From the dot-com crisis in 2000, to the Great Recession and now a global pandemic, Lori Shreve Blake has seen the labor market in various forms of chaos. Through each period, senior alumni directors and student career services at the USC Career Center tell desperate students the same thing:
“In the end, you only need one job.”
Finding the right one, especially because the coronavirus outbreak has caused more than 38 million Americans to file for unemployment in the past nine weeks, seems to be more difficult than finding yeast at a grocery store. On May 15, the list of jobs in all industries in Indeed fell 37% since the same time last year, said Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of global human relations for job search sites. That was actually a slight increase from the mark at the beginning of the month, which was at 39.5%.
This is a drastic decline from the job search market graduates who saw seven months ago, and it’s competitive. But that is not impossible, said Shreve Blake.
This is what needs to be known about finding work during a pandemic.
Like a pandemic that seems to change every day, job seekers must be willing to adjust their mindset with time.
“There is still hiring going on,” wrote McChelle Ryan, associate director of industry relations and experimental learning at the UCLA career center, in an e-mail. “It might not look exactly as you planned.”
Internships may turn to remote work. Be prepared to find, interview, and start work virtually instead of directly. Open to new companies.
Shreve Blake recently introduced new graduates who are looking for jobs in the field of software engineering to Brazen, a company that helps universities convert career rates to virtual space. Graduates have never heard of the company. Two weeks later, he has a job as a junior software developer.
“Luckily he has a blindfold,” said Shreve Blake. “His mind is open, and now he works well.”
Follow the money trail
The pandemic did not prevent any industry from being victimized by the economy, but some were better than others. Technology companies that help big businesses pivot to work remotely, retail management, shipping jobs, and home health care employ more than any other industry.
Even those who don’t anticipate working in one of these industries can benefit if they focus on transferable skills, Wolfe said. Qualities such as time management, organization and detail-oriented apply to many industries, so finding jobs where applicants can display these skills now, even if the position is not directly related to the applicant’s field of study or long-term passion, can only help in the hunt for dream jobs which continues after the pandemic disappears.
Work on your network
Networking is still an important part of job search, even if coffee meetings are now conducted online. Take advantage of the alumni network, send e-mails to people in the company or area of interest, name all possible university connections, and request a brief information interview to find out their role.
“Most people want to help you,” Shreve Blake said. “You don’t ask for a job. If you ask for a job, you won’t get a response, but if you ask for information, you will get that response.”
Information interviews don’t even have to be with employees who work in the same department as the target applicant, Shreve Blake added. Meetings can still be useful to help learn about corporate culture. If the information interview is going well, ask if anyone else in the company will be happy to talk to him. Then repeat the process, try to move closer to the target department each time.
To update your network game, move away from the Zoom meeting and request a virtual company site visit, Ryan suggested. Ask a mentor to do shadow work remotely. Take advantage of new virtual conferences that will usually be very expensive or difficult to attend but become more accessible.
Look in the light
The most unique modification of a pandemic era job search is a virtual interview. For aces, be sure to look directly into the camera lens – not on the screen – when talking. Looking at the camera as opposed to the screen simulates eye contact which is very important during face-to-face interviews, Wolfe said.
Put yourself in front of a neutral and organized background in good light, added Shreve Blake, and test your audio, video and internet connection. Using friends and family members as training partners is very important to familiarize yourself with the new interview format. And dressing the part from head to toe is still a must.
Just because there doesn’t seem to be a full-time job available in an attractive industry doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity to gain experience in that field. Virtual internships or micro internships – short-term and paid internships that are often project based and can last between a week and a month – can add resumes without official employment or traditional apprenticeships. Don’t be afraid of temporary work, said Shreve Blake, because they can almost function as three-month interviews.
“Employers will not judge you if you are unemployed during a pandemic,” Hassan Akmal, executive director of the UCLA Career Center, said in an email. “However, they will focus on what you have been doing so far. What they want to see is that you are productive and take your career development seriously. “