How to navigate job hunting amid COVID-19: Four tips from a career expert at LinkedIn

By TAYLOR DUNN and ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — This year, millions of people around the world have missed out on big milestones or have had to postpone important events like weddings due to COVID-19.

The same has happened to college seniors who missed out on their graduation ceremonies and were unable to kickstart their careers by finding their first jobs.

For Caitlyn Martyn, a recent graduate of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, job prospects seemed attainable before the pandemic hit.

“I was having a lot of interviews, I was pursuing some really exciting opportunities that were, in my opinion, like dream job type situations,” said Martyn. “I was really like moving along in the interview process.”

But then, when the pandemic began, the job hunt was put on hold for Martyn.

“Everything kind of just went radio silent after the pandemic hit,” she said. “And even currently to this day, it kind of hasn’t really moved since March.”

Now nearly eight months since the pandemic began, the job hunt is still difficult for Martyn and many others seeking employment.

“I’m back in my childhood bedroom feeling like I’m living my 12, 13-year-old life, like nothing has ever really changed,” said Martyn. “Definitely anxious because loan payments are coming up soon.”

While the job market has improved since the pandemic began — with unemployment numbers down 7.9 % from its pandemic peak of 14.7% — layoffs still persist.

And in the U.S., there are only 6.5 million job openings for the 12.6 million who are unemployed — that’s about two job seekers for every job opening.

Currently, while Martyn works as a nanny, she spends her days applying, networking virtually and taking online courses to improve her skills and make herself more marketable.

All of this, LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher said, is key to job hunting amid the pandemic.

“Caitlyn’s doing a lot of things right,” Fisher told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “And there’s just a few things that she should be doing and thinking about to get her those interviews she desperately wants.”

Read on for more tips to help you find a job during the pandemic:

Set up alerts

Set up alerts for jobs so that you’re the first person to apply.

“This is important because what we’re finding is that the first people who apply are more likely to get the call from the recruiter,” Fisher said. “So it’s not just about searching. It’s about having all those tools and alerts in place so that you can jump on those opportunities.”

Keep your industry search broad

During these uncertain times, Fisher said to apply for jobs in different fields that are hiring.

“Maybe she had her heart set on marketing for travel and leisure or hospitality,” Fisher said of Martyn. “Those jobs are really hard to come by, but you can still get the right skills that you need to and to build out that network so that your position to get that dream job when the market gets much easier for you to find a job.”

“Think about the short term right now,” Fisher added. “You want a job to get you the skills and build those relationships needed for your future.”

Be proactive

For anyone trying to find a new job amid the pandemic, Fisher said it’s important to let people know that they’re open to work.

For example, on LinkedIn there’s a new filter for profile photos that lets employers know that you’re looking for work. According to Fisher, those who are looking for work are 40% more likely to hear from a recruiter if you have that setting on your LinkedIn profile.

“You need to make sure everyone knows that you’re looking,” she said. “You need to make sure everyone knows that you’re looking and what your skills are, what you want to do and you just want to make it easy for people to find you and get your foot in the door for that interview.”

Network

Some may find it nearly impossible to network virtually during the pandemic, but Fisher said it’s not so hard — and it’s more important than ever. The trick to successful networking is to speak with people outside of your circle and meet with someone, virtually, at least once a week.

And if you’re asking someone within your network to make an introduction, Fisher said to make it easy for them.

“Be very clear why you want that introduction,” she said. “Is it because they have specific skills that you’re looking to acquire?”

Once you’ve been connected with that contact, Fisher said you should reach out to them and ask for a 15-minute virtual coffee. State the questions you’ll ask and then maintain the relationship. Once you’ve met with them, send a thank you note and keep in touch.

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