Creating Opportunity in the Chaos: Six Ways to Use This Time to Prepare for the New Job Market

Let’s face it, we’ve been riding on a strong market wave long enough to become complacent – even demanding – despite knowing it wouldn’t last forever. What we could not have predicted is the unprecedented global pandemic we are now facing, or the rate at which it is impacting every facet of our lives. This is a shock to the system, and it is natural to experience fear and frustration, but we can also use this time to prepare (as much as possible) for what comes next.

While many of us are stressed out and “sheltering-in-place”, here are six ways to direct your energy, focus on the future, and prepare for what will become a rapidly evolving job market.

1. Get Focused
Job loss is more than a paycheck. It’s an emotionally challenging, self-esteem busting, worry generating dragon that needs to be slayed. Understand that this is not your fault. Accept the fact that things are different now, then stare the monster down and put it in its place, so you can focus on opportunity instead of loss. Look at your qualities, transferable or universal skills, and applied experience to determine alternate opportunities and industries if returning to your previous position won’t be an option.

2. Get to Higher Ground
The wave has crashed, and everyone seems to be wandering around on the beach. Get to higher ground to view the job market through a wider lens. (1) Where are the new possible opportunities for your transferable skills? (2) Where can you direct effort to see immediate returns? (3) Where can you invest to lay the foundation for future/long-term opportunities? Make lists for each of these categories to organize your search and track results. Download free templates here.

3. Get Ready
Create a work space that is quiet and away from high-traffic areas. Make sure your resume is up to date and simply formatted. Remember, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) read resumes before humans do. If an ATS can’t read your artistically formatted resume (hint: it can’t), it goes into the great abyss and you miss out on opportunities. Ditch the columns and focus on adding relevant keywords, industry, and company information to your resume. Keep a “base resume” and make copies to tailor to specific industries and opportunities. If applying within your current sector, focus on industry experience and technical abilities. If changing industries, focus on applicable transferable skills. Practice interview Q&A, including examples of accomplishments, your specific contributions, and the outcome (with metrics).

4. Get Organized
Make a list of target companies to go after in each the categories from step two. Tailor your resume to showcase skills for new sectors and depth of industry experience for current sector targets. Make sure all job board and networking profiles are updated and complete. Search job boards, company websites, and social and professional networking sites for new opportunities. Create a simple spreadsheet to track applications, networking, and calls. Include a “notes” field to add relevant information and follow-up actions. Download free templates here.

5. Get to Work
Make finding new opportunities your current job and commit a dedicated block of time each day. Keeping a schedule creates a sense of normalcy and you will be able to see your progress through your tracking sheet. Send applications and networking letters, log your progress, and set follow-up activities for each opportunity. Reach out to contacts and start by asking how they are coping with the changes. You will find you’re not alone and may pick up some valuable insight and tips along the way. Turn rejection letters into contact opportunities: connect with the sender on LinkedIn, thank them for their consideration, and express an interest in the organization while asking to be considered for future opportunities.

6. Get to the Goal
Since virtual interviews are imminent, test the camera on your laptop/desktop, invest in a headset if needed, and test the positioning of your phone/tablet for video conferencing. Download any required apps ahead of the interview and test your accounts. Be mindful of background objects and noise, and dress for the occasion, just as you would an in-person interview – it makes a good impression and puts you in the right frame of mind. Research the company and prepare questions ahead of time and have a copy of the resume you submitted for the specific position handy.

Final Thoughts
We are all in uncharted territory right now, trying to find creative solutions and opportunities while facing unique challenges. The uncertainties can be overwhelming, so we must instead focus on attainable goals and build toward success, one step at a time. Start with five contacts or applications per day and adjust upward, keeping your activity and expectations at a manageable level. For more networking tips, download the slideshow and PDF of Networking and Job Search with LinkedIn for free.