When a pandemic strikes, it’s possible that employers will have to turn to layoffs and furloughs.
When it comes to social distancing and banning gatherings of large groups, none of it is great for companies, especially ones that require in-person interactions and office environments.
And it’s also not an ideal time for some companies to be doing any hiring -- unless you’re looking for a job in the food delivery industry, of course, or at a pharmacy or grocery store.
So, with all that said: If you were actively job searching, or maybe you are now, should you continue to send out resumes? Should you start now? Or is it smarter to suspend the activity?
Certainly, economists tend to predict a recession when a serious pandemic takes over, but career experts usually are of the opinion that it makes sense to continue to network and apply. You do need to change the way you approach the application process, however, in acknowledgment of the uncertainties of the times.
It would make sense for companies not to hire much during the initial stage of the pandemic, as they struggle to determine the best way to conduct business virtually and to find out if demand for their product or service continues to be reliable. But it’s safe to assume many businesses will begin hiring again at some point.
And when you keep up your relationship-building efforts, you’re likely to be in a better position to be hired when hiring restarts.
Here are some tips on how to navigate the job application process during a pandemic.
Think about how urgent it really is for you to find a new job.
If you can put your job search on hold without too much inconvenience, waiting out the pandemic makes sense, simply because it can be hard to attract the attention of a hiring manager at such a time.
If you don’t have a job right now, your aim shouldn’t be to hold out for the perfect job, which is likely to be difficult. Instead, it would make sense to accept anything reasonably promising and to think of it as a stopgap job until the economy improves, and you have better choices.
Do your networking online.
To keep pandemics from spreading, organizations tend to cancel all events for a while, including networking events. For this reason, you will likely need a new networking strategy. It can help to reach out to other professionals in your field on LinkedIn or another forum, and ask about joining virtual events.
Professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn can be good places to start.
If you’re an accountant, for instance, LinkedIn has the Super CFO Group that you could join. If you’re a tax professional, LinkedIn’s Tax Professionals Group has more than 105,000 members. Marketers have the Group for Global Marketing and Communications Professionals. All you need to do is to join, post, read, comment, and stay visible.
It can also help to gain practice doing networking chats and virtual informational interviews with friends for as long as it takes you to handle these processes well. Your friends could ask you questions, and give you feedback on what they think of your replies. Once you've learned how to ace these processes, you could invite your contacts on professional groups and forums to virtual meetings.
Stay in contact.
Perhaps you had a great interview recently, and it seemed as if there was a job offer in sight, but all of it evaporated with the current situation.
You might be able to salvage it.
It could help to get in touch with the hiring manager over email, let that person know that you understand it’s difficult for the company to adjust to new realities in the midst of a pandemic, and tell them that you would be happy to learn more about how to contribute to the organization when the situation calms down.
It's important that your communication uses a thoughtful tone. It would be a better idea to ask if there was any way you could help the company, rather than to ask them to help you. The idea should be to connect on a personal level. For instance, if you've led virtual teams in the past, you could bring it up, and talk about how your experience could help the company during a pandemic when they need to remotely manage teams that are spread out.
It could also help to stay in touch over LinkedIn. If the hiring manager has posted a status, a company report, a press release or anything else, for instance, you could make an intelligent comment on it. A thoughtful, pertinent comment could show the hiring manager what they could expect from you if you were to join the company.
Find out about the culture at different companies.
A pandemic in progress can give you unique windows into the cultures at different companies. When you follow companies on social media at these times, you gain an idea of how they treat their employees. For instance, do they lay off employees during a pandemic, give them the opportunity to work from home, or offer support in other creative ways?
It can help to set up a Google Alert for the different companies that you’re interested in and to pay attention to the investor calls that are reported. When you finally have a chance to interview at any one of these companies, you will be able to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the challenges that the company faces.
Use the time you have to look inward.
Often, jobseekers are so anxious about finding their next job that they jump at the first opportunity that comes up, without giving due thought to the question of whether it represents what they really want to do next. It can be a good idea to make the most of a slow job market by thinking about what kind of work would truly satisfy you, and what kind of role you really seek.
When you direct your attention to the kind of work that you would like to do, you might discover that there's a role close to the one that you usually occupy that is able to make better use of your skills and experience. For instance, you may have worked in a marketing role in the past, but you may realize that communications may be a better place for you, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Many people shift roles in the middle of crises. You should consider if such a move could be right for you.
Develop your skills.
When the job market slows down amid a pandemic, it can be the perfect opportunity to gain new skills and qualifications. It can help to look at job listings, find out what skills are called for in different roles you’re interested in, and see if you can enroll in a course to gain them.
If you’re in marketing, gaining certifications in Google Analytics could help you qualify for social media marketing positions. It could also help to learn coding and data science.
In the middle of an economic slowdown caused by a pandemic, it’s important to think about the ways you still have control - you can improve what you are able to offer employers, and network online to build better professional relationships. When you begin to lay the groundwork, you will see all kinds of possible doors open once the situation improves.
This story was first published in 2020. It has since been updated.