When you hear that the job market is going through extraordinary times it can be cause for celebration or concern. Right now, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really a little of both. This article shares insights on the current job market and tips for job seekers in the post-pandemic economy.
What makes these such “extraordinary times” for the U.S. labor market? We’re seeing:
- Historically fast job growth
- Severe labor shortages despite a still-high unemployment rate
- Epic shift to remote work
- Certain industries struggling to recover from the pandemic (e.g. nonresidential construction, parts of retail trade, business- and work-related transportation, commercial banking, business and facilities-support services, and nursing and residential care)
- Employers downgrading their requirements and offering more on-the-job training
Many of these 2021 labor market trends are good news for job seekers. After all, the job market has flipped to see employers competing more for workers. Plus, they are looking to create more positive work environments to reduce turnover and retain the people they do have and hire.
So, what advice is out there to help job seekers in the post-pandemic economy? A lot, of course. But we’ve pulled out the main themes to make it all easier to digest.
Know what you want
Job opportunities abound right now. So, it’s important for those seeking work to have a clear idea of what they want. This can be more challenging for those who are just starting out. However, Chelle Johnson of Best You Advantage says, “It’s all about vision, visibility, and voice. Know what you want and have a vision and purpose that you can confidently communicate.”
Don’t fixate on a dream job
Yes, you should know what you want. But that doesn’t mean you should expect to get there right out of the gate. “It’s important for people not to think about their first job out of college as their career,” says Denise Mooney of Boston University’s Center for Career Development. “It’s not. It’s their first job out of college, and a step along their path.”
Flexibility is key. Especially right now. “A lot of young people have experienced a lot of disruption of their plans,” says Diane Kern, author of the forthcoming book Go Forward to Work! How to Use Your S.P.I.E.S. to Get Your Right Fit Job During a Pandemic. “Being able to change gears is important. [Don’t] let your disappointment turn into discouragement. It is going to be important that you stay focused, that you find the energy and the motivation and the drive to keep going.”
The current skills shortage, and the fact that many people are choosing not to enter the work force right now, can help your search odds. But, if you want to advance in your new career, you want to continue to develop new skills.
The pandemic also accelerated the embrace of automation. So, in the face of what is likely to be a long-term job shift, you’ll want to make sure you are one of the people who can thrive in a highly mobile workforce and that you’re able to adapt to new positions.
“The changes underway in the workforce are going to be constant. That means you will need to keep learning to keep pace,” LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslanksy writes in a World Economic Forum blog. It doesn’t have to be intimidating, though. “Life-long learning can be as simple as listening to a podcast, reading an interesting article or book, keeping up with trends and thought leaders, or taking online courses.”
Hone remote work skills
- Ability to work independently
- Written communication skills
- Comfort with digital technology
- Collaborative, team-player mindset
- Emotional intelligence
Refine your online presence
The new generation of prospective employees is renowned for its tech savvy — they are sometimes labeled as iGen’ers. Make sure that you apply some of your digital native skills to keep your online presence polished and professional. Your LinkedIn profile and resume need to be concise and communicate all your accomplishments during college and internships.
Vet your social presence, too. “Now more than ever, people rely on content from social media to give them information about a candidate. Take control of what information is available about you,” says Blair Williams of Forbes’ Young Entrepreneur Council. “Join relevant communities, create a profile on networking websites, and be active online. Your online activity can make it easy for hiring personnel to know more about you and it could make them feel more comfortable hiring you.”
Prep for the interview
The resume gets your foot in the door, but the interview is where you come to life. No one should be stumped when an interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” According to Dr. Alexis Carreiro (a pitch and public speaking coach), “To impress the audience, practice your interview responses before the actual interview. Find common interview questions online and practice your answers out loud! It may feel awkward, but it will make you feel more confident during the interview itself. Confidence gives you an advantage.”
If it’s a virtual interview, remember to look into the video camera when you’re answering the questions. It helps establish a deeper, more personal connection because it makes them feel like you’re looking into their eyes.
You know you’re going to be asked if you have any questions. Take this opportunity to really get to know the company culture. With options available to you, you can seek out a position somewhere that is a good cultural fit.
Questions you might ask include:
- How will you measure success for this position?
- What are some challenges the person in this position can expect to face?
- What type of people thrive here and what types don’t?
- What do you like about working here?
Don’t overestimate leverage
Sure, the news is everywhere that job candidates have greater leverage in the current market. However, career coach Johnson cautions against being overly confident and asking for too much money. “You need to know what you are worth, but not expect the moon,” she says, “I have heard from a lot of recruiters that iGens think that they should be paid $100,000 out of school. That’s more than many people with way more experience.”
When you do find the role that you want to take, be humble and treat everyone with respect. At the same time, don’t be afraid to utilize your co-workers. In a Muse article summarizing LinkedIn community advice to new grads, Lauren L. recommends, “Don’t be intimidated by your colleagues and superiors! Remember that they were once in your shoes when they began their careers. Leverage their knowledge and experience and find ways to take what worked for them and adapt it to work for you.”
Finding a mentor can give you efficient access to guidance and encouraging feedback. Plus, it can help you to integrate into the organization’s culture more quickly as you will have an available resource to ask about policies and procedures.
The future is yours
COVID-19 brought unparalleled anxiety and worries globally. Searching for a job as the economy recovers isn’t going to be easy. Still, there are advantages.