How To Find A Job Now - Lessons from Experts and Seven Women Who Did
There are plenty of stories about how many people have lost their jobs this year. The good news is that there are also many people who are finding new jobs.
Here are the stories of seven women who found new jobs during the pandemic and what you can learn from them. You’ll also hear from a career coach and three HR leaders who share their job search recommendations.
1) A positive sales professional in a difficult industry.
Dorothy worked for a company connected to the live entertainment industry. The majority of the employees were furloughed due to the pandemic.
As a member of Ellevate Network, she was able join many virtual events, including coffees, Happy Hours, and learning webinars. This allowed her to network virtually by participating and connecting with others. She said that she grew professionally and personally during this time, which helped her to focus on the value she could bring to companies.
She recognized the importance of keeping a routine and stayed busy networking and attending events from morning through the end of the day. She said:
This routine kept me engaged with business people at all levels, so I never lost my mojo. In fact, my confidence grew and communications were better and I was less concerned about creating headspace stories about why I shouldn’t reach out to people in my network.
The online networking opportunities helped to keep her positive, and people were open to talking and connecting her with others. It paid off when she re-connected with someone she had worked with more than ten years ago and found a new job with a great company.
2) A director who was open to new opportunities.
Lana was a director at a financial institution. She noticed that there were some changes going on, so even though she was not actively looking for a change, she decided to update her LinkedIn profile to allow recruiters to find her. In March, a recruiter contacted her and said they wanted to talk to her. Her response was:
I am always interested in a conversation.
A few months and many interviews later, she now has a new director-level job at that company.
When asked what actions she took that helped her get the job, she said that she took advantage of tools like LinkedIn to connect with others. She also suggested that you should accept any opportunity to widen your network and talk to recruiters and employers:
If nothing else, it gives you a feel for the current state of your industry.
Most importantly, she said make sure your resume is current and be prepared for when new opportunities arise.
3) An enthusiastic networker in a new city.
Jaclyn had recently moved to a new state and worked in e-learning for a company with a remote, distributed team. She thought her job was pandemic-proof, but she was laid off in April.
She had few connections in her new town, so she decided to direct her energy toward something positive: meeting new people in the area virtually. Soon a post popped up in the feed on LinkedIn and she noticed that the poster was her area.
This person sounds interesting and like we have some traits in common, let me reach out.
They had a Zoom meeting and her new contact offered her some great job-seeking advice and empowering words and promised to keep in touch.
She continued to apply to a wide variety of jobs and didn’t let her background or title limit her, but she was starting to get discouraged.
Her new friend reached out to her and said she had found a great role for her with someone she knew and wanted to recommend her. The job description was a perfect fit and the company values aligned with what she was looking for. She applied and was offered the role after being out of work for three months.
4) A vice president whose job was eliminated.
Natalie’s job at a large organization was eliminated early in the year. She was able to get a severance package, and that gave her several months to decide what to do next and helped her deal with the recent death of her father.
One lesson she learned throughout her career is the importance of seeking out mentors and keeping in touch with them. In the past, it might have been scheduling lunch to reconnect or just sending a text to see how they were doing or asking them for advice. She had built great relationships with them and she had told them how much she appreciated their guidance and candor.
She reached out to her mentors to let them know of her situation and one of them had a position open. Within a few weeks, she had an offer that she was very enthusiastic about with an opportunity to learn and grow further in her profession.
5) A global traveler who needed a new job.
During the year before the pandemic, Aryana had taken off time for self-growth and adventure, including backpacking solo throughout Asia, a visit to New Zealand, and volunteering on an organic farm in Hawaii.
When she returned to the US in March, she found a job market much tighter than she had expected. Fortunately, she had recently reconnected with a former colleague who suggested that she go back to work part-time. That gave her the opportunity to reconnect with her previous coworkers while she evaluated what she was looking for in her next career opportunity.
She decided to focus on a few interesting roles where she had a connection to the team or company to stand out from the sea of applications in the tracking systems. Interviewing was stressful, but she took the pressure off by reminding herself that she was interviewing the company as much as they were interviewing her.
She got familiar with the companies and the interviewers by researching them on LinkedIn. That way, she could tailor her questions specifically to their role and background and find the job she wanted. She was open to different options and accepted a job on the in-house side instead of the consulting side that she had worked in previously.
6) A resilient job hunter who didn't give up.
Cathy was happy in her job at an oil and gas company. Unfortunately, she lost her position due to the pandemic earlier this year. She applied for jobs online through Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. She also reached out to staffing firms.
When she found a job online, she would go directly to the company's website to research it and get the details of the job and read reviews to see if she wanted to work there. She also added the HR recruiter, HR managers, VP of HR, and Talent Acquisition managers of that company to her LinkedIn network.
She adjusted her resume based on the role, making sure it had keywords that were mentioned in the job description. She also reached out to the recruiters directly on LinkedIn to let them know she was interested and had applied for a job.
After hundreds of applications, hundreds of rejections, and a few interviews (one that lasted three hours), she finally landed a job in a different industry.
7) A long-term employee facing a new job market.
Pooja’s position was eliminated at the end of last year after twelve years with the same company. She decided to take a month off to travel alone and recharge. When she got back, she started to network and reignited all personal and professional connections. She focused on applying to jobs, meeting people, getting ideas on what her next role should be, and updating her resume.
When the pandemic hit, all her scheduled interviews converted from in-person to video. She dressed and behaved as if she was interviewing in-person and thoroughly prepared for each specific position, writing out all the answers to the possible questions and rehearsing by saying them out loud.
As the pandemic spread, she found that most places she was interviewing with froze hiring. She chose to be open to different opportunities even though she was looking for a full-time position. A job that she had originally thought would just be a contracting position offered her a great full-time position.
Five key recommendations.
I also asked experts to share their recommendations. Sherri Thomas, Career Coach, award-winning author of The Bounce Back – Personal Stories of Bouncing Back Higher After a Layoff, Re-org or Setback and President and Founder of Career Coaching 360, shared her insights.
The following Human Resources leaders were happy to give their advice: Jill Clark, Vice President Global HR at Transact; Joanna Luth, Chief People Officer at Intradiem; and Heidy Hogan, Talent Management Program Manager at ON Semiconductor.
Here are five recommendations that can help anyone who is looking to get hired now.
1) Connect, connect, connect.
Joanna Luth had this to say to job seekers:
The pandemic has changed the job market in ways we’ve never experienced before. There’s much more competition due to the current unemployment rates; additionally, as businesses are realizing that employees don’t HAVE to be anchored to an office, candidates are finding the freedom to expand their search to different geographical areas.
That said, all of the standard tips for job seekers remain important: You need to leverage your network and do the research on your target companies so you’re prepared for interviews.
Jill Clark shared her personal experience when she was looking for a job:
For me, finding out what I wanted to do next involved engaging a career coach and focusing on my network. Everyone I met, I would say, ‘Who else can you connect me to?’ It was those meetings as well as time with my coach that helped me gain clarity about what I really enjoyed and what I wanted to do next. Keeping an open mind was also crucial in leading to my now full-time role leading Human Resources for a mid-sized software company.
Job-seeker Dorothy recommends:
Spend time on LinkedIn and network. Take time to read the posts and say a hello to folks that you haven’t been in touch with for awhile.
Natalie had this advice:
I would say that companies and positions don’t really last – it’s the relationships and trust you build that last. It’s your reputation, skill-set, and integrity that others will recognize. It’s never too late to form these relationships...if you’re early or later in your career, these types of people exist all around you.
Reach out to people and get over the fear of rejection. My first interview came because I reached out to two contacts I had at a specific company…This was the hardest action for me to take as I didn’t want to bother anyone, but the statistics show that having a referral significantly increases your chances of getting the role. At the start of unemployment, I listened to Four Hour Work Week and Tim Ferris spoke of failure by avoidance and fear. I refused to let my fear and stories hold me back from being bold.
2) Be positive and persistent.
Soon after I had gotten ghosted by a recruiter, I stumbled upon a post that said rejection is just redirection, and now looking back, that advice still rings true.
Dorothy suggested that to build a positive mindset, job seekers should:
Take the time to write down your accomplishments and what they meant. Go back and read annual reviews and feedback and letters of commendations - these are great reminders about what we’ve forgotten and, once reminded, you will feel more empowered and better able to share your stories with confidence and a much easier flow. It all made a difference, but it took time and commitment.
Jaclyn admitted that:
Getting laid off is a challenging experience. But it doesn’t have to be a hopeless one. Be your best cheerleader, don’t let shame or embarrassment keep you from unemployment aid or from reaching out to contacts for support.
She added if you’re:
Feeling discouraged, worried, or doubting yourself, unplug for a few hours. Read a good book. Watch a funny movie. Then try again when you’re done. Each action you take will pay off, especially those that come from a place of rest and self-care. You deserve it. You are worth it. Something new and exciting awaits.
Don't give up. It may seem defeating getting rejections after rejections or getting ghosted, but don't lose hope. Rejection is just redirection.
3) Make your resume work for you.
Sherri Thomas recommends that job-seekers be results-focused vs. responsibilities-focused and quantify their results.
My clients are getting hired right now because they have a results-focused resume, not a responsibilities-focused resume. Instead of talking about tasks, focus on the impact that you’ve made and quantify your results in terms of dollars, numbers, and percentages. For example, instead of writing that you led a sales team and consistently beat sales goals, state that you led a team of twelve sales professionals that generated $4M in revenue last year and beat the sales goal by 12%. When you do this for every position that you’ve held, you’re demonstrating that you have a history, or pattern, of being a valuable asset to an organization.
Heidy Hogan said that it is likely that your resume will go to an ATS (applicant tracking system) for screening before a recruiter would see it. These systems help highlight top candidates based on the keywords in a resume.
What can you do to help your resume to get through the system? She suggests:
Use tools like Jobscan where you can load in the job description and your resume; the software acts like an ATS and will provide you with a percentage fit and help you address any potential gaps.
Heidy also recommends if you’re having trouble starting your resume to try leveraging tools like Microsoft Word Templates or sites like ResumeGenius that help you build your resume by answering a few simple questions. She also suggests creating customized resumes for each job:
On average, recruiters spend six seconds per resume, this is because they are searching for specific keywords. Review and revise your resume to ensure that it speaks to the job description. This means speaking the company’s language – look for keywords in the job description and be sure to weave these into your resume.
This is especially important with the increased use of ATS.
4) Be open to new possibilities.
Sherri Thomas advises that this is a great time to consider rebranding yourself:
If you’d like to pivot, rebrand, or advance your career, then you can leverage this time in between jobs to invest in yourself and expand your skills and experience. Is there a certification or advanced degree that would help elevate you above your competition? Could you take online training or read books about the latest technologies? Could you invest five hours a week to gain new skills and experience by consulting, freelancing, or volunteering? For example, if you’d like to advance from being a finance analyst to a finance director, then seek out ways to volunteer to lead the finance committee for a local association, church, or other organization. There really are limitless ways you can invest in yourself so that you can land a meaningful, purposeful career.
Keep your professional ‘social networking’ sites current and relevant and always be open to connections and possibilities.
Heidy Hogan recommends that you should apply to jobs even if they’re not a 100% fit. She explained:
Believe it or not, hiring managers are not always looking for a 100% fit. Hiring managers understand that candidates are versatile and come with different experiences. If you are a close fit but perhaps are missing a few years of experience, take the leap and apply.
Pooja found that:
A lot of people I was hesitant in approaching were very helpful while those whom I expected to help, weren’t. What I learned is keep an open mind.
She also said how important it is to stay true to yourself and find the right fit, wherever it may be:
If I hadn’t had an open mind and been deliberate in my connections or authentic in my interactions, I don’t think I would have received an offer and joined such a wonderful team.
5) Take care of yourself.
A message that was mentioned over and over was the importance of being kind to yourself.
Joanna Luth recommended:
On a more human note, I encourage people to stay true to themselves. Know who you are and what you want. That way, you won’t feel pressure to apply to every job. Instead, look for opportunities at companies that align with your values. When you connect on that level with a company, you are more likely to stand out as a top candidate.
Take care of your mental health. Job hunting is a job within itself and it can become obsessive. Take a day or two to clear your head and do something you enjoy, [find] rewarding, or volunteer.
Aryana pointed out how tough job searching is on the soul, mind, and body even in normal times:
I think it is even more important to be kind to ourselves and lean on our support systems - I would be lying if I pretended like there weren't days where I felt like a failure. But instead of leaning into the negativity, I tried my best to channel positive energy, which often meant taking ‘self-care days’ to go on a hike, bake, watch TV, etc.
She added that you need to remind yourself that:
The right job that's the right fit is out there and there's no doubt about it.
Jaclyn suggests you should:
Fill your positivity tank. Read positive quotes, surround yourself with uplifting people, find three things to be grateful for every day. This was so key to managing my stress, staying proactive, and it even influenced how I showed up and posted online — something my new employer vetted. Don’t treat yourself like a machine. Double up on self-care. Weekly face masks were non-negotiable. I upped my guided meditations and when I just couldn’t sit at the computer anymore, I got up and took a break.
Looking for a new job is normally stressful, but now that stress has increased exponentially. The good news is that companies are hiring. People are getting jobs. You can use these recommendations to jumpstart your search and make it easier for you to find your next role. Go for it!
Laura Browne is an author, trainer, certified business coach and Founder of Career Tips For Women. Her book, A Salary Cinderella Story (Or How To Make More Money Without A Fairy Godmother), shows women what they can do to get raises and promotions at work. She is the Co-President of the Ellevate Phoenix Chapter and connected with four of the women in the article through that global network.