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Job Searching during COVID-19? Try Out P.I.V.O.T.

By Kass Williams
Career Services Coordinator, APUS

and Rachel Dhaliwal, GCDF, CCSP, EQ-i 2.0
Senior Career Coach, APUS

and Rowe Leathers, GCDF, CCSP, EQ-i 2.0
Senior Career Coach, APUS

It’s no secret that finding employment can be a struggle. With job boards like Indeed, job opportunities are available to more people — and the competition for these roles was already fierce. Now with the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic turmoil, the job search landscape has shifted again as positions dwindle and competition grows.

Anyone affected by this shift — recent graduates, furloughed workers, or entrepreneurs — must come to terms with our new “normal” and adapt to the changes in the COVID-19 job market. This means pivoting your career plan, job search strategy and perspective to make yourself marketable in 2020.

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How Has the Business Landscape Shifted during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

As COVID-19 affects industries around the world, many companies have had to downsize, eliminate nonessential roles, combine existing roles or close altogether. And as more people lose their jobs, the competition for available positions will only rise.

As a job seeker during this time, you’ll have to adapt to be a more flexible candidate. While you may have had the luxury of being more selective in your job search before the pandemic, you may now have to settle for a position that:

  • Lists a different set of day-to-day tasks than you expected
  • Offers lower pay
  • Has been combined with a different position and requires new skills
  • Is located outside of your preferred area
  • Requires remote and/or in-person work

Even with the right education and experience, you might find that there are no current opportunities for the career path you’ve chosen. You might have to search outside of your preferred role or industry to find something. So how exactly do you “pivot” to find these opportunities?

What Is P.I.V.O.T.?

As career coaches, we see firsthand how the pandemic has affected our university students and alumni. In response, we wanted to come up with a convenient, easy-to-remember acronym for helping you re-envision and reinvigorate your job search during this time: P.I.V.O.T.

Anna Hosey PIVOT Infographic
Image courtesy of Anna Hosey, Career Services.

Career Planning for Students and Professionals in 2020

If you’re a student, you might feel apprehensive about your degree program. As industries rise and fall in response to an economic roller coaster, you might second-guess entering your chosen industry. But you shouldn’t jump ship yet — and here’s why.

It’s difficult to plan ahead due to economic instability, and if you planned on entering a niche industry or one that has been affected by COVID-19, job security is a huge risk. Rather than abandoning your plan, consider adapting it to include industry research.

The growth and decline of your industry will fluctuate during the pandemic, so know those trends. Ask yourself if there’s still opportunity for professional growth or if your industry could adapt well to this new climate. For instance, if you’ve studied to become a personal fitness trainer and find that no gyms are hiring, could you offer remote training sessions instead?

Remember: your industry likely won’t disappear altogether. Those that have been hit harder than others are still seeking new ways to stay relevant in the current climate. And as companies learn how to operate remotely and resolve their pitfalls, they’ll pick themselves back up.

Focus on Your Skillset

Whether you decide to stay in your industry or hop to another one during COVID-19, keep your focus on developing and marketing your skillset. It’s much easier to move up the ladder in your own organization than to seek a higher position in a different one. So if there’s opportunity for growth within your organization, cultivating the following key skills will help you develop professionally:

  • Communication
  • Presentation
  • Project management
  • Analytics
  • Leadership

These are transferable skills that can help you land a job in any industry. So if you need to transfer, strengthening these key skills will make you more marketable.

To develop this skillset, consider volunteering, joining a group like Toastmasters, or learning how to use software like Adobe and Microsoft. And if you haven’t mastered Zoom yet, doing so will prepare you for interviews and remote work.

Consider free or inexpensive resources to develop new skills, such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning or CareerOneStop. If you’re not sure whether your skills are transferrable, use O*NET OnLine or mySkills myFuture to determine similarities between your current skills and those needed in a future role.

Acquiring new skills will help you move into a new position if your current one is cut. In this new COVID-19 market, thinking ahead and staying on your toes is key to success!

Pivot Your Job Search Strategy

In an age where anyone can click the “apply” button and drop their resume into a bucket, having a calculated job search strategy is critical. Do your research to learn which companies in your current or prospective industry are leaders. Find open positions on their sites and examine the education, experience, and skills required for those roles.

A good way to determine whether you’re the right fit for a position is to compare yourself to others who have held a similar role in that or comparable companies. Find people in the role for which you’re applying on LinkedIn and examine their profile. Does their education and experience match yours? What about their skillset?

Compare and contrast several of them together. What are some of the common denominators between these people — and do you share these traits? If not, you might not be a good fit for that position, but you could be a good fit for a position those people held before!

Be Open to All Opportunities

If you can’t find employment, consider a boomerang career. A “boomerang career” describes someone who returns to a previous employer, and it happens more often than you’d think. If you left on good terms, don’t be afraid to reach out to them for the same or a new role.

Squeamish about explaining your return? Consider what you’ve accomplished since you left, and explain how that will make you a great employee to bring back into the fold. Not only do you know more about them than an outside candidate, but you can also add value to your role by having obtained new experiences and skills.

As you transition your role or career, remember to engage and network with professionals in and outside your industry. Be “present” on LinkedIn. If you don’t yet have a profile, learn how to create an effective profile on LinkedIn’s Help Center.

Through networking, you can learn more about your role, industry and employer. You can also obtain information about when new positions will be available and who to speak with to get your resume looked at sooner!

Join Us for Our Facebook Live Webinar

Many people are struggling to find a job in the current COVID-19 climate, but if you feel dispirited in your search, remember there are many success stories, too. Anna Hosey, our university’s current Career and Educational Resource Specialist, found a job at the beginning of the pandemic by pivoting her job search strategy. And you can, too.

For more information on pivoting your career or job search strategy to find a job in 2020, you can attend our webinar on November 18 at 1 p.m. ET. Hosted by Senior Career Coaches Rachel Dhaliwal and Rowe Leathers, you’ll learn more about this process and get to hear from Anna Hosey herself. Join us live on Facebook or catch a recording of the video in the Student Success Center.

For help developing a resume or preparing for an interview, contact a Career Coach. University students and alumni can contact us at careerservices@apus.edu. You can also check out CareerOneStop for free resources or to find contact information for the American Job Center near you.

About the Authors

Kass Williams serves as the Career Services Coordinator for APUS, employing her communication, editing and project management skills to support the Career Services Department with content creation. She holds a B.A. in English with a Writing Concentration from Davis & Elkins College.

Rachel Dhaliwal is a Senior Career Coach for APUS and serves as the point of contact for those interested in applying for the PMF program. In addition to supporting students and alumni throughout their career journey, she trains and mentors coaching staff. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Troy University, as well as the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), Certified Career Services Professional (CCSP) and the EQ-I 2.0/EQ 360 Certification credentials.

Rowe Leathers is a graduate of San Jose State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations with a minor in Psychology. Prior to coming to APUS, she held a position in Career Services with a trade school where she enjoyed performing all the various aspects of Career Services. She holds career coaching credentials as a GCDF and CCSP, as well as the EQ-I 2.0/EQ 360 certification credentials.

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