It’s tough out there. In 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate dipped below 4%. Last year, it crested above 15%. With nearly 20 million people enrolled in unemployment compensation programs and an unemployment rate of 6.7% in January 2021, the competition for jobs remains fierce. Although the market is improving, it is doing so in fits and starts. December’s renewed lockdowns in major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles cost over 140,000 jobs. Analysis of those most affected showed clear inequality as women lost over 150,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. Whether you’re male or female, job searches in 2021 can be disheartening. So if you can’t find a job during the pandemic, take heart. You aren’t alone. Remember current circumstances may be beyond your control, but you can take charge of yourself. Here are six tips that will help when you can’t find a job during the pandemic.
1. Take a Step Back
Are you submitting resumes willy nilly without a plan or program? Are you flying into remote interviews with minimal prep while sporting the popular sport-coat and shorts combo? Spend a day prepping for this next stage of your life. Brainstorm interests. Those hobbies of yours may lead to a career. Are there skills you honed beyond your last job title? The little things can matter. Craft a one-page document with your target industry along with potential employers and contacts. As one career advisor puts it, you have to play the long game.
2. Tailor Your Resume to the Bots
Whether you are unemployed or considering a job change, “tailoring” your resume has a different meaning in the 2020s. Sure, in the “old days” (like 2010), interns and assistants rejected resumes when they didn’t list key skills. At least back then actual humans were doing the rejecting. Today major career sites like Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter, and numerous others rely on AI-powered applicant tracking systems. If your resume lacks a vital key word it will be trashed before it’s even seen by someone with a heartbeat. The secret is to harvest words from postings like “must know SEO and Google Analytics” and then then seed them throughout your resume and cover email. Don’t lie. But if you lack skills that are repeatedly mentioned as qualifications, then develop them. If you aren’t working, this is the perfect time to gain certifications or just new knowledge. Unless you’re an aspiring television writer, it will serve you better than binging streaming shows.
3) Get in the Remote Networking Groove
It may be some time before crowded events again offer the jobless a literal opportunity to bump elbows and press the flesh. Networking events today are mainly virtual, conducted via video conferencing sites like Zoom. It can take getting used to. Look on the bright side. You won’t have to pay for parking and the only watered-down drinks are your own. Whether or not you are actively seeking a position, joining online networking groups like LinkedIn, Networking for Professionals, or Opportunity (for sales) will pay dividends. Although not strictly for business, many job seekers have found new connections through Meetup either through their business and careers subgroup or just by joining gatherings with common interests.
Chances are your phone is brimming with contacts you’ve forgotten all about. You may even have a stack of actual business cards crammed into your junk drawer. Now is the time to start shifting through the detritus and find some gold. If you barely remember the person, check out their LinkedIn profile or do an online search. Don’t crassly ask for information on jobs. Personalize your approach. The human touch is vital. Pretend you’re in a hiring position. How would you like to be approached?
5) Up Your Remote Game
Don’t wait until right before your interview to discover your camera is wonky or your microphone is faulty. Buy a ring light. Get comfy with all the major video conferencing platforms –– Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts all have their own advantages and idiosyncrasies. Practice remotely with a friend. Have them pay attention to how you look on-camera. Encourage their honest feedback. You’ll want to pay attention to making eye contact with the camera. Chances are you really aren’t smiling enough. Pay attention to your background –– including pets. Wear pants (or a skirt)! If you have to stand unexpectedly, your threadbare pajama bottoms aren’t going to help.
6) Don’t Sell Yourself Short
When you can’t find a job during the pandemic, it’s normal that your self esteem will take a hit. If you have been spending more time at home with your remotely learning children, you’ve also developed some vital skills. Put them in your resume and cover email. Don’t obsess about an imaginary “no,” prepare for the yes! Don’t discount your experience. Remember the path you chart is your own.