10 Ways to Ensure Your Job Search and Career Survives a Pandemic

Businesswoman uncertain as to her next moveBelow I share some of the career and job search advice I’m giving concerned clients as we navigate this challenging time. The key to making it through and achieving your career goals is to use this time wisely now to set yourself up for quick success later, once the economy starts to rebound. Here’s a list of 10 things you can do now to boost results:

1. Build relationships now that will help you later. You’ll want to tap into the hidden job market, the relationship-driven market for unadvertised jobs, to get what you want as soon as the economy improves. Think broadly about your existing network; include your LinkedIn connections, former colleagues from many years ago, family, friends, acquaintances and so forth, and let them know (by email, LinkedIn message, etc.) of your job target and value to employers. Similarly, look to meet new people who can hire or refer you, either via an introduction or by cold-emailing/calling (the latter works really well if your messaging is right).

Then, crucially, keep in touch, both to keep top-of-mind and to build a real relationship with new contacts so they’ll want to help you (and vice versa). Here are three ways to keep in touch without being annoying.

2. Get organized to get results. Everyone that could possibly help you in your search, either now or when the economy improves, should be entered into your contact management database, which for many of my clients consists of just a simple spreadsheet. You need contact management to ensure that no opportunities slip by due to a missed outreach opportunity or follow-up. Among the ways to set up your database, fill-in two crucial fields for every contact, “next action” and “date of next action.”

3. Set up informational meetings now with those who can hire you or refer you. Given the current environment, many will have extra time available for a conversation. Here’s an outline for how to conduct an informational meeting that can land you an interview:

  1. Re-introduce yourself and remind them why you’re meeting, e.g. “Thank you for agreeing to talk with me about…”
  2. Give them your 30-second pitch, which concisely and engagingly explains your value to an employer and what differentiates you.
  3. Ask them probing, thoughtful questions to understand how you might be able to help them or their colleagues.
  4. If their organization can’t use you in the near term, you might pivot to getting feedback on your resume and how you’re presenting yourself (don’t do this if they’re in fact interested in you).
  5. Again if there’s not a near-term fit, ask them if there is anyone else you should be talking to, that is, try to get a referral. In fact, while you’re on the call, you can email them a list of organizations to which you’re thinking of reaching out; seeing the organization names may jog their memory.
  6. Write them a thank you note if you feel they did you a favor by meeting, or an “influence email” if you feel they are interested in your working for them; an influence email adds to the case for why they should hire you.

 4. Have lots of meetings – win at the numbers game. Even if your messaging is strong and resonant, you’ve still got to have enough meetings in the works for the right offer to materialize. This post describes what I mean by “enough”.

5. Build the foundation now for a successful career or industry change when the time is right. Conduct research online, learn more by talking to people in your target areas, take online classes, get involved with the right association (see #7 below), or consider freelancing to gain experience. This article shares one inspiring example of how a career-changer quickly built an entirely new skill set online that powered her successful career change. Another example: a client jump-started a career change into a marketing director role by first gaining marketing clients on Upwork.com, a freelancing website (there are many others), which filled an experience gap on her resume.

 6. Be flexible about how you’re willing to be paid. One client was hired on a consulting basis when the employer was reluctant to bring her on full time. Another negotiated for less in the short term and more later if certain benchmarks were met.

7. Get involved with the right association, one that has a lot of employed people in your job target, to land a job more quickly or make a career change. Run or help run a committee, or get on the board. That way people who can hire or refer you see you as the capable human being you are, and not just a piece of paper. Make sure you place this association experience in the “Experience” section of your resume. Many clients have landed jobs because of the relationships they built and experience they gained while volunteering in an association.

8. Pay attention to sectors that may be growing as a result of this pandemic or its aftermath. Companies that are helping to turn in-person into virtual interactions come to mind, e.g. at work or within education, retail/e-commerce, or supply chain to take a few examples. Also the media and entertainment sectors have gotten a boost, as well as certain legal, tax and financial advisory service providers. And don’t forget the health care sector, already strong before the pandemic.

9. If you’re currently employed, take action as if you knew you could be let go at any time. For example:

  • Ensure you have the email addresses and organizational information of key people you want to keep in touch with at your current company
  • Ensure any personal files you have at work are backed up
  • Start building your career-advancing network of relationships today, both inside and outside your organization, using all the guidelines just discussed
  • Get your job search “marketing materials” in great shape, including your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
  • Do your best to get clued into office “gossip” about what’s going on, to help avoid surprises.
  • Prepare yourself to negotiate severance in advance, including outplacement (i.e. job-search) services.

10. Don’t forget empathy. Especially now, when we’re focused on our own problems, we can forget that others may be going through something as bad or worse. When reaching out, consider using language like: “If the timing of my outreach is less than ideal for you in the current environment, I can get in touch with you at a later time.”