A recruiter that runs regular YouTube shows for job seekers called 2020 “a year like no other.” The 2020 crisis was, and for the moment still is, international in scope, and probably impacts more jobs in a wider range of industries than any recession in recent memory.
Successful people focus on the future, so that is what I will try to do. This blog already includes posts such as this one discussing specific companies with openings now so we will look at strategy instead. Strategies that I think will be helpful in 2021 include:
- Featuring your Pandemic-related career pivot,
- Dealing honestly and creatively with a COVID-19 related employment gap, and
- Taking advantage of virtual opportunities to grow and maintain your industry and professional contacts.
The Pandemic had some impact on those of us that continued to work, as well as those of us that were laid-off or furloughed. Many that continued to work were suddenly displaced from their offices and forced to work from home. They also took on new and unexpected roles, in some cases.
Those of us that became full-time job seekers found ourselves in a world where traditional in-person networking may not be an option in their geographic area.
Feature your career pivot.
A common marketing expression is “if you can’t avoid it, feature it.” An example of this is the yogurt boldly labeled “fruit on the bottom” because the fruit chunks sink to the bottom of the container.
I found two recent customers who are in jobs that were transformed suddenly into new roles as a result of the Pandemic. Last week, for example, I heard from a prominent lobbyist that was hired in 2019 as the first-ever full-time staff member assigned to represent her organization in the Pennsylvania Statehouse and at the US Congress. The Statehouse was closed suddenly, making in-person lobbying impossible. Instead, she was given leadership of a five-member team charged with finding and purchasing $1 million in PPE for member organizations at a time when most of us saw TV images of doctors and hospitals serving the public without enough of this essential equipment. She acquired the supplies within three weeks!
Another client was hired in January, 2020 to oversee fundraising galas in New York and Washington, DC, and an additional event in Dallas, TX. Suddenly, her events were recast as virtual fundraisers requiring a different skillset to execute. She needed to hire and supervise video production contractors instead of caterers, for example. Ultimately, she met or exceeded her fundraising goals, so the pivot was successful.
Deal honestly and creatively with a COVID-19 related employment gap.
Not everyone I have spoken to recently has been able to pivot successfully. An event promoter I spoke with while typing this told me that, with most live events shut down, he has generated about 5% of expected revenue.
As we know, many have lost their jobs during the Pandemic, and now have an employment gap. It is always a good idea for job seekers to demonstrate activity during employment gaps and now it’s more important than ever. Part of the reason is that LinkedIn considers profiles incomplete if they do not show a current job, and ranks them accordingly in search results.
Cindy, a senior business analyst in Florida, filled her employment gap on her LinkedIn profile as follows:
““As a business analysis consultant, I offer to fill gaps on project teams, including product owner, IT owner, functional lead, tester, UAT coordinator, organizational readiness lead, and project manager. My first engagement was a two-month effort where I collaborated with Seminole Hard Rock internal stakeholders and their external vendors to elicit, document and validate current state resort booking processes. The result of my work is that Hard Rock leadership acquired early buy-in for a booking engine replacement initiative.”
The preferred approach, in my view, is to fill resume and profile gaps with consulting, temp, and volunteer work in your field. Another creative approach is to list your target job title as your current job, and then bullet-point relevant classes and professional conferences you have completed. You can also establish a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, and then include this under a brand heading on your profile and resume.
Cindy landed a new role as a senior business analyst shortly after we wrote the description above, despite the raging Pandemic in Florida.
Either strategy shows prospective employers that you have been doing something relevant and productive during your Pandemic down-time.
Take advantage of virtual opportunities for growing and maintaining your industry and professional contacts.
Growing and maintaining your professional and industry contact list, often called networking, is traditionally an in-person endeavor. It’s not something you can “phone in.” Experts have told us again and again that face-to-face communications is much more powerful than communicating on the telephone.
Many of us have had to rethink this as a result of the Pandemic and the advent of new technology. Traditional networking events have moved to Zoom and other video conferencing tools.
Videoconferencing may not create a level of connection as high as the level created through face-to-face conversations but it largely erases geographic boundaries. Now, I attend classes and events hosted by a recruiter in Houston, TX more easily than I attend in-person events in Manhattan. In fact, it is faster and less expensive to participate in virtual events and meetings because travel time and money no longer have to be considered.
Another advantage to me is that contact information and documents participants share is saved more-or-less automatically. If you are not a highly organized person, there’s a good chance the business cards and handouts you picked up at an event are promptly lost and never seen again.
Nonetheless, I continue to maintain that making LinkedIn connections is a starting point for networking. It is not networking. No one, in my view, is truly a connection unless you have had a conversation with them. Subscribe to a sharable online calendar such as TimeTrade so you can send LinkedIn connections and others a link to set a time to converse without the back-and-forth of “what works for you?”
Turn the challenges of 2020 into opportunities in 2021.
Your mission in 2021, should you choose to accept, is to turn the career problems created by the Pandemic into opportunities. Feature the new skills you demonstrated, and the short-term projects and continuing education you took on during the crisis. Take advantage of virtual networking opportunities until the Pandemic winds down in your area.
You may also want to kick-off the year with our complimentary review of your career marketing strategy. Click here for a complimentary conversation with us.