It can be harder to concentrate while working from home, and social distancing may impede your networking, but you can still get job search ready while you wait for the economy to open up. Here are seven items you can work on while you shelter in place:
1 – Story for why you are looking
It’s no secret that the economy and therefore the job market is expected to be adversely affected by the pandemic. Therefore, if you already have a job, prospective employers will want to know why you are looking now. Why are you willing to take a risk and venture out into a shrinking, more competitive job pool? If you don’t have a good answer, some will assume the worst – that you are being pushed out.
The fix? Never go negative on your current job and instead focus on what is exciting about your next job. Tailor your response to the employer you’re talking to. Job search is like dating – employers want to know you’re genuinely interested in them, not just looking to get away from your ex. If you were laid off during the pandemic, you still need a story about what you’re looking for, and it should also be what is exciting about your next job, not how desperate you are about any job. Again, think of the dating parallel – employers don’t want to be the rebound relationship.
2 – Story for what you did during shelter-in-place
If you’re unemployed, employers still want to know that you kept your skills, expertise and network current. You have online courses, online volunteer opportunities, calls, video calls and social media as ways to stay updated and stay connected. If you’re employed, employers will want to know you were dependable even in difficult times.
The fix? Keep a log of what you’re reading, learning and working on. If you’re employed, be able to explain what, if any, adjustments you made to maintain your productivity. Talking through your work process will show employers that you are self-starting and get things done.
3 – Work sample
More employers are asking for tangible examples of your output, such as work samples. Some will even give a skills test – e.g., a set of questions on Excel for analysts, copy to analyze for marketers. Some may do both of these things.
The fix? While you are at home, on your personal equipment and not under the constant gaze of your employer, pull together a portfolio of your work. Redact any information that is confidential. If you are unemployed, you may have output from previous employers, or if it was published work (e.g., a website still up, a marketing campaign still running) you can find it online.
4 – Video interview
Video interviews are not the same as live interviews, so you need to prepare for video interviews specifically. In addition, there are recorded video interviews (e.g., Interview Stream, Easy Hire) where you don’t have a live interaction but rather receive a set of questions and answer to a recording. Be aware that employers are using these tools, so you can prepare now.
The fix? With the increase in video calls because of social distancing mandates, it’s easy to get complacent with the technology and act too familiar on an interview. You’re also in your home instead of a formal office – more encouragement to get casual. Practice video interviewing for jobs specifically. Enlist a friend from HR or a coach to take you through a mock video interview. Record a video interview from start-to-finish to simulate the recorded interviews you may be asked to do.
5 – Phone interview
A phone interview is not just a video interview with the screen display. You need to prepare for phone interviews in a distinct and separate way. Remember that even when an interview is scheduled on a video platform, the video may cut out. Or the interviewer may connect on their mobile device and elect to use audio only, effectively turning your video interview into a phone interview.
The fix? Just like you should do mock video interviews, do mock phone interviews. You can also do some practice on your own by saying your interview responses into your voicemail. How articulate, compelling, concise and organized are you when you describe your projects?
6 – Professional references
Too many job seekers wait till the last-minute to organize their professional references. You need time to track people down, confirm that they are willing to be a reference for you and let them know what you’re looking for so they can give you a relevant reference. You need to manage your professional references before work picks up and your job search picks up.
The fix? Go line-by-line through your resume to identify who can be a good reference for you. The more recent, the better. Contact your references now. Checking on your references is a great reason to reconnect as well.
7 – Professional dress
Except for video meetings, many professionals I hear from are not dressing for work. You want to be ready with outfits that make you look and feel your best, so you can confidently say Yes to meetings as soon as the economy opens up.
The fix? Organize your business attire, as some items may need to be cleaned, pressed or mended. Try things on, as some items may no longer fit (I have heard a lot of stories about more baking and snacking happening during shelter-in-place).
Make sure your work-from-home includes your job search activity
Non-essential businesses may be closed right now, but when things open, you want to be ready. In addition, hiring is still going on, and you can continue your job search through the downturn. If you’re unemployed (or employed with bandwidth for a side gig), target freelancing opportunities. Block out time on your calendar for your job search so it doesn’t just get your leftover time and energy at the end of the day.