*Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series about how to conduct a job search, especially when transitioning careers in a tight job market, such as the current one due to COVID-19.
Change has swept over the world at a frantic pace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed us to shift how we conduct our lives. In these times, we have the opportunity to rise to meet challenges, gain strength and grow. It is inspiring to see the heroic and empowering efforts being made by individuals, communities, organizations and countries that are rising to the occasion during the pandemic. We can all learn from these.
Many of us have or potentially will experience permanent or temporary job loss. Layering job loss on top of the pandemic compounds the level of isolation and uncertainty. It is more important than ever to make connections, grab on to what we know and take control over what is possible.
Your tactics for conducting a job search or career transition are the same regardless of the economy.
start with job search basics
To begin the job search journey, accept and move through the emotions that follow change. If required, do financial analysis and planning, consult with professionals and apply to government programs that will support you through uncertain times. Recognize the importance of staying socially and professionally connected and keep your daily routines to maintain a supportive environment for yourself. And, when you are ready, act on the job search.
leverage what you already know
It takes due diligence to decide what you want and to figure out how to leverage and articulate what you already have. This can be as straightforward as gathering data, turning it into information, making decisions and developing goals and plans.
The process requires reflection on your past and future. You must research the job landscape and make analytical decisions about where you want to focus your time and energy. Often, finding a framework and a starting point to guide your process is the hardest part.
The starting point is you. The first step is to define your job search criteria. This will help you to benchmark job opportunities against your requirements to ensure you don’t stray from what is most important. Then, take inventory of yourself by drawing on your work and life experiences.
discover what you don’t know
Mistakes are made when you ‘don’t know what you don’t know.’ What we often don’t know in a job search is enough detailed information about the marketplace. You will need to use your research and navigational skills to identify what is in demand. Between job boards, the Internet, career support groups and tapping your own networks, you will be able to build roadmaps and make connections between yourself and the marketplace.
the job search formula
There is a proven methodology that requires you to reflect, research, analyze, set goals, make plans and execute. In essence, you will be managing a project that has phases and milestones. A computer is your main tool and the Internet provides access to resources needed. You will need to bring an inquisitive and open mind.
job search steps
1. Create a job search criteria list (salary, timeline, location, company size, benefits, family needs, personal and professional goals). Rank each as a ‘must have’ or ‘nice to have’ and assign a value (1 – 5) to your criteria.
2. Identify your values, what makes you happy and what you find rewarding.
3. Write down your life vision, including what you want to be doing in five years. Do you see yourself working from home in the future in order to spend more time with family? Do you want to work fewer hours or make more money or have the freedom to set your own schedule?
4. Identify industries of interest, your domains of knowledge and functional areas of expertise.
5. Take stock of your strengths and successes. Identify skills, traits and circumstances that have made you successful. (Hint: Get feedback from others.) Include transferable skills that are portable and apply to a variety of industries and work environments.
The more transferable skills you have to leverage, the more diversity you can offer an employer. Even if you don’t have industry experience, your transferable skills will strengthen your chances of success and will demonstrate that you can adapt to new work demands.
6. Take stock of your failures and lessons learned.
7. List potential job functions you want and are qualified to do, and for which you can build a case based on your skills inventory.
8. Identify the pros and cons of each job function and rank them based on how they match your criteria.
9. Research the marketplace by analyzing job postings and looking for trends, conducting exploratory interviews and tapping informational resources. In the current crisis, focus on identifying growth industries and specializations. The constraints we live under today require us to consider new ideas and uncover unconventional opportunities. The adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ rings true in these challenging times. Keep your mind open.
10. Gather your findings and map your criteria to the marketplace to determine your target. Note that you might not land the ideal job right away, especially in a market such as the current one. Be willing to take a non-ideal job to pay bills or gain experience. You may need to take courses or do volunteer work. Taking a step sideways to eventually move forward is part of a sound career strategy to satisfy short- and long-term career goals concurrently. Pursue your search with laser focus and don’t get distracted.
11. Create your messaging to succinctly articulate your hard skills, functional areas of expertise and the benefits you offer. Provide examples of your work that include accomplishments with results. Use your scope of experience, soft skills and personality traits as key differentiators that capture the essence of how you operate. If you are pursuing remote work, your resume should highlight technology skills like video conferencing tools, document sharing and collaboration tools.
12. Write a professional value proposition (PVP) and branding statement to describe the main benefit you offer or impact you will have. Ensure you have consistent messaging about yourself across all platforms (resume, LinkedIn, PVP) to support your branding statement.
13. Uncover job leads:
- Make a list of target companies.
- Creatively research and navigate the Internet and LinkedIn. For example, learn about the competitors of your target companies. Look at their career sites, or find people on LinkedIn that are already in the job you want and look at their job history for leads.
- Set up a passive job search by creating job alerts.
- For remote jobs, there are job boards that specialize, such as FlexJobs. Call upon your own network to see who already works remotely and ask them for tips. There are even LinkedIn Learning classes you can take on how to find a remote job.
14. Prepare for interviewing by developing stories that detail specifically how you contributed to work initiatives. Your answers to interview questions will be found within these stories. And be prepared to interview virtually by learning and implementing the required technology and looking the part, including your surroundings in the video.
15. Prepare for salary negotiation because it starts before you get an offer. Know the dollar value of your skills in the marketplace by researching salary data. The content in your resume and how you present yourself during the interview are all part of the negotiation. Remember, you are building a case for yourself. Be strategic and purposeful every step of the way.
In extraordinary times, such as the current pandemic, you will need to account for how changes in supply and demand will impact your ability to negotiate. Hiring budgets and salaries may potentially be lowered so you will need to temper your expectations accordingly.
16. Organize yourself and plan your approach:
- Set daily activity goals.
- Keep momentum going; don’t stop because you get an interview.
- Track progress. Just because you applied to 20 jobs doesn’t mean they are in play; follow up to find out if you are being considered.
- Assess what is working and what isn’t, and adjust as needed.
Lastly, seek out opportunities to connect with and engage coaches and mentors to help identify and navigate the path to realize your vision.
changing how we work, our job function or industries
Think of yourself as a builder. You have a foundation of skills and experience, and you want to build on top of this to grow your knowledge base. You can grow in any direction in your career by transitioning to a new function within the same industry or a similar function in a different industry. You can pursue virtual or project-based work. You can even apply for full-time jobs and turn them into part-time or temporary contract work. Your transition journey can land you in a place you never saw coming. The key is to be open-minded, flexible and to think creatively about how your experiences and transferable skills can be applied to new situations.
Your market research and mapping exercise will require some out-of-the-box thinking like consulting with Google, or voice-activated assistants Siri and Alexa. What questions you ask are dependent on your circumstances. You can ask them:
Find career transition opportunities for retail workers.
What hospitality worker skills are transferable to other industries?
Who’s hiring now?
What careers are resilient to economic downturns?
What industries hire remote workers?
And here are some examples of unlikely career transitions that don’t require reschooling or upskilling:
A teacher or administrator can transition to an implementation consultant or product manager role for a software company that sells school administration software. They can do this because they have expertise in the business of schools.
A retail or restaurant worker can also transition to the same roles as above with companies that sell point-of-sale software because they have the expertise in the operations of these industries.
If you can make the connection and build the case, you can pursue the job.
Don’t wait to react to external circumstances. Take charge. Don’t settle if you don’t have to. Think big and long term. Thinking bigger could mean working for a European company from a home office in Canada and reporting to a manager in the US. People do it every day. Pivot your thoughts and energies toward new solutions. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Consider your job search an opportunity rather than an ordeal you must struggle through. Don't focus on changing your job. Focus on changing your life for the better.
look to the future
Taking a forward-facing approach instead of focusing on the past will set you up for success. Imagine yourself already in the role you are targeting and envision performing the functions. When writing your resume, purposefully choose content that is relevant and tailored to the role you want to land. With the limited real estate you have on a resume, it will not serve you well to dwell on past experiences that don’t relate to your future.
Be open and keep a close eye on the marketplace, always. Forewarned is forearmed. Planning for job change will help you build the agility and resiliency you need to adapt to forces that will impact your work life in the future.