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by Carla Isabel Carstens | June 02, 2020


If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, it’s OK to feel anxious and unsettled about your current job prospects. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to make a statement with 100% confidence and accuracy about the future of our careers and industries in the coming months. Many cities are entering phase two openings, while career-hubs like New York City are just about to enter phase one. 

One thing’s for sure: doing nothing is not an option. You cannot control how this virus affects you, your loved ones, and the job market, but you can take action. When you understand and accept what’s changing, you have the opportunity to better manage your own outcome. What’s hard about these situations is your lack of control. Acceptance of the situation gives you that sense of control back that will make this somewhat manageable.

I’m not saying you need to pretend this isn't hard, but the point is to remain constructive and positive. Try to reframe this situation as an opportunity. Let's say you were unhappy in your previous job or industry, you can use this as an opportunity to find a job in an industry you love. If you’ve always wanted to pivot in a different direction, this is your opportunity to obtain the needed skills to make that happen.

Also, keep in mind that there are quite a few incredible companies readily hiring. While the pandemic has presented many hardships, some industries are doing fairly well, and are rapidly hiring at the corporate level. I’ve seen incredible entry-to-mid-level positions posted online over the past few days. These companies are waiting for go-getters like you to send them your resumes. However, your success in getting a job during such a competitive time comes down to making the most of this moment, applying effectively, and standing out amongst the pack.

Short-term job search strategies

First things first. Look into available financial assistance options dependent on your situation. We all need help sometimes, and there are resources available for this very purpose. Take advantage of them.

Secondly, try to find ways to supplement your income. Consider looking for part-time, freelance, remote, or gig work until you get a longer-term offer. It’s a great way to build experience, sharpen your skills, and get paid while filling time. There are many options available for people with little or no experience, such as data entry or transcribing audio files. 

Just remember the goal here isn’t to “find the perfect gig", but to generate incoming cash and stay busy. Let’s be real, you cannot spend all day working on your resume, networking, and looking for jobs. It’ll start feeling like Groundhog Day. Too much time on your hands can lead to your thoughts and mindset floating in a negative direction. But if you can find a situation that aligns with your overarching career goals - AMAZING! 

Another great use of time is to take advantage of the available free knowledge being by various education institutions and businesses. There are tons of courses now being offered for free or incredibly low prices. If there are skills missing from your resume, now is the time to learn them! Not so great at Photoshop? Adobe is offering free short-term access to some of their programs. Not familiar with Google Analytics? Sign up for their free course!

Lastly, shed the guilt you have surrounding having more free time than usual. As long as you are diligently doing what you need to do, allow yourself to savor this free time. Who knows when you’ll have an opportunity like this again? 

Long-term job search strategies

The bottom line is, if you are unemployed you need to keep applying. The easiest way to not get hired is to not apply in the first place. But first, be pragmatic in regards to what career you are hoping to pursue. Is it still thriving in today’s world? Do your best to understand the market and focus your efforts on companies that have the capability to continue business through this crisis. 

Do your research: which industries are poised to weather this moment? Digital, health, gaming, etc. If your dream career is in hospitality or travel, you might have to be honest with yourself and reconsider your path. Not to say there isn’t a future there, but try to reframe your career path so that you can easily pivot back to that dream travel industry career once things settle. 

Next, it’s time to evaluate your materials. To optimize your search, compare your cover letter and resume to potential job opportunities. Tailoring your resume and cover letter is a must, not an option. Once you identify a job you’d like to apply to and are an actual candidate for, scan the listing and apply relevant keywords to your resume and cover letter. Address any requirements, skills, and qualities you possess that are also in the job posting.

Ask yourself: would my resume be appealing to an employer based on their job posting? Does my cover letter expand on my most relevant professional experiences, certifications, and qualities as it pertains to each specific job? 

Applying to everything under the sun will get you nowhere, and is mentally draining. Don’t quantify your success in seeking employment by the number of jobs you apply to. It’s better to apply to one job you are qualified for rather than 50 you’re not.

It’s of utmost importance to stay on top of your job search in such a competitive hiring environment. Applying to a position a few weeks after it’s been posted doesn’t help your chances at all, because the first resume is typically received within 3.5 minutes after a position is posted online

Make it a habit to look for jobs 1-2 times a day. Set saved searches on all the career websites you frequent, and sign up for the email alerts and make sure they don’t go to junk. That way when a job posts, you are on it. 

Some last words about job hunting during COVID19

Remember that employers may be taking some time to answer questions that may affect their conversation with you. You may get an interview, and not hear back for a while. You can’t go into this with any specific expectations. This is uncharted territory, and while some businesses have a clear game plan, many don’t, as the impacts of this pandemic are unknown. 

Be patient and continue to check-in on job opportunities at reasonable and empathetic intervals. The emails you send those applications and cold emails to? They are opened by humans just like you and me! Don’t forget that. It’s not the time to be mass cold emailing, especially small businesses. Be strategic about the companies you target, as I mentioned earlier.

Focus on making yourself, and your work capabilities and availability known within your community, apply to jobs that are recently posted online, read that dusty book, invest in yourself and your well-being. Most importantly, trust that everything is gonna be alright.

Carla Isabel Carstens is a career coach and keynote speaker who specializes in helping women design a life and career they love. Her program Catalyst helps professionals interested in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries take control of their future by helping them to take a proactive approach to attaining their dream career. Notable media coverage and speaking engagements include Forbes, the New York Times, Ladders, the Everygirl, Bloomingdales, Harvard, Columbia, and NYU.