Amid the economic crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic, workers everywhere are concerned about their job security. Approximately 1 million people have filed for unemployment since March 2020—an amount that was unthinkable just months ago.
As alarming as the employment situation is in the time of COVID-19, it’s important to not despair. If you were laid off or feel uncertain about your job safety, taking some proactive steps can put you in a better position to land your next job or gig. And now is a great time to up-skill, so that when businesses do start hiring again, you can bring what you’ve learned to the interview. Here are nine smart ways to begin.
If you’re unemployed, it’s a good idea to avoid having a large gap in your résumé. Working toward a certification in your field can be a great way to stay active while honing your skills. Depending on the industry you work in (or want to break into), there are a number of certifications you can earn from the safety of your home—some for free.
..check out the certifications LinkedIn offers for a variety of careers.
If you can’t find a certification that applies to your profession or interests, check out continuing education—both traditional and online—offer free and paid courses to help you learn new skills.
If you work in e-commerce, for example, General Assembly has courses designed to take your skills to the next level. If you work in a creative field and want to expand your knowledge base, EdX and Coursera offer countless courses in history, literature and the humanities.
Have you been toying with the idea of a career change? Are you curious if another career better aligns with your interests and skills? Now is the perfect time to plan for a mid-career shift.
Start by asking yourself if your job reflects your values and interests. If quarantine has made you realize that, say, you value working from home, perhaps you should shift to a career that allows for remote work. If you’ve been caring for a loved one affected by COVID-19, perhaps nursing would be a good move. Since you have the time, use it to think deeply about whether a different career can offer you what you want.
If you’re not sure what direction to explore, volunteering is a great way to sample alternate career paths—while also making a difference in your community. What type of volunteering is right for you? Whether it’s helping out at an animal shelter or assisting at-risk youth, the time you spend making your community a better place could open a new door to your next career.
Not all of us know what we want to do with our careers, and that’s OK; we often need guidance from trusted sources. Take some time to find and cultivate a mentor who can guide you through your career change. This could be a person in your current career who can help you gain experience in your field or someone in a different field who can help you navigate a career change.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to ask others for help. You’d be surprised how generous people can be when they receive a thoughtful email from someone seeking advice.
One great way to find a mentor is to ask for an informational interview. Find a person who works in the position you’re interested in (or close to it) and write down five questions you’d like to ask them. Then, write an email introducing yourself and requesting a 15-minute phone or video call with them. Not only will you learn more about a potential career path, but you’ll make a connection with someone who might be able to help you later on.
If you need immediate advice and you don’t have a mentor to turn to, try a career coach. You can find many low-cost options for career coaches who can advise you on how to get ahead in your chosen field—or how to move into a new one.
While job-specific skills, like accounting or graphic design, will be necessary to further your career, perfecting your “soft skills” will also help. Use this time to work on things like communication, creativity and time management.
To help develop your soft skills, focus on one at a time. Take communication, for example. If you think you could be a better communicator, start by trying to be an active listener or experimenting with new methods of managing your email. If you struggle with time management, you could start by keeping a spreadsheet or notebook of how you spend your time to identify problem areas.
This is already a stressful time, so if the thought of up-skilling only makes you more stressed, wait until you’re ready to begin in earnest. For the time being, lean on the strengths you already have when searching for a new job.
There are any number of transferable skills, like teamwork and adaptability, that you can rely on as you transition to a new career path or side hustle. Make a list of what you consider to be your greatest strengths, then focus on them when you’re writing a cover letter or rewriting your résumé.
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