Finding a Job During the Coronavirus Pandemic

July 20, 2020

Normally after a job loss you want to hit the pavement running. You beef up that resume, search the job boards into the wee hours, and apply for the positions you think you want. However, right now, finding a job during coronavirus is anything but normal.

As COVID-19 spread across the nation, most businesses were forced to rapidly move to remote work or shutter their doors entirely. For small businesses, especially retail stores and restaurants that rely on foot traffic, the impact was immediate. Businesses that could (such as those in the information, technology, and financial sectors) scrambled to develop remote work policies to keep employees working safely.

While we continue to witness wide swings in unemployment as U.S. response to the pandemic unfolds, some businesses, especially those on the front lines (e.g., online retailers and shipping companies) saw an increase in demand and began hiring more temporary and part-time help to keep pace. But workers in those areas now face new challenges: keeping themselves safe in the workplace while earning a paycheck.

For those already on the job hunt or anyone who became unemployed suddenly, navigating this “new normal” can feel daunting. Depending on your personal situation and where you live, finding a job during coronavirus can mean limited choices, intense competition, tough decisions, and a lot of questions.

Is it safer to apply for unemployment benefits and try to ride it out at home? Should you take any job you can get to protect your income, even if it means putting yourself at risk? Will you be able to find a job you want?

There are no easy, one size-fits-all answers, but we’re here to try to help you get back on your feet, and maintain your emotional well-being in the process.

How the Pandemic Affects the Job Market

Clearly, COVID-19 and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders mandated across the U.S. has had an immediate impact on the job market. Under these orders, many businesses had to slow down, pause, or stop hiring all together.

But that doesn’t mean the job market has dried up completely. Some businesses were able to quickly adapt to remote work and continue hiring. Other businesses in areas with less restrictive shelter-in-place orders continued hiring in person, often taking on part-time and temporary workers to keep their businesses going.

As the nation slowly starts the process of opening back up, many other businesses may also bring jobs back, but for right now, hiring managers might be playing a wait-and-see game. No one can say exactly what the job market will look like after shelter-in-place orders are relaxed, but experts agree that at least some of the jobs will come back.

Take Stock of Where You’re At

Losing a job—especially during a national crisis—is stressful and scary. It’s OK if you don’t know where or what your next move will be. Let’s just take this one step at a time.

Get your benefits in order

As soon as you are laid off or lose your job, you should apply for unemployment insurance benefits the next day. Extended benefits under the CARES Act add another $600 per week on top of your states cap until July 31.

As for healthcare, the CARES Act instructs states to disregard the $600 per week unemployment benefit when calculating income for Medicaid or CHIP health (Section 2104(h))—so you should have no worries about losing this coverage. However, Congress did not exempt the $600 bump when considering eligibility for subsidies for coverage purchased through the ACA Marketplace. Anyone with Marketplace coverage who experiences a loss or change of income, should report it. Reduced income could qualify some consumers for Medicaid, or increase their premium tax credit amount. Others may be newly eligible for cost sharing reductions.

Take a break to reflect

Worrying about your friends and family staying healthy in a global pandemic was more than enough to handle. Throw in a job loss on top of it and you’re likely feeling severely burned out and emotionally drained. If you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, it’s OK to postpone your hunt until you have a chance to talk through your feelings and grieve your feelings. Even if you can only afford a day or two of self-care, give yourself time to decompress, process what happened, and think through what your next move should be.

Calculate your cash flow

Figure out how much cash you have on hand to cover your bills now. Don’t forget to include your unemployment insurance, any severance you may have received, and your credit cards (though, those should be saved for an absolute emergency right now). Then see where you can make cuts in your budget to put more cash aside.

Review all your skills

While it is a good idea to keep a list of your skills for your potential dream job or career, right now you may want to cast a wider net. No one really knows how long COVID-19 restrictions or the recession will last and you may have to take a job outside of your direct field for the time being. It is a good idea to think of some skills you have that could translate into the jobs most in demand now.

Think about working remotely

Do you have any skills or abilities that would allow you to work remotely? Having a good home office setup, even if it is just a laptop on your kitchen table, is key right now. Many employers will likely keep offering remote work even as shelter-in-place measures lift.

Reflect on your personal safety

Many of the immediately available jobs are for front line workers. Online retailers like Amazon, grocery stores like Kroger, and delivery services like Instacart have all brought on new employees and contractors to support greater demand during this time. It is worth taking some time to consider your situation. If you need to care for an elderly family member or have a preexisting condition, remote work may be a better option. But employers are taking measures to keep front line workers healthy, and if you’re younger, these might be great options for you.

5 Ways to Find a Job Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic

Depending on where you live, many of the usual avenues of finding a new job—like in-person applications, networking events, and social gatherings—may be canceled for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your search online successfully. Here’s how:

1. Update your online presence

Now more than ever, a potential employer will look you up and check out your online presence. Use this to your advantage to both help employers find you and to put your best foot forward.

Take some time to review and/or update:

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the number one online resource for job seekers. Complete your profile so employers and recruiters can find you.
  • Social media: Now is a good time to scrub your social media of anything you wouldn’t want an employer to see, or to set those accounts to private if you can’t.
  • Professional/portfolio website: Build a professional website highlighting your portfolio, professional history, and an about page where employers can learn more about you personally. Many web building services are discounted during COVID-19.
  • Video-conferencing abilities: Get used to online interviews from here on out. Download a popular video conferencing software like Zoom and make sure you’re comfortable using it. Never video conferenced before? Find a good background at home and connect with a friend to get feedback on what they can see and how you sound. Get more tips for a successful video job interview.

2. Tap into your personal network

Let friends, family, and former colleagues know you’re looking, because this is still the best way to find a job. Even though most applicants apply for jobs directly through job boards or employer career sites, according to a 2019 JobVite survey, 35% found job postings on social media, 37% learned about jobs from their professional networks, and 50% heard about jobs from friends.

Give your personal network details like what experience you have, what you’re looking for, and your availability. Start by drafting talking points and emails you can send en masse or individually. You never know who will connect you to your next job.

3. Join online networking events

In-person networking events may be on hold, but many have brought their services online. See what is available in your area on sites like Eventbrite or LinkedIn, the latter being the gold standard. Most of your old colleagues are probably on there, not to mention recruiters and employers you might want to connect with. that you can join.

4. Look for contract work

Many employers are looking for part-time, freelance or contract work to help fill needs during the pandemic. You can find roles like these on sites like LinkedIn ProFinder, Upwork, 99 Designs, Toptal, SimplyHired, Indeed, Freelance Writing Gigs, and Glassdoor.

5. Build your personal brand

If you decide to seek out remote work, capture your previous work on a personal website. For example, that could mean highlighting freelance articles you’ve written, showcasing design work, or adding new skills to your online resume and portfolio as you gain them. Setting one up is inexpensive and easy to do with sites like Squarespace and Wix. Though not as flexible as having your own website, some people expand their LinkedIn profile and use all of its features to gain a similar effect.

Connect with your network online frequently. Engage with people outside of your network on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. The more visible you are, the easier it will be for recruiters and employers to find you.

More Ways to Optimize Your Time

As social distancing guidelines remain in place, you may find yourself with more downtime than usual. While that isn’t ideal when you’re unemployed, it can also be an opportunity to grow into a better mindset, and career, in the future.

Create a new routine

Once you’re no longer working, you can easily feel adrift without a routine. Spend some time thinking about how you want to spend your days. Carve out time not only for job hunting, but also for the activities that make you feel joy and help you focus on what is going right. As shelter-in-place restrictions lift, look for safe ways to get outdoors, exercise, and enjoy what nature has to offer—a proven way to reduce anxiety. When life gets tough, you will need to consciously shift your thinking, find something to be grateful for, and create your own new normal for a while.

Acquire new skills

Many classes are available online, often with heavily discounted rates or even given away for free during COVID-19. Spend time honing your skills with online classes specific to your industry. You can brush up your soft skills, and gain new hard skills and knowledge through sites like Coursera and Class Central, a database of both free and low-cost online course opportunities.

Depending on your industry, you may also be able to earn new technical certifications while you job hunt online. Before you pay for a certification course, research the provider to make sure it’s legit and that the certification will actually help you advance your career.

Pick up a side project

Always wanted to write a screenplay, sell your own crafts on Etsy, or breathe new life into an old hobby? Use this time to get reoriented to old, favorite pastimes and get started. Not sure what you want to do? You can earn a bit of side cash helping other people with their side projects through sites like 99 Designs and Upwork.

Get the Support You Need

If you’re struggling to find work, that’s OK. Financial and emotional support is available to get you through this difficult period.

Apply for unemployment

Apply for unemployment as soon as you can. Through the CARES Act you may be eligible for $600 a week beyond your usual benefits. This includes freelancers, contract, and gig workers who may not usually be eligible. (You can calculate your potential benefits here.)

Many filers across the country are facing lagging websites, longer wait times, and payment delays. If you’re having trouble filing online, check with your local unemployment office. To curb wait times, some areas have set rules like only certain Social Security numbers can apply on certain days.

Seek financial help

If you were in credit card debt before, or are worried about overextending yourself while unemployed, a balance transfer loan may help manage your debt load once you’ve landed new employment. With a balance transfer loan, your creditors are paid directly from your loan balance. You then have one monthly payment to make, typically at a much lower rate than high interest credit cards.

If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you have several options. Many companies, including lenders, are offering to defer payments, refund fees, and create payment plans if your income has been impacted by COVID-19. LendingClub members can apply for a deferred payment plan online.

Maintain emotional well-being

The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything most of us have ever faced. Managing your emotions during this time is essential to carrying out a successful job search. Apps help remind us to practice self-care every day. UC San Francisco’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences recommends a number of free wellness and mental health apps and videos to support stress reduction, sleep improvement, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapies, and more—all free for your use during the pandemic.

The Bottom Line

Looking for work during this uncertain time may feel like a lot. Know that you are not alone and that there are resources in place to support you. We are also here to help (check out these personal finance tips, and/or visit Member Center for more info if you’re already a LendingClub member). If you’re struggling, reach out to the other companies and people you do business with, your local government, or federal assistance programs, as soon as possible, to get the help you need. Help is available.

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