As part of our “Love Essentially” series, Jackie Pilossoph helps us navigate the complex world of relationships. Have a question that you would like her to answer? Contact her here, and it may be featured in an upcoming article!
Looking for a job can be stressful. Let’s face it, it always was. But now, add COVID into the mix and job searching just got a lot more complicated. A difficult job market can feel intimidating, and interviewing via Zoom is new for everyone.
Want the good news? Things aren’t as bad as you think. According to Statista, after hitting a historic all-time low unemployment rate of 3.6% at the end of 2019, that number soared to 14.7% at the start of the pandemic in April. But, last month’s unemployment rate came in at 6.7%. Additionally, according to Career Builder, lots of industries are hiring right. These include consumer goods, transportation, health care, software development, retail, and administration.
To learn more about navigating a job search during the pandemic, and for tips on maximizing your chances of landing a job you love sooner than later, I reached out to Megan Walls, a North Shore based job and career coach. Wall’s clients include everyone from recent college graduates to people in their forties, fifties and sixties who have lost their jobs and who might be making career changes.
Let’s start with networking. According to Walls, who has been in her role for 10 years, 85% of jobs are found via networking, which includes the social media site, LinkedIn.
“I tell clients to make a list of all contacts in their network,” she said. “Target the companies you are interested in working for and find out who in your network works there or has contacts there.”
Walls, who before becoming a job coach worked for several years in financial sales, said she finds that people often hesitate to reach out to connections, especially if they haven’t talked to the person in awhile.
“Either they feel guilty because they’ve lost touch with the person, or they feel like they are being a pest, and ‘Why should they help me?’” she said. “The reality is, if you are able to push through that fear, you will find that most people want to help either because they enjoy it or they might get a finder’s fee from their company if you get hired.”
So, what happens when you send out some resumes and you land an interview? These days, you’re most likely going to be meeting your potential new employer via Zoom, which Walls said has its disadvantages.
“There’s something to be said for physically being in a room with someone eye-to-eye and feeling that energy,” she said. “The newness of having to get on a Zoom call for an interview can be challenging. People struggle with ‘How do I sell myself?’”
Walls said job seekers often don’t understand the importance of maintaining professionalism during a Zoom interview. Here are her tips:
- Dress professionally. Even though it’s a Zoom call and you are in your home, dress as if you are going into your potential employer’s office.
- Be cognizant of your background. Make sure it looks professional. You don’t want to appear as though you are sitting on your couch in front of the TV. Try to create an office setting.
- Be aware of background noise. The environment needs to be professional and quiet. Silence all phones, make sure young kids are occupied so they don’t interrupt you, and distance yourself from pets, who might make noise or jump on you.
Walls said it’s important to “up your energy” on a Zoom call, since it’s harder to see it than if you were interviewing in person. That means smile and enunciate more than usual, and try to be as enthusiastic as possible so that your passion comes across during the interview.
How do you sell yourself during a job interview? According to Walls, it’s easier if you compile what she calls your “career inventory.”
“In preparing for any job interview, sit down and make a list of your experience, certifications, strengths, values, accomplishments, and successes,” Walls said. “You are compiling all of this wonderful uniqueness and self-worth and getting it out on paper concretely. You’re essentially identifying what value you bring to the table so that you can communicate it to potential employers.”
Walls said it’s also important to position why you’re the best candidate for the job.
“Try to get across why you will be more effective than a much younger person,” she said. “Explain that you come with experience, that you’re loyal, that you aren’t going to job hop, that you bring wisdom and maturity to the table, and that you can be a mentor for others.”
I’m too old.
No one’s hiring.
These are all negatives that can creep into a job seeker’s mindset. But while I understand how someone can feel this way, I would encourage anyone looking for a job to try to shift your focus to someone amazing: you. Look at all the wonderful qualities you have to offer and believe that your future employer is lucky to have you!
Four years ago, at age 51, I started a new job in a new industry. I was scared. I hadn’t had a full-time job in almost a decade. I had never worked as a mom trying to coordinate my kids’ schedules, and I was intimidated by new technology I had never used. Guess what? It worked out great! Putting aside the obvious financial benefit, the job and the people I’ve met through it have enriched my life. Working has made me a happier person; more self-confident, more appreciative, and a better mom.
Change isn’t easy for anyone, and that includes changing jobs or going back to work. The unknown can feel scary. But if you believe in yourself and your capability to bring value and something special to a company, change can turn out to be a really nice surprise.
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Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.