When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that doesn’t mean the tough get up and leave! Times are difficult, but adversity gives people an opportunity to leverage resiliency. Thankfully, job seekers have many opportunities to increase their marketability and accelerate their job campaign while coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even better yet, the suggestions below are free.
Improve Digital Presence
Now is the time for students, seasoned professionals, and everyone in between to optimize their use of LinkedIn. Résumé writers and career coaches can counsel their clients and students to use the platform with purpose. I encourage my clients to determine their goal for LinkedIn and then create a customized plan to achieve it. Oftentimes, we discuss becoming more active, posting content and writing comments that demonstrate subject matter expertise, and professionalizing their profile.
LinkedIn has launched a profile section called Featured that allows members to highlight selected media and images. It’s a tremendous tool; this section even appears before a person’s Experience section. (LinkedIn is still launching this section, so if you or your clients do not see it yet, you will soon.)
Using a professional picture on LinkedIn, and other professional sites, is imperative. A wonderful tool is Photofeeler. This website allows users to upload a picture and receive anonymous feedback from others. The only action a person must take to receive feedback is to give it. Users rate how competent, likeable, and influential a person appears. I have found the results match the feedback I give my clients, but I like that Photofeeler provides objective input from many other users. (In my test, I received feedback from 38 people.) The site also offers suggestions on taking a professional selfie at home, should you decide you need a better picture. You can find that information here: Good news for folks stuck at home during social distancing!
Canva, an online design site, is another resource that people can use to enhance their digital presence. A person can easily customize a LinkedIn banner (the horizontal image that appears at the top of a LinkedIn profile). Canva has a free version and allows a person to try Canva Pro for free for a month.
Learn a New Skill
People can add to their professional development in a formal capacity through certifications and coursework. I recommend looking at Coursera, TedX or other massive open online courses (MOOCs). Students can take courses from a wide range of universities on an equally wide range of topics (from Innovation to The Science of Beer!). Most of these courses are free, although some offer a certificate for a fee. I have had clients use MOOCs to facilitate a career change and rebrand their professional skillset.
For folks looking to learn new skills through a less formal process, books and YouTube University are also great options. I learned how to uninstall and reinstall a toilet from YouTube videos! And, in the process of doing a little Internet research while writing this article, I registered for a course on Google Analytics.
Master Video Conferencing
There will be little room for not having this skill after the pandemic. By the time of this publication, I suspect everyone will already have seen the “video conferencing gone wrong” clips of a woman filming herself going to the bathroom and of a man walking around in his underwear. Spare your clients and students (and yourself!) from this embarrassment by encouraging them to learn how to use video conferencing effectively.
I recently wrote an article, “Vital Tips for a Successful Video Interview,” that can also be a resource. But more than just reading about how to use video conferencing software, I urge my clients to practice using it and making sure their software is updated. Practice also makes perfect in terms of learning how to optimize lighting and positioning of the camera. I encourage everyone to learn several platforms like Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Meet.
Pick up the Phone
Reconnecting with colleagues, friends, and family members to see how they are doing allows an individual to share their situation as well. These can be social calls, but job seekers can also mention their job campaign and report on how it’s going. Speaking about an active job campaign reminds your contacts of your situation, and they might be able to help. Even during difficult times, I recommend that clients keep their attitude upbeat and
perspective optimistic when communicating. Keeping a gratitude journal can help. (Make a gratitude journal for free with these prompts.)
This is also an optimal time to make new contacts and inquire about informational interviews. I encourage my clients to conduct informational interviews, even now, because no two situations are alike. Some people are incredibly busy as they work from home and ensure their children are doing schoolwork remotely, but others are impatiently waiting for the economy to reopen. Or, retirees are being extremely diligent about staying home but also wishing they could do more to help. Given these situations, job seekers can identify companies and people they would like to learn more about and then send emails to request informational interviews. The worst that can happen is that they do not get a response.
I recently read a LinkedIn post about how interviews in the months ahead will likely include a new question: How did you help during the pandemic? Not all of us are front- line workers putting our lives at risk. But we don’t need to be to help others. Job seekers can volunteer for a non- profit organization, offer a free resource if they have one to give, work outside their normal hours to accommodate clients’ schedules, volunteer a remote service or skill, offer to buy groceries for a neighbor, and the list goes on.
Being a helper in this time is much more than a way to help a person get a job; it also fulfills a basic human need to be needed. Sociologist and counselor Steve Rose, PhD, has written that “the need to be needed is an individual’s sense of significance rooted in the sense of being part of a community or cause beyond themselves.”* All of us can find purpose and meaning when times are tough— whether that stems from unemployment or simply being stuck in our homes.
Job seekers can take these steps to help accelerate their job campaign, but these actions are valuable for any professional who has down time and is proactively managing their career—perhaps yourself.
* Steve Rose, The Need to Be Needed