What to Expect from the Job Market as the Fall Approaches

With an expected "second wave" of COVID-19 cases anticipated during the fall and winter flu season, as well as continued growing outbreaks in certain areas of the country, the job market will continue to experience profound shifts. Those in the market for a new position can expect a spike in cases to have a huge impact on the types of jobs available—as well as the process for finding a job.

What to expect fall

According to an August 2020 data analysis from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the local incidence of COVID-19 infection is tied to local employment decline, with industries that are not “telework-friendly” seeing the greatest job losses: leisure and hospitality, retail trade, construction, etc. By contrast, the finance and insurance industries have been less affected. An April analysis by McKinsey & Company estimated 92 percent of jobs in the “accommodations and food services” industry were at risk, compared with 27 percent in finance and industry.

While the pool of available jobs has shrunk—the June jobs report showed about 10 percent fewer payroll jobs than pre-pandemic—hiring is still occurring. Whether you are seeking a position in a more stable industry that allows for remote work or taking on the challenge of finding work in a hard-hit area, a COVID-era job search will look quite different. Be prepared to adapt.

The job search, like everything else, has gone virtual

According to a research report from Jobvite, a recruiting software company, 84 percent of human resources teams are adapting their processes to include remote interviews and other recruiting strategies. That includes advertising positions on social media, conducting video interviews, and even using chatbots in some cases to conduct initial screenings.

Your first steps into the recruitment funnel will need to be online, too. Job candidates need to prepare for socially distanced networking opportunities, such as setting up informational interviews via FaceTime or Zoom and participating in industry conversations by commenting in LinkedIn Groups.

Before you interview, you will want to make sure you are fully comfortable with videoconferencing platforms. Consider investing in a computer microphone, HD webcam, and halo light to improve your video and audio quality.

You will need to ask a different set of questions

Unless you are interviewing for a position that is fully remote at all times, you will want to ensure the COVID-19 protocols taken by your potential employer match your needs and comfort level. Are employees required to wear masks? Does HR require any sort of screening for employees and visitors? How have employee workspaces and schedules been adapted to ensure adequate social distancing? What is the protocol for a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace? How has the company met employees' child and elder care needs during required shutdowns?

You should also ask any potential employer about their workplace processes and plans for the next few months. What tools and procedures have been implemented to ensure employees are able to communicate effectively from home? How have the company's priorities and focus shifted? What will the onboarding process look like for new employees, especially if governmental entities order additional shutdowns?

You may not meet your coworkers in person for months

Depending on your industry, you may not meet your coworkers in person for a long time. Large employers including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Twitter have all announced plans to keep large segments of their workforces remote through fall or even the end of the year. That's reassuring news from a health perspective, but it means new employees will need to work extra hard to become part of the team. The same virtual networking skills you used to land the job will come in handy as you get to know your new colleagues: Seek coworkers out on LinkedIn. When you find a point of commonality—a post of theirs you enjoyed, a shared alma mater, etc.—take the opportunity to reach out and form that connection.

Just like you set up coffee meetups and informational interviews via Zoom, do the same as you undergo training. Ask for video meetings with your new team members to learn more about their jobs, just as you would do in person in the office. If your office has a virtual happy hour, consider it mandatory to get to know people.

You will want to be especially proactive with your manager. The subtle cues and body language that provide feedback in person are missing in the virtual world. Request periodic check-ins, and ask for feedback, acknowledging the unusual situation.

Securing and starting a new position is never an easy task, least of all during a pandemic. Recognize the added stress level and give yourself some grace—and remember that eventually this will pass.

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