10 tips for job searching during the pandemic from a survivor of the 2008 recession

Regardless if you have been recently laid off or recently graduating, if you are looking for a job right now, you might be at a loss for what to do.

Between stock market news, job market stats, and the global coronavirus pandemic chaos, it is easy to become overwhelmed right now. Mix in the uncertainty that comes along with a job search and you might just be nearing full-blown-breakdown mode.

But there are ways to avoid reaching your breaking point. Ladders spoke with two experts to find out their tips on how to job search as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect job seekers all around the nation.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #1: Don’t assume that no one is hiring

The U.S. is experiencing unprecedented filings for jobless benefits. This past week, the nine-week total for jobless claims reached 38 million. While numbers like this, in addition to talk of an approaching recession, might trick you into thinking that there are no companies hiring, that is absolutely not the truth.

There are many organizations that have enacted hiring freezes, but many others are still updating job postings and searching for new candidates.

“There are companies that are hiring but they just might have to shift to a different industry that they hadn’t thought of to just you know, really build their skills and build some experience while things open up again,” said Dale McLennan, Dean of Endicott College’s Internship and Career Center. “So we’re preaching patience but also telling them to keep going with it…don’t just assume that no one is hiring.”

You should start by looking at the companies you are interested in, and then look at job boards to find out who is hiring.

“If there are listings out there, that means there are jobs out there,” said Michael Eldridge a mentor on the Wisdo app and survivor of the 2008 recession.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #2: Don’t ignore the trauma

This pandemic has caused unprecedented situations for many people. As a result, it is easy to lose yourself in the stories of those who have suffered from the virus or lost a loved one to it.

If you were laid off, it’s important to realize that you are also being affected by this pandemic.

“A collective trauma is all-encompassing, but there are hundreds of different narratives within it,”  Eldridge said. “Don’t lose yourself, don’t lose your own narrative because to ignore or belittle your own trauma is really to minimize your own experience and, quite frankly, it’s to take your own legs out from underneath you.”

Reflecting on what this experience means to you, and how it makes you feel, is an important step to moving past the current situation.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #3: Don’t think you are the only one

Eldridge went through the recession that began with the market crash in 2008, so he knows what it’s like to be working in a rough job market. One difference from the situation in 2008 was that right now no one knows how or when this issue will be resolved, and what the job market will look like when it is.

“That can lead to a lot of feelings of depression, hopelessness, and anxiety,” Eldridge said. “It’s not that we don’t have the answers yet to how our world looks, and how do we deal with this now? We don’t even have the right questions yet. That’s tough. For people who are really just entering the workforce or don’t have something established, it’s even tougher.”

One of the main differences between the current climate and what people experienced in 2008 is the scope of the current situation. In some way, shape, or form, the coronavirus pandemic has changed each person’s life in the U.S. That was not necessarily the case in 2008. Remembering that you are not alone is a key element in overcoming trauma.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #4: Aim for “net gain” days

It’s harder to get started than to keep going. This is true in exercise, in writing a book, and in most job searches. Eldridge recommends combatting the fear of getting started by focusing on having “net gain” days.

Ask yourself, over the course of the day, do you feel like you moved forward, stayed in place, or move backward?

What a “net gain” day is about is waking up each day and looking at the things that you do. It could be taking a shower, working on your resume, trying to that little bit of networking, or planning through your budget

“Look at how high of an effort you’re putting out, and then look at how much reward and if you’re putting out things low to the high effort, but getting a lot of rewards, keep doing them,” Eldridge said.

In order to have a successful net gain day, you should know your goals and create enough activities within your day to have a net gain progress towards that goal.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #5: Reach out to all contacts

Networking starts with the contacts you have already created because these are the people most likely to be willing to help you.

When you reach out to a contact, you don’t want to ask for a job right off the bat – that is never what networking is about.  Instead, you can ask a contact for advice in your situation,

While this pandemic has kept most of us apart physically, it has also connected us in an unprecedented way in the fact that every person in the country has felt the effects of it in one way or another. As a result, you have the perfect opener when getting in touch with a contact, even if it has been a while since you have spoken with them.

A global health crisis is the exact right time to check in with people and express concern for how they are doing. Of course, you can also mention that you are currently job searching and inquire about any advice or leads that they may have for you. Given we have all been starved of social interaction, your contact will probably welcome a friendly conversation with you. Think about it, people will probably never have this much time to help you ever again.

“We tell people not to ask for a job, and you should never do that when you’re networking anyway, but to think of small asks that the people can give right now,” McLennan said.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #6: Keep expanding your network

As you reach out to all your contacts, you should also be looking to expand your network. Most everyone is stuck at home right now, so the only way people are creating new relationships is online, which presents a tremendous opportunity for someone who is job searching.

McLennan recommends joining industry groups on LinkedIn, checking out your alma mater’s career services, and connecting with alumni.

“Even if they don’t know them, they have that loose connection that can help them build their network,”  McLennan said.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #7: Use the extra time to make yourself stand out

Depending on where you live, you might not yet feel comfortable venturing out in public too often. As a result, you have the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with your computer. If you are currently job searching, you should this extra time to make yourself the strongest job candidate that you could possibly be.

You should start by making sure your online presence is strong, which means updating your LinkedIn profile, scanning your social media profiles for appropriate content, and posting things that will make you look engaged. Additionally, go over your resume and cover letter. A pandemic is no excuse for weak grammar in your cover letter.

“Be just as buttoned up with your resume and cover letter, making sure everything is perfect because there’s a lot of noise,” Eldridge said. “There’s a lot of applicants, as there always are, and a great cover letter still is going to help you, and a poor one is still going to sink you.”

People say that applying for jobs is a full-time job, but filling out applications eight hours straight, five days per week is beyond draining. That doesn’t mean that you can watch Netflix for four of those hours. Instead, use all this time to build your skills and strengthen your resume. You can use platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning to bolster your applications and expand your skillset.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #8: Acknowledge the crisis in your application

Right now you don’t need to pretend like everything is perfect in your cover letter. Unless they live under a rock, the hiring manager will be aware of the pandemic and how it has affected the current job market.

There is no one untouched by this, which gives you a better chance of connecting with the hiring manager about more than just the job posting. While you don’t have to make your cover letter entirely about the pandemic, acknowledging the situation and wishing the person well will show your humanity.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #9: If your dream company is on a hiring freeze, find a way to stay connected

Many companies enacted hiring freezes when coronavirus began to take over the economy and workspace back in early March, but that does not mean that you can’t stay in touch with your dream company.

If you have a contact at the company, stay in touch. If this person tells you they don’t know when hiring will begin again, ask if it’s okay with them if you reach back out in another month. Putting a timeframe on the communication will help you feel better about reaching out by establishing that that professional won’t be annoyed if you do so.

“Find any way to be engaged with the company again, without pushing too hard if the company really is in a state of uncertainty,” McLennan said.

Job searching during the pandemic tip #10: Have a Plan A, B, and C

If your dream is to work in the travel industry, it might not be the best time to pursue that aspiration just yet. Instead, discover what industries are hiring, which positions you would be able to apply your skills in, and go after those roles.

The current job market presents a situation in which people may not be able to go after their Plan A, but instead, have to look towards their Plan B or C.

“Take something that may not be exactly what you want if you really need the income, but don’t get stuck there,”

If you do land a role that isn’t exactly your dream role, company, or industry. it’s important to not get stuck in that place.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.