The impact of COVID-19 is making for an unseasonably slow hiring period. Though the overall job market may be out of your control, you can still prepare for a job search by using the downtime to your advantage — then you’ll be ready to hit the ground running once opportunities start flowing again. Here’s how to get started on a job search when hiring is slow.

  1. HAVE A RESUME REVIEW

    Now is the time to get your resume and/or portfolio in order, says Kathryn Kerge, founder of Kerge Consulting, a boutique talent consultancy. For that, enlist the help of a professional. “Many recruiters and business leaders are now offering resume guidance to support others,” she says. “Writing a resume is time-consuming and personal, and often the things that you think stand out aren't what a hiring manager is looking for. Getting a new set of eyes on your resume so that you can then devote time to a refresh or rewrite is very worthwhile.”

    Search your network for connections to recruiters or career coaches. If you don't have a direct line, think about someone you know who hires others to do work for them. “More now than ever, people have the time to help, so asking for an introduction or a suggestion is a simple way to get started,” Kerge says.

  2. RETHINK HOW YOU NETWORK

    In previous job searches, you may have attended a networking event to meet new colleagues or practice your professional conversation skills. Those opportunities have been put on hold, but networking persists — just in a different format. “There is no one core formula for networking,” Kerge says. “It starts with reaching out to people and making time for conversations. Time is the No. 1 reason people don't network. But time is something many people have at the moment, so don't miss the opportunity."

    People want to help, so reach out to those in your professional circle, and figure out what your networking goal is with each individual, Kerge says. “Are you asking them to look at your resume? Give you advice on their industry? Make sure to always reciprocate — offer to make introductions in your own network or offer support in some other way.”

  3. DO YOUR RESEARCH

    Now is the time to be extra thorough when gathering information. “During these times, it's important to have as much of a pulse on your job market as possible,” Kerge says. “There are many ways to do this: LinkedIn's newsfeed frequently cites articles and highlights posts about companies and the current market.” She also suggests checking out job boards, recruiting sites and even general news sites. Start by making a list of companies of interest and follow them for updates. “The stronger your litmus on the market is, the more prepared you will be,” Kerge says.

  4. IMPROVE YOUR SKILL SET

    Consider rounding out your skills by taking advantage of online courses and learning opportunities that are now available at a discount (or even for free). When you do, “it's important to give some clear thought to what skills you should devote to learning,” Kerge says.

    “For example, if you’re trying to learn a new technology, ask yourself if it’s one that has been called out as missing from your experience in the past, or one that is a required or desirable skill in the jobs you are considering applying for.”

    Stay focused on building the skills that you can truly leverage during your job search, and consider going back to the “just for fun” courses when the search becomes less of a priority.

WHY YOU SHOULD STILL BE SEARCHING

Even though the current job market may not feel like it’s in your favor, see what’s out there; you may be pleasantly surprised. “It is absolutely not pointless,” Kerge says. “There are still companies who are hiring, and there are still roles that companies are looking to fill.” Just remember that patience and persistence will be key, and you should expect every part of the process to take longer.

Kerge encourages casting a wide net and being even more open to companies you may have overlooked in the past. “There are many companies doing better than expected during this time, and of course others that are struggling,” she says. “As a candidate, it is really important to cast aside preconceived notions. Don't rule out companies for reasons you haven't validated, such as assuming that a smaller company won't be stable. With everything in business and industries shifting, it's important to be flexible and open-minded as a candidate."

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