Nearly 30 million jobs disappeared this spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic due to industry shutdowns during the devastating global virus. Early employment indications suggest jobs are coming back. In the Labor Department’s June report, the unemployment rate fell to a crisis-low 11.1% in June, with more than four million jobs likely added as states relax on shutdown restrictions and reopen economies.
For those furloughed or laid off during the pandemic, it’s been a grueling search to find work again. Some will have it more difficult than others, but regardless: It’s time to consider refreshing a few elements in your job hunt to reflect what you’ve done during the no-work period.
Elaine Varelas, a managing partner of Keystone Partners, suggests just that. From your Ladders profile to your resume, if you’ve been furloughed or let go due to the coronavirus pandemic, you should let recruiters and potential employers know.
“I think that’s going to be very acceptable,” Varelas told Ladders recently. “People aren’t even going to ask what happened in a lot of industries. Looking for new opportunities or affected by COVID isn’t going to be odd at all. I would definitely encourage people [to do so].”
Varelas’ advice is pretty simple — whether it’s a COVD-19-related layoff or just taking time off from work, reflecting what you’ve done in your spare time could prove valuable when included in your application. Personal projects like training for a marathon or renovating a home look great, as does volunteer work or donating your time to help elderly parents. Even if you learned new skills or took up an online course or two, include it to reflect that time hasn’t gone wasted.
“People are going to want to see that you took advantage of having some kind of time off and that you weren’t just writing cranky things on the web complaining about COVID,” Varrelas said. “That’s what people are going to want to see on your resume. They’re definitely going to want you to speak to it on an interview and that’s going to be one of the most valuable things you can do.”
How should it look on your resume
Have you thought about making a section on your resume dedicated to activities or projects? Let’s take the marathon example. Varelas explained a big project like that could show commitment and determination that can be applied to a larger scope, but something like walking two miles a day isn’t exactly going to move the needle on your resume.
Either way, include something that sets yourself apart during the layoff period.
“If you think you’re not going to be able to get an interview based on what’s just on your resume, then it’s always good to add something there that might influence the reader to give you a second look. You always want to make it to the next step,” Varelas said.
Placing your solo ventures should be near the bottom. Varelas advised using headers such as “additional information,” “personal skills,” or “volunteer activities” to highlight your work.
With cover letters, highlighting new tasks during unemployment could also prove worthy if it pertains to the job, Varelas said. Things like online courses to better yourself and career during COVID-19 would help in showing that you’ve taken the time seriously and worked toward a new opportunity.
And if you’re older…
For the Baby boomers that lost their jobs during the health crisis, it’s daunting to consider starting over someplace new. While some have been forced to put off retirement due to COVID-19, getting back to work will be difficult due to the negative perceptions of older workers.
“It’s anticipated that older workers can’t change, they’re not flexible, not technologically savvy – those are all the things they have to battle against,” Varelas said. “Those are the things that they have to show. A lot of energy, enthusiasm, questions that they are interested in the role, and that they are doing something professionally and personally related during that time off.”
So what do you do? Volunteering your skills to a startup or helping mentor someone younger in college or university looks great, Varelas said.
“They’ve got to show even more,” she said.