Finding Work During COVID-19

Job searching is hard work. Doing so during a global pandemic creates additional layers of uncertainty and stress, and much has been learned about how to navigate this.  Some unique challenges have emerged in the world of work, including mask requirements, physical distancing, remote vs. onsite vs. hybrid work; plus, constantly changing case numbers, vaccination rates, and health restrictions affect how we move and interact in society.  But there ARE still jobs.  There is ALWAYS movement in the labour market.  I’m not going to lie, it will likely take a lot more effort, time, and therefore patience to reach your goals. It starts with your mindset – in other words, keeping up to date with the expectations of employers – so that you can adjust yours accordingly.

Fortunately, at the time of this post, demand for workers has been growing across Canada.  According to Statistics Canada, by September 2021, “Employment returned to its February 2020 level” with a 6.9% unemployment rate.  Although some sectors are thriving and seeing labour shortages, others are in decline, and some may never recover.   This article shows who’s hiring in 2021 – but be aware – the landscape is constantly changing. The announcement of the October 23rd end of CERB/CRB created speculation about a surge in the labour market, but in fact, many are not returning to work.  With mandatory vaccination on the rise, getting vaccinated gives you more options for work.

Several trends have developed and will likely continue.  Today’s employers are looking for a particular set of “pandemic” skills (e.g., adaptability, creativity, leadership), so your resume should include keywords that align with this trend, and you must be able to describe to interviewers how you excel in using these soft skills by talking about your accomplishments.  Adding remote-friendly words to your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile will also help you get screened in.

Remote work has become the norm and is here to stay and the popularity of hybrid models continues to rise.  Not only have employers adjusted to WFH, but employees also expect it.  This trend has led employers to cast a much wider net to find talent, meaning that competition for jobs in this era is no longer only local – it can be national, or even international.  As a job seeker, you need to get creative in finding ways to stand out.  For example, consider launching a personal website where you can show a portfolio of your work, a blog to share your thought leadership, or a video introducing yourself and your expertise.

The combination of physical distancing and remote work has normalized the practice of using technology to conduct interviews.  There are some important ways to prepare for virtual interviews: 1) Test your technology ahead of time, 2) Dress professionally, 3) Prepare in advance, the same way you would for an in-person interview, 4) Limit distractions by using an uncluttered, quiet space, 5) Use professional body language – sit up straight and ensure your camera is placed so that your face is in the middle of your screen, and remember to smile, 5) Build rapport – start out with small talk by looking for a common interest or finding some other neutral topic like the weather, 6) Be authentic in your comfortable home environment – show confidence, and don’t be afraid to show your personality, 7) Follow up by sending an email within 24 hours of an interview, thanking the interviewer for their time and letting them know you’re available if they have any more questions.

One interview format that is becoming more popular is the “Asynchronous Video Interview”, or AVI.  An AVI is different from a video interview, because it involves no live conversation. Applicants receive an email invitation to participate, then click a link and record audio or video responses to the questions.  It involves no human interaction, and applicants’ videos are scored either by interviewers, or computer algorithms.  This may sound shocking and off-putting, but there are some advantages.  This article provides tips to handle yourself well in this kind of interview.

Regardless of the interview format, you should be prepared to answer “pandemic questions”, such as “What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?”, “How have you been spending your time?”, or “What have you been doing to broaden your skills or develop yourself during the pandemic?”

Any good career advisor will suggest you minimize your time applying for positions online because you have a mere 4% chance of finding work this way due to extensive competition and numerous ways that applicant tracking systems screen out applicants.  Instead, focus more of your energy on connecting with professionals in your field, because 65% of jobs get filled via relationships.  No one is born with a network, and it can be fun and interesting to meet new people!  You can build your connections by researching professionals in your field and requesting to meet with them for an informational interview, joining LinkedIn and Facebook groups, attending virtual industry conferences and events, and volunteering.  Consider looking up YU/TFS alumni on LinkedIn and requesting to meet!  Connecting in this way helps you build those important relationships and learn about unadvertised opportunities in the hidden job market.  During the pandemic, people have become quite accustomed to meeting virtually, and this is one way to make you stand out in a very competitive labour market.

One final word of advice: adjust your expectations and be flexible.  Now is a good time to invest in training that will make you more marketable; and consider other options like applying for a wider range of jobs and gaining experience by accepting temporary roles.  According to a recent article from Indeed, “In a normal job market, it can take up to six months to find an acceptable position”.  Despite the current job market being anything but normal, your job is, in fact, waiting for you, but getting there likely won’t be a straight line from A to B (it rarely is!)

For more information on this topic, watch our Career Services webinar. To learn more about job searching during these challenging times, reach out to Career Services at [email protected] or [email protected].

By Linda Folster, Career Advisor, BC campus


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