Tips for Applying for a Job During a Recession

Without a doubt, the past few weeks have been a shock to our national consciousness, with overnight change to our work and home lives. If you are one of the millions of Americans who finds themselves suddenly out of work, the following tips can help you land your next job during the coronavirus-induced recession. Although it is more difficult to land a position during an economic downturn, it is not impossible. You must be ready to outwork and outsmart your fellow job-seeking competitors.

Tips for applying

Take a deep breath and be strategic

Your first instinct if you've been laid off is to furiously send out your resume, taking a shotgun approach. Try to resist the temptation. It's easy to hit "Apply" on job search sites, and while that might feel productive, the chance of success is slim unless you are actually qualified for a position and have done something to distinguish yourself from hundreds of other applicants. Rather than immediately submitting applications, give yourself a couple of days to figure out how to apply for unemployment benefits, if available to you, and then develop a solid game plan for your job search.

Update your resume

If your unemployment came as a surprise, as it was for many out of work due to COVID-19, your resume might not be in tip-top shape. Update it with your most recent position and accolades. Consider creating an "achievement-oriented" resume that focuses on statistics demonstrating your contributions in the workplace. In a tight labor market, hiring managers have to justify filling every position, and it's smart to try to catch a hiring manager's eye with success expressed in terms of dollars and cents.

As you update your resume, remember the era of one-size-fits-all resumes is long gone, and you'll need to draft keyword-optimized versions for many positions. And, of course, don't forget to have a friend proofread. You don't want a sloppy typo to hold you back.

Network, network, network

You might feel like "self-isolating" when it comes to unanticipated job search, but once the initial shock has worn off, you need to spread the word you're on the market. You never know which friend of a friend might be your lead to a new position or a consulting opportunity to earn some cash while you continue job-hunting. This is the time to reach out to former colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances to catch up—invite them to Zoom or FaceTime coffee.

Look at growing industries

As you evaluate potential opportunities, target your search in industries experiencing growth despite our current challenging economic circumstances: healthcare, software that enables telecommuting, delivery services, etc. These sectors of the workforce are expanding, and companies in these industries are not as likely to be subject to the hiring freezes you might find in the public or nonprofit sectors.

Consider temporary work or freelancing

Taking on contract work or signing on with a temporary agency are excellent ways to demonstrate your skill set and try on a company before you commit to full-time employment—and more companies will be using these cost-effective strategies to expand and contract their staffs in the coming months. If you are open to these types of opportunities, particularly if you have ongoing access to health insurance coverage through a previous employer, you can gain valuable experience and contacts as a temp or freelancer. When a position does come open at a company, previous experience there as a contractor or temp makes you a known quantity and a less-risky hire.

Keep an open mind

Overnight, the U.S. job market turned into an employer's market. When millions of Americans are unemployed, you can be certain most open positions are receiving hundreds of applications. While you don't want to be underemployed—that presents another set of challenges—this isn't the time to nix potential opportunities simply because the industry or type of work hasn't crossed your mind before.

Take care of yourself

Job hunting is always tough, but the uncertainty of a recession amplifies the stress. Make sure you to take good care of yourself as you look for a new role. Take breaks to get fresh air and find ways to have fun even on a reduced budget. If your former employer offered any assistance in the form of an employee assistance program (EAP) or career placement services, take advantage of those services.

The right position will come along. Keep the faith.

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