How to Compete in a Tight and Unpredictable Job Market

By May 19, 2020 May 21st, 2020 Uncategorized

The Washington Post reported last week that 77% of the 33 million people who have either been laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic believe they will be hired back as the economy starts back up. This show of optimism is extremely encouraging. If true, it would greatly accelerate our economic recovery. What a relief that would be.
But what if it is not true? What if joblessness remains at record or close to record levels?

I would describe myself as more of an optimist than a pessimist, but I admit to a spurt of anxiety as I considered this more troubling possibility. I remember the tough market of 2008 and 2009. It was not an easy time to do my work as a career counselor/job search coach. It was hard to bear witness to the difficulties my clients experienced. With the advantage of hindsight and just in case, you find yourself in a job search in a similarly tight and stressful market, here is some advice to make your job search more successful.

1. Resist the impulse to throw as much as you can against the wall to see what might stick. In a super tight market, part of hitting the panic button for most people is to decide to cast a wider net in order to increase the probability of getting an interview. This is wise but after a point, it will work against you. As the quantity of your applications increases, the quality will decrease. The task in front of you is to analyze what your core skills are, research in order to understand how these skills transfer over to other jobs or industries, and make a quantifiable and concrete marketing case that you have successful experience for the work at hand. When recruiters are flooded with applications, they are quick to cut applicants who do not have relevant experience. Don’t apply to jobs for which you are unable to show that you have required experience. You simply will not get an interview and you waste everyone’s time—yours and theirs.

2. Don’t get stuck in the never ending task of creating the “perfect” resume. Anxiety about the job search finds a very fertile breeding ground in the writing or updating of a resume. Under the guise of needing to fine-tune a resume, procrastination about starting the search can be immobilizing. You may have heard the notion: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.” I am a strong advocate of having a good resume. But to start your search, what you need are good bones for the resume: an up to date format with an emphasis on results and accomplishments in your job history. And then you will perfect your resume by tweaking it for each job to which you apply.

3. Get and keep boundaries between work (your job search) and home (your life). I don’t know anyone whose world isn’t upside down at this point and for most of us, this means we are spending a great deal of time at home. It is particularly important that you discipline yourself to both turn your job search on and turn it off. If you are unemployed and looking for work, set a goal of 25-30 hours a week of devoted job search time. When you have reached your goal, be very intentional about doing whatever will put gas back in your tank. If you are spending too much time by yourself, figure out a way to connect with your people—even if it is virtual; if you are spending too much time in close quarters with family or roommates, figure out how to get away—even if only for a walk. Work on maintaining the positive energy and good perspective you will need for your job search.

A successful job search in this particular climate—unprecedented and chaotic—is going to require managing stress reactions to these uncertain times as well as job search best practices. Undoubtedly a challenge but knowledge is power. Go for it.

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