Job Searching During Uncertain Times

By Erin Ewart

As I write this, we are experiencing a unique and in some ways unprecedented series of events. 

The news is constantly shifting and has us on high alert: a global pandemic. Markets falling, schools closing, and events and travel plans canceled. 

We are all being impacted by this, and it’s infusing a level of uncertainty and anxiety into our lives in a way we rarely experience.

If you’re looking for a new job, you may be feeling especially worried right now. What does this mean for your search? Is there anything you can or should be doing differently in response to what’s happening in the world?

It’s a tough question to answer, because there is still so much we don’t know about how this will all play out. As of right now, most organizations are not yet adjusting their hiring plans, so there’s no need to panic; yet we know there will be be implications for the economy and the job market, both in the short and long-term. 

As we navigate these unknowns, here are a few ways that you can start to respond and prepare during this time of heightened uncertainty. 

1. Adjust your job search plan and timeline

While we can’t yet see what the full impact of current events will be, we do know that hiring processes are going to be disrupted, and that this is already happening. This will impact all stages of the process, from networking meetings being pushed out to interviews and offers being delayed.

Remain flexible, and continue to follow up with your contacts or the organizations you’re in conversation with to ensure that you can get meetings or interviews back on the calendar as soon as possible. Move networking meetings to virtual platforms like Zoom (this is a good example of why being comfortable with virtual meeting tools is such an important skill!).

And be sure to build in some buffer to your job search timeline, because with all the schedule disruption going on, it’s very likely that the process will take longer than you may have planned for. Three to six months is an average job search timeline, and we’d recommend adding at least a month to that right now to be safe. 

2. Have a contingency plan

When you’re job searching, we like to say it’s good to hope for the best and plan for the worst, and that’s especially true now. It’s a good time to make some contingency plans, if only to shore up your confidence that you know you have a plan B if things don’t go as you expected.

If your search ends up taking longer than you planned, what will you do? Taking on temporary or contract work, proactively tapping your network for consulting opportunities, and temporarily reducing your expenses are all good things to consider if you haven’t already made those moves.

It’s also a good idea to review your priorities for your next role. If hiring does slow down in the coming months, which priorities would you be willing to trade off on and which do you want to hold firm to? 

3. Look for opportunity

As difficult as things are right now, in every challenging time there is also opportunity. Think about what that might mean for you. If you have some unanticipated time back in your schedule, you might use it to sharpen your skills by taking online courses, update your job search materials, or research people and organizations you want to reach out to once things settle a bit. You could also consider short-term opportunities to pitch in and work with organizations you’re interested in, even on a volunteer basis.

Or maybe the unexpected opportunity is spending extra time with your family. Your kids may be home from school, or in my case, my husband is also working from home right now –  while that has its logistical challenges, it’s also nice to be seeing more of him than I usually do. As hard as it may be, try to see a silver lining in these tough times and think about what opportunities it could present for you. 

4. Find community

Now more than ever, we need to tap into our communities and support networks. There is so much power in connecting with others who are going through the same experience, and this is especially true if you’re going through a big life transition like a career change.

Check in with your friends and colleagues to see how they’re doing and how you can support each other. Tap in to virtual communities you’re a part of to share what you’re experiencing and help others. (Careers for Social Impact clients, please join us in our community group to let us know how you’re doing, and how we can help.) And volunteer in your local community to help others in need – blood drives and food banks are two good places to start right now. 

5. Take care of yourself

In addition to all the important advice about hand washing and personal hygiene, this is a critical time to proactively monitor your physical, emotional, and mental health. Job searching is hard enough during normal times, and the added levels of stress and anxiety that current events are bringing to the mix means we all need to be even more vigilant about self-care. Focus on what brings you relief – whether it’s exercise, meditation, talking to a friend or therapist, or something else – and make sure you are prioritizing those things right now. 

Most of all, know that we will all get through this, and that you are not alone.  We will continue to share ideas and tips as the situation evolves, and we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and concerns as we think about the best ways we can provide support.

Please get in touch and let us know what’s on your mind. And if you’d like support navigating your next steps, our team is here and ready to help. 

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