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Job searching during the COVID-19 pandemic

It can be tempting in times of turmoil and change to push the pause button on a job search, but University of Phoenix career advisors say that’s not necessary — or even wise — during the current coronavirus pandemic.

Certain industries currently have a greater need for employees, particularly service industries that are considered essential. Now is an excellent time for all job seekers to network by developing professional friendships with those in the company, field or industry in which they’d like to work. Creating a strategy for your job search is the best first step.

Steven Starks, senior manager for the University’s career counseling programs and operations, said it’s important to acknowledge that the context of a job search in the current market requires managing expectations and setting realistic goals.

“If I’m looking for a job, I’m going to accept that I cannot control the labor market. But I can return to the basics — my attitude, effort and strategy,” Starks said. “Those are practical things I can do.”

Where to start?

Starks said to start with your end goal, considering the following: What are you trying to achieve? Is it more money? More fulfilling work? A whole life change?

If your goal is to make more money, getting a new job is not the only way to do that. Maybe you need to have multiple jobs, do contract work or offer consulting services, said Starks, who has two side gigs himself.

Next is to start your research. Understand the landscape. For those industries and companies that are hiring right now, opportunities are going to be more plentiful. For other companies, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll see delayed or postponed hiring and hiring freezes.

A quick internet search can indicate which industries are hiring. For instance, someone interested in software development might consider that food service delivery apps are in high demand. Healthcare and retail pharmacies are rushing to create the technical infrastructure to serve customers in a more remote way. Is there an opportunity in that?

“If there is a need in the market, a problem to be solved, that’s where you go in the market,” he said.

Find websites that show which industries and companies are hiring, or which are offering flexible, remote work. Jobs may be more plentiful in these industries during the pandemic: delivery services, trucking, e-commerce businesses and others involved in the supply chain, grocery stores, and healthcare (nursing, respiratory therapy, physician assistants, X-ray technicians).

Jodee Ledford, a certified career counselor who works with students in the University’s Department of Career Services, said the pandemic offers a great opportunity for career seekers who want to add value and make a difference.

It requires one to really listen and pay attention to the economic change and find out where there is a need and use your talents to help fill that need. For instance, she lives in Michigan where many manufacturers are transitioning to building completely different products, such as ventilators for use in hospitals.

Networking the right way

Networking is one of the best ways to research, but be mindful of your approach, Ledford said.

“The wrong way to network is to try to connect with a person only to ask them about a job,” Ledford said. “They will most likely refer you to HR or their website or even worse, not respond at all.”

Networking the right way means you are authentic and have intentions to listen and learn from that person. Find out and really listen to how you can help them. Truly listening is key.

“This will help you build a meaningful and authentic relationship with them and that’s what networking is all about, meaningful relationships,” Ledford said.

Networking is never just about attending events, said Alice Rush, a certified career counselor in the University’s Department of Career Services. In true networking, people usually reach out through LinkedIn or email, then follow up with a phone call to secure a 15-20 minute informational interview or networking meeting by phone or video conference call. The point of this meeting is for the job seeker to learn about the company culture, goals and pain points, and to get advice on how best to get your resume in front of a real person as opposed to an applicant tracking system or optical scanner.

The only difference to the networking process during the pandemic is that instead of asking busy professionals to meet at the next trade association meeting, a job seeker’s goal is to set up individual phone or video conference meetings.

The pandemic allows job seekers the time to create their own brand and marketing strategy, to hone their LinkedIn profiles or write resumes that are tailored for each employer they wish to work for.

The hiring process during any time, pandemic or not, can take months, so job seekers need patience and perseverance now more than ever. Remember to keep a positive outlook, even if your industry isn’t one that is hiring essential workers. Rush reminds job seekers to keep their end goal in mind.

“Now is the time to start planting seeds for your future,” she said.