A record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. It’s the biggest jump in new jobless claims in US history. There are nearly 67 million Americans working in jobs right now that are considered high risk for layoffs, and some experts predict the Covid 19 pandemic could ultimately eliminate 47 million jobs. Additionally, 3.3 million high school students and 4 million post-secondary students will be graduating into a world that isn’t hiring in the way it was two months ago.
There’s no other way to put it: it’s a scary time, especially if you’ve unexpectedly lost a job, or were poised to go into an industry that’s experiencing massive layoffs. Our first advice? Breathe and take this one day at a time. Also, realize this is not a failure or misstep on your part. This is a situation you had no control over.
Unfortunately, we aren’t here to offer you a blanket solution. None of us know how the long-term economic impact from the pandemic will play out. However, as career exploration experts, we can give you the following advice:
- Get Your Affairs in Order- Whether you lost your job or your opportunity to secure one, the first thing you should do is to get your affairs in order. Check out these great resources by Forbes or NPR which can help you identify how to first and foremost financially stabilize yourself during this time.
- Remain Flexible-Benjamin Franklin said, "When you're finished changing, you're finished." While he may not be saying it outright, he's alluding to the fact that in order to be successful, we must be adaptable and flexible. We need to embrace change, know how to pivot, and how to be willing to compromise. Take comfort in the fact that the path to success is often non-linear. Use this time of uncertainty as a growing opportunity.
- Network, Network, Network- According to a survey on LinkedIn, 85% of respondents found their job via networking. 70% of job postings aren't even listed. Networking could be reaching out to professionals you admire in fields you want to break into, finding an online community, developing an online presence, keeping in touch with old work and school colleagues, keeping in touch with old teachers, reaching out via LinkedIn—the world of 20th century networking is vast.
- Utilize Your Soft Skills- 91% of employers surveyed said that soft skills are a critical skill set they look for in new employees, and 80% of employers said they have a hard time finding candidates with soft skills in today's market. Soft skills include creativity, patience, leadership, emotional intelligence, and the aforementioned flexibility. Get creative: look at jobs that are hiring and see what soft skills in your repertoire can help you stand out. Use your unflappability to show potential employers that you’re ready for anything. Use your soft skills to not just land that job but remain collected and levelheaded during this time.
- Make a Change- Ask yourself if you were truly happy in your career, or if the major you just graduated in was right for you. This may be the perfect time to make a pivot. Use this time to decide if what you'd been doing is what you want to be doing.
- Look for a Side Gig- Adapt the “there is no bad job” mentality. Maybe you didn’t think you’d be delivering Uber Eats or stocking shelves anytime soon, but maybe you were also wondering how to get customer service experience? If you’re able to learn something from every job you work and can articulate the value of what you learned to future employers, you’re setting yourself up for success.
- Build Your Personal Brand- 85% of people get jobs through networking, and a bulk of today’s networking, especially in these times of social distancing, happens online. How does your Facebook reflect your career goals? Do you have anything embarrassing on Twitter from a couple of years ago that you wouldn't want a potential employer to see? Do you have a LinkedIn page set up? All of these contribute to the virtual footprint that’s so important in today’s job market. Likewise, you can use platforms like Medium (writing), Etsy (creating), Anchor (podcasting), YouTube (YouTube), Tik Tok (videos), WordPress (blogging), etc. to start churning out content that aligns with your career aspirations. Make sure you have a niche and a voice. This isn’t just about being an influencer (unless that’s your career goal) but starting to establish yourself as a thought leader. Put out content that reflects who you are, what you represent, your areas of expertise, and the work you’re capable of doing. This will show future employers you’re driven, forward thinking, and not afraid of hard work.
- Learn Something New- Utilize platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Google Academy, or Udemy to hone or learn skills applicable for the job you’d like. Those are just three suggestions. YouTube is another great resource. As with anything you do online, you’ll want to ensure you vet your sources, but there’s endless options. Some cost money. Some don’t. This can help you utilize your time productively, and can show future employers you have initiative, drive, and are a lifelong learner.
- Conduct a Personal Interview- Reach out to as many people as possible in the field you’d like to get into. This is a form of networking—maybe there’s a hiring freeze now, but that person you spoke with may just remember you when there’s not. This also allows you to mine experts for tips on how to land that job you want, what kind of candidates employers are looking for, and will allow you to realize if the job you’re seeking is a correct fit for you. You’d be shocked how many people don’t realize the totality of what the job they’re seeking entails.
- We’re All in This Together- We’re all weathering the same storm here, and there is something uniquely unifying about that. Check in with friends, families, colleagues, teachers, etc. and see how they’re holding up through these challenging times. Sometimes a good long chat is all it takes to put things in perspective and help you block out negative noise.