Candice Au Eong

Navigating the job market in the age of COVID-19

Mimi Thian Lp1 Akiuv3yo Unsplash

The most common question we’re hearing from candidates is whether they should continue applying to job openings or just put off their search, in light of more people being laid off and furloughed day by day. 

Indeed, many companies will not be actively hiring right now, given that they’re still in the midst of figuring out their way through the pandemic and the accompanying economic impact. Regardless, there are ways you can actively work on your search now, be it for current opportunities on the market or to best position yourself for the gradual upturn down the road.  

Here are my top few tips for job seekers to navigate through these times: 

Manage your own expectations

By now we would have seen the words “uncertain times” countless times, and it’s definitely true. Businesses are now reacting to new challenges and situations on a daily basis, be it remote working arrangements or evolving business needs - So we also need to be prepared for job vacancies to be put on hold or perish halfway through. We can also expect to wait longer to hear back on any updates from the interview or application process.

And If you’re: 

  • Currently employed and/or can afford to put your search on hold - You might choose to wait it out for the time being for more suitable opportunities, while remaining open and upskilling yourself in any identified areas of development

  • In urgent need of a job - Also be open to shorter term roles that might not be the perfect one, but can help fulfil your immediate financial commitments. 

The Hunt 

While job search is most of the time a numbers game, it’s also seeking alignment and making purposeful moves when it comes to applying to roles. With the job market slowing down, take this time to carefully reflect on where you want to work next and in what role. Come up with a list of criteria that includes your ideal job titles, companies, industries and anything else you could be looking for. You might also want to take a step back and look at your role in a broader view - is there a possibility of you pivoting to a related area that will also capitalize on your blend of skillset and experience? 

Concurrently, make sure you feel confident about your resume and interviewing skills. With most interviews moving onto video calls, on top of the usual interview preparation, do also make yourself comfortable with using the webcam and technology. We’ve heard from candidates that it’s a different experience having a work discussion with a colleague on Zoom VS being interviewed by complete stranger(s) across the screen - So try it out with a friend to give you feedback on how you fare from lighting, body language, eye contact to your answers! 

With all of these going, start applying to job openings that hit some or if not all of the criteria and characteristics you’ve identified. There are many places where you can find job openings, from Linkedin, Indeed, Glints, Monster, Glassdoor to TechinAsia. And while there’s no denying that some industries will continue being hit by the pandemic - The good news is that there are others that are still hiring

Don’t forget the power of your network

Have a think about the people you know, who might be a source of support and knowledge - It could be anyone from your ex-boss/colleagues to acquaintances. Also harness the power of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, if you have a mutual connection with someone who works in a company/role you are targeting - Ask for an introduction and a chat. Many a time opportunities come through referrals, and while in the current climate things might not unfold as quickly as we expect, you never know when an opportunity will come knocking.

We won’t have networking events for the months to come, but you can look towards virtual ones, as well as seek out relevant professional groups online. You’ll want to make yourself visible on these platforms - Post thought provoking content, comment thoughtfully and join in conversations that can showcase your expertise and background. There’s no better time than now to start building a strong online presence of your own. 

Keep Track of your Activity

This is one of my go-to tips  - Note down all your activities and applications in a spreadsheet. This is great for doing follow ups with recruiters and companies, as well as tracking dates and your hit rates. From here you can analyse your activities and progress, and modify your action plan accordingly. I know of candidates who also add in interview questions they’ve encountered, and also takeaways from the networking efforts they made. 

Keeping your spirits up

No doubt this pandemic is directly impacting our work, jobs and livelihoods as we see more reductions in headcount being the go-to cost-cutting strategy. And if you are impacted, it’s hard not to experience a hit in self-worth as you are faced with working out your next career move, while we enter the onset into the economic downturn.

While easier said than done (but it helps!), our advice is to try to shift your focus towards people or activities that are unrelated to your job or money. Work towards feeling good about yourself, and acknowledge small achievements too. Keep your confidence up to prevent that negative spiral, and you’ll find it easier to get your head back into the hunt. 

And most importantly, do not isolate yourself from family and friends. (Don’t go visiting them for now though). Stay in touch, talk to them and you’ll understand you’re definitely not alone in this, there are many others out there who have been through similar experiences and eventually made it through better and stronger on the other side. 

Conclusion

We all know that a job search is never an easy journey, and involves both time as well as emotional investment. Regardless of whether you’re looking to progress further in your career or do a switch, we can sometimes advance even further with someone by our side. You can also consider working with a coach to help you on your journey, serve as a sounding board, and stay on track towards your goals. 

Last but not least, don’t lose hope and patience. Know that there are things you can do to keep your search going in the right direction, and hang tight!