Almost one year ago, millions of Canadians began losing work. Contract work, part time jobs, and permanent, full time careers were put on hold for many as the coronavirus pandemic rippled through the economy. In 2020, unemployment peaked at a staggering 13.7% in the month of May—rates the likes of which hadn’t been seen in over four decades of comparable data.1
There’s a pretty high chance that you, or someone you know, was impacted by this trend.
In the early days, we didn’t know how the Canadian economy was going to recover and many feared the worst. But before long, our luck began to turn; while Canada is still not at pre-pandemic unemployment rates of around 5.5%, we have seen a recovery of about five percentage points to 8.5%.2 3 We are recovering. This is good news for people currently on the job hunt—but the market, and the process, has changed. Looking forward, combining flexibility with proactive strategies while seeking work is crucial.
Making Luck: Job Hunting in a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic created the conditions for change. Through this incredibly difficult time, it has become clear that, for many folks seeking work, thinking outside the box is a must. So often, we had one career path in mind: attend university, get your foot in the door, and climb the ladder in one industry. But, now more than ever, lateral moves to new departments or even new industries have become viable employment options.
Being flexible, therefore, is crucial to finding work during the pandemic. It can be frightening to move into the unknown, especially when security can be hard to come by. But we have learned over the last year that being open to new paths and unexpected ways to apply our skills can be a very smart and secure move.
Now is not the time to stick rigidly to the career path you designed before the pandemic. Seriously consider a lateral move if it will bring more security or if that move will create more opportunity as the pandemic wanes.
Treat the Job Search Like It’s Your Job
With a high number of skilled professionals on the job market, it’s vital that you take the search seriously. Many companies that survived the pandemic are actually growing and are actively hiring. It’s your job to make yourself the most obvious hire. But this takes work.
From 9 in the morning to 5 at night, you should commit to your job search. This doesn’t mean firing off one hundred resumes every day; it means working to round out your attractiveness to a potential employer in a variety of ways.
Spend time updating your CV—and your LinkedIn profile. This may feel like a waste of time, especially for those of us that have spent the last decade, or more, in our chosen field. But for most industries, platforms like LinkedIn do play a role in the hiring process. Spend a few days, or even a week, combing and updating your resume and your LinkedIn profile to best represent you: a dynamic, capable worker who would be an asset to any company. Be specific and use active words in your resume; for example, opt for “slashed quarterly spends by half,” rather than “helped the company save money.” Demonstrate your value in measurable and exciting terms.
You’ll also need to get comfortable with video and phone interviews—this can be harder than one might think. Learn the ins and outs of platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Blue Jeans, Jitsi… Well, suffice to say that there is a lot of new technology out there and it’s important you orient yourself to present well in all interviews and follow ups while making use of these platforms. The best way to learn these skills is to practice. Enlist a family member or friend to “interview” you, as awkward as this may seem, to learn how to present confidently and how to take those inevitable lags in stride. Don’t forget to create a clean, presentable background for your interview—or at least find a suitable virtual background!
You’ll also need to develop or choose strategies for reaching out, following up, and maintaining relationships with possible employers using email and social media (like LinkedIn) where appropriate. These tasks will take up most of your days on the job hunt.
Use Down Time to Develop Your Skills
If you have more time in the “work day,” use it to level up your skills and employability. This might look like taking a one hour per day Excel course, or learning more specialized software or skills to set yourself apart from your competition. While it may be tempting to use your time off as a mini vacation—which is itself not a terrible idea, especially during a stressful year—the folks who are optimizing their time to make themselves more valuable to a potential employer are the people that will come out on top. The bonus of adding these skills to your resume? You’ll feel confident in your ability to grow and tackle new situations and tasks, which is a crucial asset in these uncertain times.
Investing the time necessary to draw out and carefully illustrate your value will pay dividends. Bringing these strategies together to be an effective agent within your job search will get you the interview; your flexibility and willingness to find fulfillment and security in unexpected places may well get you the job. Good luck out there!