Let’s start with some straight talk. If you look at the economic news and the job numbers as a gauge for whether you can find work right now, you’re likely to be discouraged. Nine months into this pandemic, businesses and families alike are still struggling, and even with the vaccine now being distributed, it will be some time before the economy comes back in full force.
But…and here’s the good news…there are still jobs out there to be had. The economy may be slow, but it hasn’t stopped. Companies still need people to do things for them, and they are still willing to pay for it. The reason it looks bad is that you’re looking through the wrong lens. Let me explain.
There’s no doubt that this pandemic has changed the landscape of the workforce. I’m not talking about unemployment numbers. I’m talking about the available jobs and the way those jobs get filled. We’re used to finding work in a certain way: employers post job openings, we send in our application and resume, we go to an interview, we get hired.
Except things are different now—and not just because of the pandemic. Employers are changing the way they post jobs and hire people. Many jobs get filled without the need ever to post an opening on LinkedIn or Indeed. And that’s not likely to change just because of the vaccine. That doesn’t mean you can’t get those jobs—it just means you’re looking in the wrong places for them. The hiring process is different, so you can’t expect to get hired using the old methods. It’s a “new normal” out there, and the key to getting hired more quickly is to adapt your mindset and your methods to this new normal.
Having said that, let’s look at a few new approaches to think about concerning your job search.
Look for Problems You Can Solve, Not Job Openings.
Here’s where you stop thinking of yourself as an employee trying to get hired and instead think of yourself as a professional with certain skills that employers need. This approach requires you to think a little bit like an entrepreneur. Instead of just scoping out job postings at places you’d like to work, do a bit of investigative work and find out what problems (or “pain points”) that company has that you could provide solutions for. Then look for a way to approach the company, send an email or make a phone call, share what you do, and offer your skills as a solution. If there is no official job listing or open position (and there very well might not be), you can often open a dialogue at the company by calling human resources, or by finding and reaching out to the head of a department where your skills might be relevant. You might also find an inroad to the company through your LinkedIn connections or someone else in your network. With a bit of creativity, you can usually find your way to the right desk even if there is no active hiring going on.
Yes, that company may be hiring fewer people right now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have work that needs to be done. Chances are they’re contracting out that work to third-party companies or independent contractors, or even using automated services. If you can convince them it makes more sense to hire you than to use those other methods—you’ve just created a position for yourself where none existed before. Even if they hire you as a 1099 contractor or on a temp basis, you’ve now gotten your foot in the door.
Become an Expert
Another way employers are meeting their company’s needs is to look specifically for skilled professionals and experts and actively recruit them to do the work they need to be done. These job openings never get posted because the employer is taking an active role in approaching prospective new hires. The way you get in line for these jobs is to position yourself as one of those experts and let the employers find you. A lot of this stuff happens online nowadays, so whatever your skillset is, start posting content online that shows that you are a subject matter expert or a thought leader in that field. If your expertise is in creative home financing, for example, maybe start a blog about that. Post articles on LinkedIn, create some YouTube videos, share helpful tips on Instagram and Facebook. Develop a body of work that shows you know your stuff when it comes to home financing. When an employer in your network or on LinkedIn needs those kinds of skills, your stuff will eventually start coming up in their online searches. This approach takes a little time and effort, but it can pay off well because the tables are effectively turned. Instead of you being at the employer’s mercy to hire you, the employer comes to you already interested, trying to convince you to take the job. (That usually means a fatter paycheck, as well.)
Develop a Proof of Concept
This technique is about not just saying what you can do, but showing you can do it. Anyone can create a nice resume—that’s why employer’s desks are stacked full of them. To stand out as the solution that employer needs, look for a way to establish proof of concept. Create a portfolio of your work or a “look book” of successful projects you’ve completed at other companies. Save a few blog posts that you’ve written that demonstrate your expertise, and include those in your portfolio.
One method to develop your proof of concept is a common technique used in building a resume: the PAR method. (PAR stands for “Problem, Action, Result.”) Using this method, you:
- identify a specific problem you encountered in your previous employment or activities;
- describe what action you took to solve the problem; and
- share the results of the action you took.
When you put together a few of these examples using the PAR method, you can share them in several places, including your portfolio, your resume, and your LinkedIn profile. The PAR method is quite effective because it helps hiring managers draw a clearer connection between what their company needs and what you can offer.
You still need a good resume, but when you send it, send a link to your portfolio as well. If you do get an interview, bring the portfolio with you or give the employer a link during your Zoom chat. Give them something to see besides just your credentials, and you’ll make a bigger impression than the best resume alone can give you.
Keep Active in Your Network
Nowadays, your professional/social network matters now more than ever when you’re looking for work. Don’t neglect your connections—keep looking for ways to stay in touch and to stay top-of-mind. Posting content as we mentioned above will help, but don’t forget to interact. Lots of job openings and referrals still happen through these channels, so while you’re working on the other things, keep tending your network.
Should you keep looking at job listings and applying for them? Of course you should. Use every possible avenue to find work. Just don’t limit yourself to the traditional methods—be aware of the changes in the work environment and start thinking creatively about how to change your approach to match those changes. I’m not saying your job search won’t still have its challenges, but just remember—the ones who succeed during times of great change are the ones who are willing to adapt, rather than resist.
Want some more specific guidance in your job search? I’m always here to help. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s set you up with a free 30-minute consultation.