Let’s be honest: Securing a new job during an economic downturn and pandemic is hard. It can feel demoralizing to keep sending out résumés and searching job boards when opportunities are so few and far between. Additionally, all the rules of the game feel like they’ve shifted. Basic steps such as scheduling an informational interview or networking with people in your chosen industry suddenly are different.
With new opportunities slowly ticking up, finding a new job takes a collection of techniques, an element of decisiveness, and a willingness to fail. Here’s what you need to do if you’re embarking on a pandemic job search:
1. Diligently research the company
It goes without saying that before a big interview, you should be putting in the time to carefully research your targeted company. But even before you’re preparing for your interview, keep an eye for news about your desired company—whether it’s positive or negative. Chances are, whatever you unearth will change your impression of the company during the current climate. If you find out your ideal company has laid off a huge swath of employees recently—consider this your red flag.
Also make sure to check out review websites such as Glassdoor and Fairygodboss to get an inside look at what employees are saying, outside of the company’s corporate blog or official social media. You may find your company excels at providing workers with benefits, even while remote, or even that the company is making a large batch of hires.
2. Keep networking virtually
The good news is that career fairs have not disappeared—they’ve simply moved to a virtual realm. Take advantage of these re-envisioned networking and career advancement opportunities, and make sure to remain open-minded and flexible about the virtual process.
A few pointers when engaging with an online career conference: First, make sure to schedule a time when you will be “attending” these virtual events. As Fast Company reporter Stephanie Vozza explains, these events will typically remind you of your designated time slot, and, before you enter the career fair “grounds,” you’ll have an opportunity to confirm that you’re “attending.”
What about the virtual interview? If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak to a person with hiring powers, make sure to prepare your surroundings—that means you, flattering lighting, and a tidy backdrop!—and your technology.
Further, Peter Baskin, an executive at Modern Hire, recommends practicing maintaining virtual eye contact in order to build a connection with your remote (and possibly AI-assisted) interviewer. “As awkward as it may feel, try to answer looking directly into the webcam to convey some of the visual cues lost via digital communication.”
3. Polish up your LinkedIn
In addition to trying out virtual spaces such as career fairs, make sure you’re putting your best self forward on social media. As a rule, diversifying the number of platforms you use is a must if you want to remain competitive.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool in the job search process. Therefore, if you strategically highlight your best skills (focusing on your top five is a good jumping-off point) and smartly project to your connections what you’re looking for, you’re increasing your chances of landing a job. LinkedIn has also created a special profile icon for job-seekers searching for a new role, though adjusting your LinkedIn profile settings to the “Share with recruiters” designation is less obvious and just as effective among recruiters.
“Joining and staying active on LinkedIn—and even Facebook—can lead to unforeseen job opportunities you’d never find in a job listing,” writes Peter Yang, CEO of ResumeGo. “A strong presence on LinkedIn can be a boon to securing new employment.”
4. Understand when to push, compromise, or let go
If you’ve been put on ice, perhaps temporarily, after receiving a pre-pandemic job offer—make sure to follow up. It is possible that the company will be able to take you on in a separate capacity, maybe as a contractor or according to a part-time schedule. The key is to reach out in a polite manner and approach your one-time hirer with understanding, rather than frustration.
The more you can stay in touch and gracefully follow up, the more trust you will build. Empathy and persistence are critical when pursuing an opportunity that’s on hold. (You can find a template for reaching out here.)
Eventually it may become clear that an opportunity is not forthcoming, and you’re better off productively exerting your energy into a new lead with a higher likelihood of landing a worthwhile offer.
5. Check in with yourself
Even during an economic downturn, it’s good to consider how well your values match up with any prospective company. Take a moment to ask yourself if you can see yourself there for a while. Times are tough right now, so turning down a job opportunity may be too hard to stomach. But it’s still good to be aware of any potential issues that may arise once you begin work.
As Fast Company contributor T. Tara Turk-Hayes writes, values are what will spell the difference between progress and hitting a dead end at a company: “All companies go through peaks and valleys . . . and what will keep everyone on the same page is the understanding of what’s important to that company. Aligning yourself with those principles as much as possible will help you be successful in your role.”