No one knows how long the current economic downturn will last. Some economists believe more than 40% of jobs that have been lost will not come back. Fortunately, we’ve heard from people that have already returned to their previous jobs or started new positions.
Not everyone is being offered their job back on favorable terms. For example, I spoke with someone that was asked if she would return to her company with 30% less salary while taking on additional responsibilities.
It does not matter whether your job does not exist anymore, or whether you choose not to return, or to leave, because the employment terms are no longer favorable to you. You need a post COVID-19 strategy.
A key part of the strategy should be to avoid a resume gap. Research has shown that employers are less likely to hire job candidates that have been unemployed for six months or more.
Today, I am sharing 4 of the strategies I’ve learned in the last 20 years that have worked for my clients. These strategies include:
- Taking on temporary work,
- Doing freelance assignments,
- Skills-based volunteering, and
- Assisting friends and family.
We do not know yet whether the current recession will be short or long, so I have looked back at my clients’ experience in the last recession to get some ideas.
Some clients I worked with in the last two recessions were unemployed for a long time even though they had many years of experience and advanced degrees. This trend concerned me and other career coaches, so I looked for answers. I learned that Rand Ghayad, an M.I.T. researcher quoted in a 2013 Boston Globe article “found that employers showed four times more interest in candidates unemployed for six months or less — even if they had less experience and fewer qualifications than those experiencing longer bouts of joblessness.” Additionally, he noted that older unemployed workers, were “most frequently passed over.”
You can reduce the chances that your resume will be passed over if you are out of work for six months or more but you should act now.
Accept temporary assignments.
The most important thing you can do is show current activity on your resume. A strategy job-seekers have used for many years is to take assignments through temporary employment agencies. Recently, I worked with a client, for example, that had been working in administrative assignments at a pharmaceutical company through a temp agency after leaving the military. He came to me because he needed more steady, and higher paying work to support his family. It turned out that, because all his temp assignments were at the same company, and they had a consistent theme—project administration—we could combine them under one heading to show a solid history as an IT project administrator. This gave him a much stronger presentation than a resume that portrayed him as an administrative temp that with many short assignments. He started a new, more highly compensated role as a business analyst within days.
Take Freelance and consulting projects.
A related strategy is to do freelance or consulting work. Admittedly, this is a distinction without a difference for resume purposes, because the practical result is the same. You work on a series of relatively short projects to stay active in your field.
My clients in the fashion industry have used this strategy. One client, for example, worked on projects for several start-ups, and also created her own fashion brand and put her portfolio online. We used her portfolio brand as her employer “headline” for LinkedIn and her resume, and combined her projects for start-ups with her independent design work to create one “job” spanning her employment gap.
You can even create a logo for your freelance or consulting brand and put it on LinkedIn. Establish a LinkedIn company page for your brand, and upload a logo. Then, when you enter your freelance brand name in an “employer” dialogue box on LinkedIn, your brand name will be recognized and your logo will appear. That’s how my freelance work initially grew into “Resumes that Shine” on my LinkedIn page before I had a professional web site and blog.
Get involved in skills-based volunteer work
Another option is to become involved in volunteer work. An MBA candidate I worked with who was seeking a position in strategic consulting, for example, prepared a strategic plan for the International Rescue Committee as a student volunteer. Another talented job-seeker with an advanced degree from M.I.T. volunteered to teach children and their parents in low-income households how to use the Internet. This is a skill that is in great demand right now as public schools have been forced to go virtual.
Colleagues of mine have found work in college career offices and public employment programs by volunteering to help at job fairs or to help job-seekers with cover letters, resumes, and online job search. Personally, I landed two different jobs by running job clubs and doing presentations as a volunteer. It seems counterintuitive to get professional work by giving work away. It was more fun than sitting home and sending out resumes, and it worked!
Help out your friends and family.
We may be able to add experience to our resumes even if we are not doing substantial temp, freelance, consulting, or volunteer work related to our field. For example, a resume writer told the LinkedIn “Resume Writers & Co.” group some time ago that she filled a “stay-at-home Mom’s” employment gap by describing her as a “Stay-at-home Mom and Community Volunteer,” and then including some bullet points illustrating her accomplishments.
An industrial engineer that was staying home with her young child helped a relative with some strategic planning and design work for her startup. This project neatly filled her gap. A teacher I worked with built a web site to sell his family’s crafts while he stayed home with his son. This filled his gap between teaching roles in a large school system and his job at a charter school.
Neither family project generated much income. Nonetheless, we were able to demonstrate business accomplishments for the projects to make them viable resume entries.
Set your post-COVID-19 path now.
We know that employers show less interest in those of us that have been out of work for more than half of the year. This does not mean we are out of luck and will not get work. We can do temporary, freelance, and consulting work, volunteer to do work relevant to our profession, or even help out our family, and then feature this work on our resumes. Do you need some ideas to make some of these strategies work on your resume? Click here for a free consultation.