Coronavirus: What can be learnt From Job Hunting In A Pandemic


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f you are job hunting in times of Coronavirus – yes, there are jobs out there, but don’t worry about your CV and remember “it would be okay” is more realistic than “dream career”.

There’s no doubt about it: this is a strange time. As the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold, everything has been turned upside down – the way we live, work, socialise, exercise, and even eat.

Adjusting to this new normal is difficult for everyone, and doubly so if you’re worried about your employment status. Perhaps you were already job hunting and are wondering if the situation means you need to put your hunt on hold for the time being. Or maybe you’ve been laid off – permanently or temporarily – because your industry simply cannot function at the moment. Hopefully you won’t ever need it, but here’s some information about getting benefit support if you become ill with the coronavirus.

I’m currently working a fixed-term job contract that is due to end in July. As it can take a while to find a suitable role (my last hunt for jobs took five months) I was just starting to think about my next steps and tentatively look into other opportunities when COVID-19 struck. Looking for jobs at about this point was always part of my plan (when you’re fixed-term, a contract extension is a nice-to-have but typically not something you rely on until you’ve got signed paperwork in hand.)

What was NOT part of my plan, however, was undertaking my next job hunt in the middle of a global pandemic.

Are There Even Jobs To Be Had Right Now?

The short answer is, thankfully, yes.

The longer answer is that there are jobs to be had, but the landscape is shifting. Many companies have implemented complete hiring freezes. Others are still hiring but more carefully scrutinising the roles they’re advertising. In other areas, however, hiring is booming.

Supermarketspharmaciesmail couriers and food delivery services are among the areas where new positions have opened up as a direct result of the Coronavirus situation.

Tesco, for example, has recently announced 20,000 new positions in its stores across the UK, while Morrisons is hiring 3,500 new staff to meet the increased home delivery demand.

In other areas, hiring may continue more or less as normal – albeit with interviews and selection working differently (more on that in a minute!) I work in Higher Education, and most of the Universities in my region still have positions advertised. At the time of writing, they seem to be continuing with recruitment for these jobs as planned.

See what the reality is in your line of work, and be prepared to look more widely and think outside the box. Speaking of which…

Thinking Differently About Jobs

We’re all thinking about work differently as a result of fears about COVID-19, widespread shut-downs, and the sudden mass normalisation of working from home. This might mean thinking differently about our job prospects, as well.

If you’re in a secure job but were starting to think about possibly moving on, can you decide to stay put for another six months after all? Obviously this won’t always be possible or wise (people leave jobs for a reason!) but if you can, you might be able to sidestep this problem by simply waiting a little bit longer before making your next career leap.

If you’re looking for work out of necessity at the moment, consider thinking more broadly than you would in an ideal world. Obviously, you shouldn’t apply for jobs that would be a terrible fit or make you unhappy, but this is a time where aiming for “it would be okay and I could do it well” is probably more realistic than “dream career.”

It sounds silly, but when I was worrying about my job prospects amid this crisis and my friend said to me “you could always get a job in a supermarket for six months or a year,” it was like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. It simply hadn’t occurred to me that I could look completely outside of my industry, and keep the mortgage paid and food on the table by taking advantage of one of the areas where hiring rates are soaring. When she pointed this out, I realised I had far more options than I thought I had.

Worried About Destroying Your CV? Don’t Be!

You are so far from the only person in this situation. No reputable employer is going to hold it against you in the future if you have a CV gap or a year of employment outside your main industry if the reason is “I lost my job due to Coronavirus.” (And, honestly, for a whole host of other reasons too – people have CV gaps and not directly relevant experience all the time!)

Do what you need to do to survive and, ideally, to thrive. These times are not usual, and therefore we all have to adapt by approaching work in ways that may not perfectly match our pre-Corona plans.

Use Your Networks

Now is a great time to reach out to people who might be in a position to support you and ask for their help. Do you have present or former colleagues, past bosses, family friends or other contacts in your industry who might know about job openings? Contact them now! Explain your situation and ask if they know of anything that might be suitable.

Who you know is always at least as important as what you know. That’s never more true that at a time when work as we know it is changing so rapidly and so fundamentally.

Freelancing Or Being Self Employed During A Pandemic

I think I might scream if I see one more tweet along the lines of “you’re at home all the time? Start a business!”

If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, you may be worrying about whether your business will survive this situation. This could fill a whole article by itself!

One thing many self-employed people are doing is trying to move their business to an online or remote format – fitness coaches are teaching online classes, musicians and performance artists are giving online concerts, restaurants and catering businesses are switching to home delivery. By all means, look at what you can do to keep things going during this time. And don’t feel guilty about doing this! You still need to eat and live, and as long as you’re not explicitly taking advantage of the situation for financial gain (“Disaster Capitalism,” as my partner called it) you’re ethically in the clear.

Please also remember that there is no shame in asking for help – if you’re struggling, you could be eligible for the government’s help scheme for self employed people during this time.

So Is This A Good Time To Start A Business Or Try Freelancing?

Maybe? Only you can answer that for yourself and your specific circumstances. I’m certainly ramping up my freelance writing work in anticipation of struggling to find a new well-paid day job, but that’s more a continuation of something I was already doing than starting from scratch.

If you want to try something new in this time, go for it! If you’re too tired, stressed out, or want to focus on finding steady paid work, that’s also completely fine. You’re not failing if you don’t treat a pandemic like a holiday, creative retreat, or business development sabbatical.

How Are Job Interviews Working Right Now?

In the industries which are still hiring, it might be looking very different to how it looked two or three months ago.

Remote interviews previously tended to be reserved for geographically far-flung candidates (and even then, typically only for senior positions). Now they’re becoming more and more normal. A remote interview may take place by phone or, more likely, by video link.

So How Do You Ace A Remote Interview?

See our full tips for remote interviews here. Dress as you normally would for a job interview – no sweatpants or pyjamas, even if you’re just in your living room. Sit in a quiet spot and make sure your partner, kids and dog don’t disturb you. Pick a place with good lighting and a strong internet connection. Test your technology beforehand so you don’t spend the first ten minutes yelling “CAN YOU HEAR ME!?” at each other. And make sure the room around you is tidy (or that you’re sitting against a neutral backdrop such as a plain coloured wall.) Other than that? Be yourself. Smile, sit up straight and use positive body-language, talk up your accomplishments honestly and enthusiastically, and refer directly back to the job description and person specification. In other words, all the things you’d already do for a face-to-face interview.

Good luck! It’s a difficult time but if you persevere, believe in yourself and put your best foot forward when applying, you can weather this storm.

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