Job Searching in the Outbreak Era

With companies facing such uncertainty, those looking for work will need to shift their strategies.

For many, conducting a job search amid all the heartache surrounding these current times is especially tough—whether you are among the unemployed or those whose work may be in peril. But unprecedented times, experts say, may apparently call for some new strategies.

Few doubt that companies will be taking drastic measures—and some already have. During the 2008 financial crisis, six in 10 firms froze or decreased staffing, while 35% froze pay. And that was when such phrases as “shelter at home” or “social distancing” weren’t part of the world lexicon.

To a small degree, young professionals in this period of so-called “career nomads” may be able to tap into their knowledge as experienced job hoppers. (Before the current crisis, job tenure had dropped as low as one to two years for some in this group.) But that is still a long way from job searching in the outbreak era. The latest strategies include:

Reset your expectations.

According to a Korn Ferry study conducted at the end of 2019, nearly one-third of professionals said their top work goal for 2020 was to find a new job. But with analysts warning of a coronavirus-triggered recession, job seekers may end up being “stuck” for a lot longer, which can take a mental toll. “Set realistic expectations,” says Korn Ferry Advance career coach Valerie Hayes. Your biggest job now, outside of actively reaching out to your network, is keeping a positive mindset. Meanwhile, keep in mind that job postings in this environment, to the extent that they occur, can change faster than before.

Don’t shun a lateral move.

The tight labor market of the last few years meant moving from job to job would come with a higher title and more pay. But in times like this, making a lateral move may obviously be your only choice. “View it as the next step instead of a setback,” Hayes says. Once you’re in the job, you have the chance to wow your boss and earn that promotion after the market turns around again.

Keep up-to-date on your sector.

This is an unprecedented moment in history, and swings in the business sectors are occurring widely. If your industry has been significantly hit due to the fallout, then consider looking to transfer your expertise to another sector. “Skills are transferrable,” Hayes says. If you’re in HR at a restaurant chain, for example, then it might be time to adjust your resume, highlighting your people-management skills in a way that would appeal to an industry less impacted by the virus.

Continue to network.

While many local governments have canceled large gatherings, that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out to your network. In fact, the bizarre nature of this whole crisis might be the very thing that gives you an excuse to reach out and ask how someone is doing. Remember, experts say, networking in the 21st century starts out with a more service-oriented approach. “When you focus on the other person and less on yourself, people respond better,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette coach and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. “It’s about being interested versus interesting.”