Landing a job after a long employment gap can be daunting. And the pandemic left many people unemployed—as well as overwhelmed and wondering what comes next. The good news is as we transition into a post-pandemic era, more and more job opportunities are becoming available each day. In addition, the uptick in remote positions is giving job seekers more schedule flexibility and more geographic options—it’s now possible to work from almost anywhere. This means it’s a great time to be looking for the next step in your career.
To that end, here are four job-search strategies to help you transition back into the workforce after a pandemic gap.
1. Expand your knowledge and skills
Now’s the perfect time to expand your skill set and increase your marketability through free courses offered from LinkedIn, edX, or Coursera. Alternatively, you can reach out to your local university or community college. Many schools have special career transition programs and may waive some or all fees for the unemployed or underemployed.
To choose which skills to add to your current set, check out the job descriptions of the jobs you want. If the jobs require a skill you don’t have, focus on building those competencies.
2. Sell your soft skills
Employers like to hire people who already know how to communicate well, problem solve, and work with others. So, make sure you can demonstrate these proficiencies on your resume and in your interviews. Concrete examples beat empty buzzwords every time. Don’t tell employers you’re a problem solver—show them. Note that flexible or transferable skills like decision-making, multitasking, and collaboration will maximize job success in any workplace and increase your opportunities to grow your career.
Additionally, showcasing these soft skills helps recruiters understand how you’ll fit within their company culture. It’s important that they know you can get the job done—and invaluable that they know you can maintain healthy, professional relationships with others while doing it.
3. Leverage high-value volunteer opportunities
Use volunteer opportunities with local government organizations, schools, and nonprofits to build your expertise and supplement your work experience. Institutions always need more help than their budget allows. This means they’ll often give less experienced people a chance to prove what they can do. And if you’re unable to work with volunteer groups in person, you can also search through projects listed on volunteer sites like Catchafire to see if any remote volunteer projects appeal to you.
Volunteer opportunities are the triple threat of job hunting. Not only do they give ample chances to build knowledge, but they also allow you to network as you add impressive proficiencies to your resume and do good things for your community.
4. Take advantage of transition tools
Many tools exist to help you transition back into the job market, whether it’s from pandemic unemployment or a longer break. Some of these tools are industry- or gender-specific. For example, The Second Shift matches high-skilled female professionals in industries like marketing, copywriting, and finance with companies that need independent contractors for short- and long-term projects. Meanwhile, the Women in Cloud Recruitment Lounge maintains job listings from dozens of companies looking to hire more women.
Another helpful tool for all job seekers is the iRelaunch corporate return to work list. This job board includes over 100 worldwide employers who maintain specific returnship/onboarding programs for workers with resume gaps.
A final note
Keep in mind that a step backward or sideways can ultimately be a step forward. If, after a gap, you’re looking to change your career trajectory or transition into a new field altogether, consider how your current skills can help you. It's likely you have skills that will be transferable to your new career. And keep in mind that although a move might come with a decreased salary at the start, if the move is from a dying industry into a growing one, it can be worth the temporary hardship—and lead to a long-term payoff.
Marla Keene is a writer and marketer for AX Control, an industrial parts supplier located in North Carolina. An erstwhile bookseller and entrepreneur, Marla writes about sustainable technology, machine learning, and how tech is changing American manufacturing.
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