The COVID virus will be with us likely through the end of the year and probably into next year.  Shutdowns will continue, and life such as we know it won’t likely return to anything near normal until the middle of 2022.

Given this environment, how do people seeking re-employment, or new employment, survive in this turbulent economy? What do you need to do in order to find a job?  What do you need to do or say to differentiate your candidacy?

Re-focus and Pivot

The answer, in a word, is to re-focus and pivot. In its simplest form the word “pivot” means to swing from the central point, or to turn.  In business, to pivot means to adjust one’s business or operations in such away as to enhance profitability, improve performance, or sometimes, just simply to survive.

The pandemic is filled with numerous examples of businesses that have learned to pivot.  Restaurants have shifted from dining in to take out and delivery.  Manufacturers that used to produce one line of products have shifted in order to produce critical items in demand.  Witness Danby in Guelph who now make ventilators, or Dillon Distillers in Lincoln now manufactures hand sanitizers.  Even companies such as Tilley Endurables have gotten in on the act and, in addition to their exceptional hats, now produce facemasks.

Crosswords as a Metaphor for Job Search

I love crosswords.  My day isn’t complete unless I can master the crossword.  It is the first section in the newspaper I turn to every morning.  Usually, I am able to complete the whole crossword.  Sometimes though I get stuck.  I can’t seem to grasp the right word or phrase that fits.  When that happens I use a little trick.

I walk away.  I don’t touch the crossword for an hour or two.  I block it completely from my mind.  Later, I return, and with the advantage of a fresh perspective and the benefit of distraction I’m able to re-focus and look at it with a renewed awareness.  I see things I missed before, and I’m able to identify clues I hadn’t seen previously.

Job search is a bit like a crossword.  In a previous blog I spoke about the fallacy inherent in doing the same thing over and over in your job search and expecting a better result.  Adaptability is the key, and if what you are doing isn’t working then you need to make a change and shake it up.

Unfortunately, all of us are creatures of habit.  Often, we are so fixated on one idea or approach that sometimes we can’t adapt or think laterally.    Trying new approaches can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding.  It can be a little like walking away from a crossword and trying a different approach.

Crosswords can teach us the importance of re-focusing and pivoting, important skills in job search too (Photo courtesy of Ron Lach from Pexels).

Crosswords can teach us the importance of re-focusing and pivoting, important skills in job search too (Photo courtesy of Ron Lach from Pexels).

Reset 2.0

How does one pivot in their job search or their life? What does that look like in practical terms?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Change your routine.  Most of us love routine.  We like it because it provides order, safety and security in a constantly changing world.  However, when routine restricts innovation and variation it is probably time to look at doing something different.  Try getting up earlier in the morning.  Go for a walk at a different time and explore a different area of your neighbourhood.  Try grocery shopping at a different store.  In your job search, try shifting from applying online to networking using Linked In.
  2. Change your resume.  If you have been using the same resume over and over again and getting nowhere then it is time to change it up.  Change the format, change the font, and change the style.  In short, do a makeover.
  3. Use different search words.  Stop using the same words while searching for positions on job boards.  If your last position was Administrative Assistant then try other combinations of words (e.g. Administrative Coordinator; Office Assistant; Office Coordinator; Facilities Coordinator; etc.).  If your search words are very specific try something broader and more general.
  4. Start your own business.  If you can’t find a job in your field of expertise then consider starting your own business.  Many people who have found themselves unemployed due to restructuring and downsizing have ventured into self-employment.  The other reality of self-employment is that it provides prospective employers with another avenue through which to hire you.  Even when the economy rebounds uncertainty will prevail.  Employers may be reluctant to hire people full-time.  Contract employment offers another avenue through which an employer can hire you short-term without incurring benefits costs or termination/severance should things not work out.
  5. Set new goals.  Take some time to identify 5 new things you want to do between now and the end of the year.  These could be household chores, gardening projects, or even things you want to focus on in your job search.  Then, write out the specific steps that you will undertake to achieve those goals.
  6. Shift your mindset.  Make a point of avoiding negative thoughts.  Go one step further and avoid negative people.  A friend of mine recently told me that one of the side benefits of the pandemic he that he has lost touch with some toxic people in his life who he really didn’t like and preferred not to associate with.
  7. Learn a new skill.  The shift to virtual learning has provided a myriad of opportunities for people to learn digitally.  Sites like Linked In are replete with all sorts of courses and webinars on various skills and techniques.  Learning something new keeps your mind active, and opens new horizons.
  8. Volunteer.  During a pandemic it is not surprising that much of our focus is on the here and now.  Our needs take precedence.  However, there are people out there who are suffering, probably worse than you or I.  Take a moment to think about what you could do to make someone else’s life a little better.  If finding employment is proving challenging volunteering can be an effective and sometimes productive form of networking.  Moreover, you never know who you will meet.  In addition, volunteering is positively viewed by most recruiters.
  9. Take up a new hobby, or even, an old one.  In a world characterized by lockdowns and stay at home mandates finding something new to occupy our time is important.  Browse an online hobby store, or go through your junk drawer to search out discarded pastimes. Whatever it is, whether a crossword, a puzzle, playing chess, or dressmaking, take it up again and see where it leads you.

A Final Thought…

A lot is made about the importance of maintaining one’s mental health during what are obviously challenging times.  While there is a tendency to focus on the negative the fact is that when the economy starts to recover it will do so quickly.  A lot of pent up demand for products will produce a buying frenzy across several industry sectors.  People who have been hunkering down for what seems like an eternity will suddenly want to travel, dine out, go to the movies, meet friends, etc.  While businesses will close new ones will open.  Hiring will resume, first sporadically, and then quickly.

There are already reports of some employers having problems hiring workers:

Being well positioned and in the right place at the right time is a key aspect of job search.  Responding quickly and decisively is a key component of the new job search reality.

So….are you ready?