HOW TO JOB SEARCH IN THE AGE OF COVID-19, ACCORDING TO A CAREER COACH

by Melody Wilding (ForbesWomen)

Over 22 million Americans have lost their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. Unemployment is hovering at 18%, and is expected to rise in the coming weeks.

 

During this time, I’ve heard from many job seekers in my community. Many are understandably devastated and grieving from lay offs. Others, who were mid-search, are unsure about how to carry on looking for a new role when companies are issuing hiring freezes.

 

There’s no one better suited to help job seekers navigate these issues than Emilie Aries. Emilie is a speaker, podcast host, author, and the Founder and CEO of Bossed Up, an award-winning personal and professional development community where she helps women craft happy, healthy, and sustainable career paths.

 

In this interview, Emilie shares advice about how job seekers can adjust their strategies and stay motivated to find work they love despite these unprecedented conditions.

 

Melody Wilding: As the founder of Bossed Up, you have your finger on the pulse of how professional women are reacting to the career-related fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. What types of questions and concerns are you hearing from your community?

 

Emilie Aries: Of course everyone is concerned about how long this will last, and what the impact will be our lives, families, and careers. For the ambitious women in our community in particular, this means re-setting expectations on career advancement, which has been frustrating.

 

If you’re fortunate enough to have a stable job right now, it feels like moving up or pursuing progress of any kind is on hold. Many others are experiencing job insecurity, too, which can induce panic as we focus our most immediate needs like security and safety, food and finances. It’s difficult to access higher order strategic thinking when your basic needs feel threatened.

 

Wilding: Reports are saying women will be hardest hit by this coronavirus-driven recession. What advice do you have for someone who has just been laid off?

 

Aries: If you’ve been laid off due to COVID19, it’s important to prioritize getting your basic needs met first. Apply for unemployment benefits right away through the Department of Labor in the state in which you worked. Thanks to the recently-passed CARES Act, the benefit amount was increased by $600 a week and the program was opened up to contract workers for the first time. Phone wait times are long and some state websites are crashing due to overwhelm, but keep at it. The sooner you apply, the sooner your benefit checks will arrive.

 

Your next best bet is to get in touch with your (former) employer to try to get a sense of whether or not they may be in a position to rehire you in the near future, and then to get crystal clear about your personal finances. As scary as it may be, you need to know what resources can tide you over until you have money coming in again - whether it be in cash or credit. I shared more details on how to remain calm in taking these preliminary steps before launching your job search in a recent blog post and podcast of mine here. 

 

Wilding: Unemployment has hit record levels, which means more people are job searching than ever before. What can readers do to stand out from the pack?

 

Aries: Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that your entire job search strategy tells a clear and compelling story. From your cover letter and resume to your LinkedIn profile and even how you present yourself in virtual interviews, people trust people who are consistent.

 

So develop a clear story that explains the motivation behind your job search: why are you looking and what are you looking for, really? Explain what choices you’ve made in the past that have led you to where you are today. If you can distill all your experiences down to a clear story that’s reinforced again and again throughout all your job search assets, you’re more likely to be perceived as memorable, trustworthy, and authentic.

 

Wilding: How should readers think about pivoting their job search strategies? Are certain strategies more or less effective in this new normal?

 

Aries: Well, gone are the days of coffee meetings and networking events.  Welcome to the age of online networking. I am such a big believer in networking your way to your next job, that it’s imperative you continue to grow and activate your network even while practicing social distancing.

 

So what does that look like? Sending lots of initial outreach emails - to former colleagues, mentors, friends, and friends of friends - and asking for a virtual meeting, preferably over video chat. Then, make the most of your meeting by sharing your story and asking about theirs. What’s motivated their past career decisions? What are the trends they’re seeing in the industry? What do they enjoy most about their current workplace?

 

Try to identify common values and shared experiences to foster connection. And then ask outright for their advice. Be specific about what kind of support you need most like getting resume feedback or making an email-introduction to another contact, or putting in an internal referral with HR.                         

Finally, you cannot drop the ball when it comes to the follow-up game. That’s where you have the chance to show your contact that you’re the reliable, gracious professional you say you are. Send a timely (read: within 24 hour) thank you note and send along anything else they might need to help you - like a pre-written brief blurb they can use when making email introductions on your behalf, i.e.

Wilding: If you’re not hearing back from employers right now, what else can you do to stay active in your search?

 

Aries: Job-searching is a skill in and of itself. So if you find yourself feeling a bit stuck, skill-building in this department might be a wise use of your time. Seek out free guides and podcasts that cover professional development topics, or work on your leadership and communication skills over on platforms like LinkedInLearning.                                         (more)

A STRATEGY FOR FINDING A JOB DURING COVID-19 AS THE WORKPLACE CHANGES

by Sandy Becker

This is a great time to refine your skills; identify your passion and evolve by developing and sharing a plan on how you will contribute in the “new” workplace (during and post COVID).

 

Businesses (and their associates) have been challenged during this time to view and establish a new model on how they plan to operate, market and compete.

 

Key skills for both leaders and their employees will include the following:

  1. Effective Communications skills (virtual and in-person)

  2. Understanding and execution of social media messaging

  3. Recognition of technical tools and needed resources to execute plans

  4. Ability to delegate, prioritize, develop, evaluate and measure plans

  5. Hire candidates who will innovate, be flexible and are able to change as needed

 

Potential candidates should focus on their ability and history of evaluating alternative considerations, executing plans, while reducing costs and improving both individual and team productivity.

 

In today’s work climate, it is important for candidates to highlight (through ‘storytelling’) how they plan to research, prepare, plan, evaluate, execute and measure results.

 

Businesses are clearly challenged with communicating how they will re-enter the marketplace, evolve during and post COVID and redefine their business (and workplace) model.  This must be accomplished while competing for customer interest, including long-term brand awareness, recognition and credibility.

 

Organizations are developing varied (potential) plans; with a focus on how COVID is impacting their brand value, including setting expectations of when either medical treatments or ultimately a vaccine is FDA tested, approved and available.  Associates will need to be strategic to effectively execute plans.

 

All businesses will be challenged to refine and redefine their phased approach to moving forward (as state laws dictate timing and policies).  This includes hiring and training existing and new employees to align to required regulations, while providing clear and distinct value to existing and potential users.

 

With so much effort and focus on moving toward the next stage of business evolution; there is a significant resource need to:

  1. Be Creative

  2. Be Innovative

  3. Plan and capture timely market research (“voice of the customer”)

  4. Execute Effective Plans

  5. Measure results and provide strategic and tactical recommendations

 

Today's candidate will need to be comfortable with ambiguity, enjoy being a “first-mover” and risk-taker, who is willing to be flexible and compete in a variety of ways (e.g. product offers, customer service, technology

uniqueness).  This must be accomplished by providing a high level of customized services with an expectation of building and sustaining long-term customer relationships.  This will be critical to survive and thrive in both the short and long term.   

 

In many ways, a key theme that will highlight a core philosophy and trait for all employees (including candidates) will be to “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable”.

 

Although many businesses have significantly downsized and furloughed employees – it is important that all candidates (experienced or inexperienced) be prepared to share their vision with recruiters and organizations on how they can contribute and identify both expected challenges and opportunities.  This will give candidates credibility and provide insight on how they will address the “new normal”.

 

Standard operating methods will change and evolve; including an opportunity for both businesses and employees (for many functional areas) to re-invent themselves to align to a post COVID marketplace.

 

Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, R&D, Operations, Supply Chain and many other functions will need to reevaluate their focus, including their impact on the organization, unique productivity, resulting in improved customer satisfaction, brand value and perception.  Customer expectations have certainly changed.

 

For example, HR staff will need to focus on sourcing, recruiting effective talent for their organization in ways that provide potential leadership, functional competence and flexibility during this time of transition to a new business model.  In addition, HR is responsible for providing consultation and training for all employees, recognizing the need to transition both functional skills and relevant behaviors, including management styles that will be effective in the evolving marketplace.

 

In summary, candidates need to be open minded, flexible, willing and eager to learn from others and be strong effective leaders and team players.  In addition, there should be a focus on monitoring and adjusting the marketplace to align to desired workplace efficiency, productivity, ability to compete and supporting colleagues in this new workplace.

 

Candidates have a great opportunity to be entrepreneurial, innovative, creative – while being a risk-taker, competing, and proving themselves by aligning to an ever-changing marketplace.  This is a very exciting time to be a candidate.

 

Be prepared to share your vision, your thoughts on how to leverage your skill set, compete and drive desired buyer behavior in this highly evolving post COVID marketplace.

 

Enjoy the journey – always aim to be yourself; demonstrate your eagerness to be a creative, effective leader and innovator.  

Sandy Becker has a background includes experience in Instructional Design, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Sales Management and Project Management. He has worked in the Biotech, Pharmaceutical, Telecommunications, Financial Services, and Broadcast industries. In addition, projects have included creating and implementing strategic marketing

programs, and engaging customers in “learning solutions”. Recent focus is on designing and developing Marketing, Sales, Leadership and Technology content. At the Rutgers University Business School he teaches several graduate level courses including Brand Strategy, Marketing Management, Marketing Strategy, Consumer Behavior and Services Marketing. Sandy has been a presenter at a variety of trade shows, SHRM events, and industry conferences.

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