If you've ever been in a job search, you know that your time is often filled with networking events, lunches, coffees and speed "dating" events of all kinds. If you are currently in or embarking on a job search, you may be asking yourself, how can it possibly be done in the age of social distancing? How can you vet an opportunity and allow a company to truly consider you as a strong candidate when in-person meetings and interviews are entirely off the table?
Believe it or not, there are a myriad of activities naturally built into the job search that require you to look inward instead of outward, taking weeks (months, even — if finances allow) of reflection and soul searching. The mantra "soul search before you start your job search" is one that has flooded the internet as of late. While the origin is unknown, the message is clear: If you don't know what you want to do in your career, better figure it out before you send out that first resume.
Taking Time To Reflect
Take time for reflection, identify a target job, and break it down into its smallest bits:
• What job title do you want?
• What industry do you specialize in?
• What companies intrigue you?
First, get clear on your ideal title/function by going to O*Net or scouring job descriptions and ranking them in order of what you think would get you excited to go to work every day.
Selecting An Industry
Clearly selecting an industry is another way to stand out in a crowded market. If you don't think industry specialization matters, think again. As a former recruiter for Walt Disney World and America Online, I was often required to interview five or more candidates at a time. I vividly recall the candidates who stood out; the ones who had hospitality in their DNA. The ones who, at six years of age, created restaurants in their basements on snow days, replete with handmade menus and holiday specials. Target an industry that excites you, and you will have an easier time connecting with recruiters.
Updating Your Resume And Refining Your Pitch
In an effort to ready yourself, updating your resume and refining your pitch always make the top of the list. Learn how to build a compelling resume and an accompanying accomplishment bullet. Or opt to get help; resume writers abound and can take the legwork out of this daunting task. But the best resume writers take time to build their masterpiece, upwards of 10-15 business days for some, so plan ahead.
Preparing For Potential Interview
Get "virtual-interview ready" by learning how to ace a Zoom or Skype interview. Schedule a call with a friend, and send them a few questions to ask you. Get comfortable looking into the camera and practicing your answers. Find that perfect interview outfit — you know, the one that doesn't drown you out or contrast with your wall color.
Last, but certainly not least, for those of you who were finally getting interviews but are now in the middle of a waiting game, there is still hope. While recruiters are cutting back on their less urgent requisitions, they know they need to be ready when the market returns to normal; as such, recruiting and interviewing is still going on. Be patient. Temper your assertiveness with sensitivity and the understanding that these delays are not personal. But, don't hesitate to stay top of mind. In my book, 100 Conversations for Career Success, we advise job seekers to "generate buzz with an email newsletter." While admittedly, these newsletters can feel a bit "cheesy," they do allow you to stay in touch with your close contacts by sharing your progress and challenges, along with any help that is needed.
Becoming More Marketable
Use the downtime to become more marketable. If you had been contemplating a career change before you first heard "COVID-19," you are now free to engage in those activities in earnest. Even in just the last few weeks, many online courses with free and low-cost options have come out of the woodwork. You probably don't have to look too far, but, even so, here are a few of the tried and true ones that have great value, are flexible, and are easy to access:
• Udemy.com (anyone can host a class; classes as low at $9.99; you get the course for life)
• Coursera.com (professors from major universities; curated online experience; prestige; $30-$100 per course) including my favorite, and the No. 1 course ever taught at Yale, The Science of Well-Being, which we could, arguably, all use a bit more of right now.
• Lynda.com (otherwise known as LinkedIn Learning; subscription model; great for professionals)
• Pluralsight (annual membership to 5,000+ courses)
Engaging in Mindfulness
Lastly, as a lifelong student of mindfulness, I would be remiss without sharing that now is a great time to cultivate inner peace. In an effort to protect your sanity, be fastidious about the media you consume and the conversations in which you engage, especially in these difficult and anxiety-provoking times. What are you Googling or consuming on social media? Instead of watching the news, migrate to Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer, all great low-cost meditation apps that help you step away from the headlines, get in the zone and lower your blood pressure, most with meditations as short as 10 minutes. Not a bad way to spend your time at home, if you ask me!