I’ve been observing the continued reports of business closings, school closings, and event cancellations around the country due to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 crisis. Crises of this magnitude usually impact one city or a relatively small region. This crisis affects everyone.
There is a high degree of agreement that networking and job search activities are most effective when we meet industry contacts and potential employers in person. Right now, though, we are being advised to stay home and away from offices, campuses, restaurants, and even our favorite coffee shops.
It’s tempting to use the unexpected windfall of time to sit in front of our computers and applying for hundreds of jobs online. A recruiter told me, several months ago, that each job posting can receive nearly 300 responses, as opposed to less than 50 responses 25 years ago. We can guess the number will be much higher this week when many people are home.
The question, then, is are there more productive things you can be doing instead of plastering your resume all over the job boards? Here are some ideas:
- Improve your LinkedIn strategy,
- Update your resume,
- Prepare for video interviews,
- Pursue essential crisis jobs, and
- Seek freelance work online.
We will start with the steps that will have long-term, strategic impact, on your job search. Then, we’ll discuss opportunities you can consider pursing right now to generate income.
The economy has been strong until the crisis began, so you may be in a long-term job that allows you to work at home, or in an essential job that you expect to continue. Now is a good time to enhance your LinkedIn profile and to upgrade resume.
Create or improve your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn, as you probably know, is a social media platform where professionals interact to advance their careers and businesses. A recruiter once described LinkedIn to me as “a very good job board.”
In my opinion, LinkedIn is not a panacea. It is not a substitute for in-person or even telephone networking. Consider it a starting point for networking. It also provides us with a way we can reach out to people we cannot readily meet with in person.
First, establish an account on the site if you do not have an account already. Then, start building or improving your profile. Future blog posts will offer detailed suggestions for key sections of your profile. For now, we’ll give you some suggestions and reminders that will help you make certain your profile is working for you. Specifically,
- Include a professional headshot because LinkedIn says profiles with headshots are 27 times more likely to be found in searches,
- Take advantage of the full 120 characters permitted for a LinkedIn headline—do not accept the default job title,
- Use the 2000 characters permitted in the “About” section,
- Write your content in a first-person, social media style instead of pasting your resume content into the dialogue boxes,
- Expand your network to more than 500 members to improve your search results, and
- Post to your LinkedIn page and participate in LinkedIn groups to keep your account active.
LinkedIn is professional and business social media, so you do not need to post constantly the way some people post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, excessive posting to LinkedIn may be viewed negatively by prospective employers and networking contacts because you look like you are not busy. It is important to be present, just as presence is important in any aspect of business.
Update your resume.
Last December, a major recruiter gave me an opportunity to browse his database for job candidates that would be marketable if they had better resumes. My review disclosed that the vast majority of resumes in the database were poorly structured, poorly written, or both.
Some of the problems I notices included:
- Missing or outdated email addresses,
- No summary information or personal brand statement,
- Employment sections that do not differentiate the job candidate because the narrative read like a collection of job descriptions from the HR department, and
- Missing or vague education information.
Open your resume file now and see if it has any of these problems. Then download my free PDF for more detailed suggestions.
Prepare for video interviews.
Video interviews have become more common in recent years. They could become the best practice for initial interviews for the next few months if the crisis continues.
A video interview differs from a Facetime call with a friend. It requires more thought and preparation. For example, according to a LinkedIn Pulse article posted last week, it is important to:
- Look directly into the camera,
- Maintain a neutral, uncluttered background, and
- Display your notes on a separate computer screen if you have one.
The most important thing, I’ve found, is to practice in advance. Get a Skype account if you do not have one, in case the employer does not use Zoom or another teleconferencing platform. Then practice with a friend to make certain you are centered in-frame, you have adjusted your microphone correctly, and your background looks uncluttered.
Broadcast television makes the process look easy. It takes work to get it right!
SHORT TERM STRATEGIES
Some of us do not have the luxury of thinking long-term. We need work now. The options for those of us that must find a job as soon as possible include looking for work in essential industries or doing freelance work online.
Seek work in essential industries.
Some work has to go on during the crisis. Healthcare workers are, of course, in very high demand, and not every job requires an advanced professional degree. Caregiving comes to mind in this category. There is also a shortage of truck drivers to bring medical supplies and equipment to points-of-need.
Also, according to press reports, manufacturing plants may be ramping up medical supply and equipment production either on their own or under “wartime” government orders. They will no doubt need workers.
Another area of expansion is distribution of goods ordered online. CNN reported this morning, for example, that Amazon is hiring 100,000 distribution workers in the United States.
Consider whether you are a match for available jobs before you apply for them. Apply for jobs that suit your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Avoid applying for a warehouse job, for example, if you are bored by routine or if you cannot lift boxes. On the other hand, if you always wanted a warehouse job, you may find great opportunities.
Crisis job market needs depend on your locality and will change quickly, so do your research. Check company web sites, make calls, and visit essential businesses in your area, if you are permitted to do so in your area.
Another alternative is freelance work.
Freelance work online is an option that did not exist just a few years ago. Check out web sites and services such as LinkedIn ProFinder, Fiverr, Thumbtack, and many others for opportunities to do “gig work” in your field.
So-called gig economy work may pay significantly less than your regular job. For example, I did contract work for a resume company a few years ago and was paid less than 20% of the price to the customer. Nonetheless, online gig work can keep you active in your field, and supplement your emergency unemployment or other income.
In other words, there are steps you can take today to make strategic preparations for your next career move, or even to get work during the crisis.
What are you doing to keep your job search and networking moving during the emergency? What are your questions?