How to get a job in the time of COVID

Covid-19 is a stressful time on many accounts. Apart from the most immediate stress of lockdowns and uncertainty about seeing the people you love, there is the considerable stress created by worries about health – it is hard to know if we are at risk from long-term conditions as a result of COVID, or even from something more immediate. However, the largest stress for many families and individuals is more about finances. The difficult state of the economy has put a lot of people in a difficult position and wondering whether they ought to find a more stable source of income or reduce their outgoings.

It can be hard to find job security, and worst of all – many people have simply lost their jobs altogether. It is a crisis which is affecting many sectors of the economy, and which is leaving no industry untouched. Even apart from the obvious parts like airlines which have been affected by COVID, there is a knock-on effect in other sectors such as banking, retail and almost anything else you can think of. After all, after COVID, even if a vaccine will be along in the coming months, it is likely that there will be a recession and a shock to many people’s jobs.

In light of this, it is important to think about how to get a job if you have lost yours. You may, for example, use the opportunity of being without work to get a qualification you always wanted, such as a masters in school counseling. Or you may decide you need to do an online course around your day-to-day job in a supermarket or wherever else, which will allow you to get a qualification which you require – many people do a masters in school counseling and similar qualifications online.

1. Recognize you are not alone

The key thing to realize is that you are not the only one in a difficult position with regards to work, and not to beat yourself up. This is because that will not help you – either in terms of your mental health or with regards to getting employment. You need to recognize that you are not the only person in this position – many people have also lost their jobs in unprecedented circumstances. No-one could have predicted what has happened, and it is in no way your fault. This is important because the most useful thing when presenting yourself to new employers, is exuding confidence – nothing says “I am right for this job” like a good dose of optimism!

Finding a job in this climate will not be an easy task, so realizing there are others in your situation can make you not focus on your weaknesses, but simply recognize that it is a tough situation. It might allow you also to recognize you won’t find the perfect job – of course, this is impossible in any situation, but during COVID, it is good to know there are others in the same situation, and that no-one is taking on their dream job

2. Think about what you want

The next important thing is to think about what you want. Do you want economic security? Or do you want to pursue that career you have always dreamed of? Are you hankering after a qualification such as a masters in school counseling, or are you just keen to jump into the job? All these thoughts might sound airy-fairy, but they are important to ascertain what you want. If you don’t visualize where you want to be in a few years, you may find yourself unanchored and drifting down a path which doesn’t serve you. So it is very key to think about what you are aiming for.

Sometimes brainstorming or mapping your thoughts out on paper is useful, sometimes just talking it through with other people can help. Some friends may have thought of other possibilities which you have not – or may be able to judge your personality and what you are likely to do even better than yourself. If you draw out what you want, that can help if you are a visual person. Some people put mind maps or vision boards up in their own bedrooms – it is a good way of figuring things out, and not letting things get simply tangled in your mind – which is what can often happen!

It can be good to figure out what values motivate you. Do you want a job where you are making a difference, and would you sacrifice pay for that? In such a case, a job in the public sector is appealing – but you need to be very honest with yourself. There is no point in being idealistic if you have never lived with a lower salary and figured out how to manage it.

3. Consult for advice

The next thing is to consult something or someone for advice. Of course, the luxury is to have a career counselor, someone who has a masters in school counseling and who can figure out the emotional and practical aspects of your career decisions. Many schools and institutions offer this – even for alumni if you graduated high school or college a long time ago. However, professionals are not the only option.

Many people like to speak to someone who has insight into the profession they are looking into. For example, if you want to be a teacher or work in schools, speaking to someone who works at the local high school, or a friend of a friend who works at the local kindergarten, would be helpful. Make sure to ask them really specific questions – what do they do day to day – from the moment they get into the classroom and unlock the door, to the moment they leave. Do they bring back lots of homework with them? Did they undertake any qualifications to get to where they are, e.g. a masters in school counseling? If you don’t know anyone – see what other people have said online.

It might feel embarrassing to ask these specific questions, but it is vital to understand what it is like in the profession you are looking at. Now is your chance to find out what it is like before you do lots of groundwork to get somewhere you find out you don’t want to be.

4. Plan…

Once you have spread your tentacles to figure out what the different options are and what they entail, you need to narrow things again and work out the practicalities and what you might actually want to do.

This is where putting pen to paper can be helpful. You can draw out the next few years and what you will have to do in different jobs. You can draw up Excel sheets which show the income, which is possible in different careers, and how that will change over the years, and compare this with your monthly outgoings and budget. If you want to get a course under your belt, you need to factor in the cost of this and the payback; think about how you could do courses at a better price – could you do a masters in school counseling online rather than in-person? This kind of thing can feel very dry and boring – but the practicalities are important.

Some people will have five-year plans, but this is not necessary. Just have a sense of how things will map out for the next couple of years, or at least until the end of the pandemic. Speak to other people and ask how far ahead they forecast, then do your own. There is software that can help with this kind of thing – consider making something like a Gantt chart or a simple timeline which allows you to manage different projects and consider what applications you have to hand in when,  plus how long it will take you to complete each.

5. …But make room for uncertainty

Having said all this – nothing goes exactly to plan. It would be best if you were prepared for unexpected obstacles to come across your path. The perfect example of this is COVID – you might have quit your job to pursue a start-up venture – but no-one could have predicted that coronavirus would hit and it would be such a bad time to start businesses. No-one knows what the next few years have in the hold, which is why it is so key to be resilient and flexible. It would help if you allowed for things not to go completely to plan within your intentions.

Ensure that in your budget and when you consider what kind of salary you might earn, you make room for allowances – such as illness or certain sectors of the economy not doing so well. Try to diversify yourself across different areas, to cover all bases. For example, even if you are working on a business during the day, if your other dream is to become a teacher, undertake a masters in school counseling in your spare time – that will allow you to pursue education should the economy take a downturn, and the public sector end up as a better place to work than the private sector.

Being relaxed about the fact that things might not go to plan is crucial for your mental health – it will allow you to bend with the inevitable storms of the job market in future years, and allow you the headspace to focus on practical steps, such as how you could adapt your business to the needs of the market.

6. Step towards your goal

Last of all, you need to make the steps towards the goal of your new job. If you want to teach, you need to get your allotted hours in a local school to qualify. If you’re going to be a guidance counselor, you will want to do a masters in school counseling. You will need to buy the relevant handbooks associated with your profession from the relevant accredited body, especially if it is specialized. You may want to join a trade body, which can support you if you are going it alone.

For jobs, the most crucial thing is sending off job applications. Making sure you send in a quality application by the deadline is the most significant thing, and often where people stumble. You need to prepare plenty of time to make the application. These days people sometimes send speculative applications, together with a CV and covering letter. There is nothing to be lost by putting yourself out there, even though it can be very difficult to receive lots of rejections.

For job interviews, ensure you are presentable and well-prepared. The night before, make a list of all the things you need to do – laying out your outfit for the next day, thinking how you want to shake your future employer’s hand and all those little things which it is easy to forget, but which can make such a difference. Job interviews can be incredibly draining, but you must approach each one as though it could be your future job – because no-one gets the perfect job, and you never know where things might lead you. Even if interviews are over Zoom these days, it is important to make the process as seriously as if you were being interviewed in person – and think about the way you are coming across, whether your microphone is working and how good your WiFi is etc.

All in all, there are a lot of things to do to get a job – it is undoubtedly a tiring process – and if you already have a job, you may feel it is not worth the sacrifice. But the investment of your time may be well-spent – you may get the time back in the future through a job that you a love. And of course, getting a job will give you the financial stability you often need to enjoy time with loved ones and do the things you want to do with your life outside of work!