugs and alcohol, which can take a toll on health and well-being.

There are two main things you can do to manage your mental health when faced with this situation: address your unemployment, and address how you feel about being unemployed.

Tackle the Problem             

It’s important to take action that will help solve your problems when you’re unemployed, such as looking for resources that help you manage your financial strain and looking for employment. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, however, looking for work might not be so easy. You might be waiting for businesses to open up, so you can return to your old job. Or you might not be certain if your old job will even exist when this is over.

There are few places hiring right now, so your chances of getting another job at the moment are limited. But this doesn’t mean you should idly wait for things to get better. You can take action now to manage your finances and address your employment situation.

This action might include things such as:

  • Apply for unemployment – Filing for unemployment may reduce your financial strain.

  • Look for new job opportunities – Whether you search for a new full-time job, or you look for ways to make money in the “gig economy,” actively searching for work can help you feel better.

  • Create a budget – Creating a budget can help you gain a better sense of control over your financial situation.

  • Manage your payments – Explaining your situation to your credit card company, mortgage lender, and other financial institutions may help lower your payments. Financial institutions may also grant you more time to pay your bills.

  • Search for helpful resources – Whether you want to talk to a career counselor, or you’re looking for help with paying your electric bill, there may be resources available.

  • Further your education – Taking classes for credit or signing up for an online course for your own enrichment could be helpful to your career.

  • Update your resume – Updating your resume (and asking for feedback from others) might increase your chances of landing a job if you start applying for new positions.

Tackle How You Feel About the Problem

In addition to addressing your employment issues, you can also address your emotional distress head-on.

  • Practice good self-care – Getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy diet is key to managing your distress. You need to take care of your body if you want your mind to function at an optimal level. 

  • Maintain social interaction – While you may not be able to meet with your friends in person, it’s important to stay in contact. Video chat, talk on the phone, or message one another regularly. Positive social interaction can greatly improve your mental health.

  • Structure your day – Staying on a schedule can help you feel better. Create time to work on your job situation, time for leisure, and time to do things that help improve your mental health.

  • Get physically active – Exercise is a key component to good mental health. During the pandemic, you may need to get creative since most gyms are closed. But working out in your living room with an app or video can go a long way toward helping you stay physically and mentally healthy.

  • Reach for healthy coping skills – Writing in a journal, meditating, deep breathing, and yoga are just a few examples of healthy ways to relieve stress. Make sure you have plenty of healthy coping skills at your disposal, so you can reach for something healthy when your distress starts to increase.

  • Eliminate unhealthy coping skills – You might be tempted to turn to things that give you some immediate relief—like alcohol or food. But these things will cause more problems for you in the long term. So make unhealthy coping skills harder to access, and monitor your use. You don’t want to accidentally create bigger problems or introduce new problems into your life. 

  • “Change the channel” when you’re ruminating – Dwelling on things you have no control over will keep you stuck in an unhealthy state. If you find yourself thinking about how awful your life is, or you’re making catastrophic predictions, then interrupt yourself. Get up and do something to change the channel in your brain.

  • Distract yourself with a chore or activity.

  • Talk to a professional if you’re struggling – If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, or you’re having difficulty functioning, contact a mental health professional. Talk therapy or medication may help you feel better.

Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, college psychology instructor and internationally recognized expert on mental strength. She's a Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author of 13 Things 

Strong People Don't Do and 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do. Her books have been translated into 37 languages. 

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© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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