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How to improve your chances of finding a job in the Covid-19 economy

Key Points
  • Young, less educated, female and minority workers are the demographic groups hardest hit by pandemic job losses.
  • Finding job opportunities during the Covid recession may require a focus on remote work positions and freelance gigs.
  • If you worked in restaurants, travel, hospitality, or retail, it may be wise to take some free or low-cost online courses that can grant new professional skill certifications.
Job seekers fill out job application forms for assembly factories as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico June 17, 2020. Picture taken June 17, 2020.
Jose Luis Gonzales | Reuters

High unemployment, shifting industry hiring patterns and fundamental changes to the way we work are some of the harsh realities Americans face when looking for jobs amid the Covid-19 crisis. It's important to be prepared with an understanding of how much has changed in the jobs market to increase your chances of finding a job under the current circumstances.

Here are a few of the basic, sobering facts:

Preparing for a new job – or entirely new career – requires preparation in this environment. While most of us may be looking for new jobs out of necessity, a crisis such as Covid-19 is also an opportune time for those fortunate enough to still be employed to radically alter a career path.

Here are the questions you should be asking yourself. 

Are my resume and online professional presence current? Yes, your resume should be error-free, fully updated, and customized for each job for which you submit an application. But you can do more (and should) if you're actively searching for a job or to switch careers.

Make sure your resume is posted online, where it can be easily seen (social networking platforms such as LinkedIn are an obvious place to start). But also look for job boards or sites specific to your target industry. Consider adding work samples, links to any published work, or a video introduction to your resume. Finally, ensure your resume is SEO-optimized, using keywords that are likeliest to yield results in searches by employers.

Are you looking in the right places?  Knowing where to look is half the battle. You should understand hiring trends, such as the rise of freelance work during the Covid recession, as well as companies that are actively hiring for remote workers. You should also be willing to consider new industries where job opportunities have been stronger, such as technology and health care. And you should be taking the further step of contacting those in your network who might be placed in favorable hiring industries.

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Do my skills need refreshing? Now is the time to take free or low-cost online courses or obtain certifications in a new skill. (Faced with a job loss during the Great Recession, I taught myself video and audio editing online for less than $100. That helped me land my next job in radio, where audio editing skills were indispensable.)

Learning a new skill can be either complementary to your existing job trajectory, or geared towards a new career. If it's the latter, the rise of online learning due to Covid-19 means many graduate programs are now lower-priced and online, allowing you to continue working In another capacity more while you complete your studies.

Where am I most competitive? Know your skills, your worth, and your passions – these are the things that help differentiate you, and allow you to thrive in the areas in which you're most competitive. A good job search is targeted in many ways, including knowing where you're likeliest to be appreciated and in demand.

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Who can help me? Many of us think of our network solely as a place to look for new jobs, but that's an egregious mistake and misuse of our contacts. Our network can be the best place to advertise our job skills and career ambitions; seek help securing loans or financing to start a new business; assistance in applying or being admitted to a new career training or degree program; or to obtain introductions to others who might be able to help in a job search.

Where do I envision myself in a year? This is perhaps the most critical question. Covid-19 won't last forever, so don't make rash job changes or career decisions that can impact you for years to come. If you've been laid off and really need the cash, it's understandable to be in a rush to secure any employment. There's an argument to be made, however, that it might be best to take gig jobs and other freelance work until you find a career-enhancing position, because you might be compromising too much otherwise. Ask yourself, "Where – and more importantly who – do I want to be when Covid is over?" That's the best guide to your career search.

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