How to get a job in lockdown

If you are looking for a job now, you have my sympathy. Dealing with the financial pressure of losing your income is one thing, but the impact on your mental health is entirely another. By the time you progress to interview stage, chances are you will have applied for — and been knocked back from — dozens of advertised positions.

UK jobs data this week underlined just how tough it is for jobseekers, with the overall unemployment rate nudging 5 per cent. For 16- to 24-year-olds, it is three times higher, at nearly 15 per cent.

Coronavirus restrictions are also hampering the searches of older workers., “senior hire”, like many professionals over the age of 50, expect  next opportunity to come from within  their own network. Yet with conferences cancelled or live-streamed, and no working lunches or coffee meetings, it is almost impossible to meet people face to face.

Grabbing a 10-minute phone chat or Zoom call is theoretically easier to do and will not involve any travelling time, but people struggled with finding an opening gambit. Nobody wants to send an email saying, “Got any jobs going?” or, if we are honest, being on the receiving end of one.

Instead of asking for a job, ask your contacts for advice. Everyone likes being asked for advice — it is quite a flattering feeling. “I’m exploring my options right now, and I would really value your advice.” This takes the pressure off and should lead to more people wanting to talk.

During the discussion, ask if they know who is hiring and what sorts of jobs are out there — and what they look for in people. Are there a couple of other people they could recommend that you talk to? This is more likely to open doors than firing off a CV to everyone in your inbox.

This technique “information interviewing” trying to move between industries and deepen their contacts in new areas. The pandemic has hit some sectors much harder than others and a big challenge for today’s jobseekers is how to emphasise their transferable skills.

Similarly, many graduates who envisaged starting off in one career are having to change gear and set their sights on another. But working out how to sell your skills to a potential employer is a skill.

A common theme is that they underrate the skills they are good at, Because they find it easy, they think everyone must be good at it — but they are not. So, do not undersell yourself.

Asking your partner, friends or trusted former colleagues what they think your best skills are could prove enlightening. However, you do it, getting another perspective can help you formulate a plan — and boost your confidence.

The next challenge is proving or demonstrating these skills when full-time jobs and internships are thin on the ground. For those who can afford to take on unpaid work, charities and the voluntary sector are crying out for volunteers. This gives you something to talk about in job interviews when the world switches on again and gives people to talk to and a new network — making you feel more valued.

I expect to be made redundant. How do I prepare?

Your profile on LinkedIn should not be the online version of your CV to date. It should reflect the person you want to be and the career you want to move into.

This is something we should all be thinking about — not just those whose careers have been knocked off course by the pandemic. AI and robotics will be far more disruptive to the future of white-collar jobs than the coronavirus crisis has been.

So how could an unseen pair of smart shoes help you land your next role? It is a psychological boost — your virtual interviewer may not know you are wearing them, but you will. The same goes for anything that might make you feel like you are in a work environment, like wearing perfume, for instance. The most debilitating part of ploughing through endless job applications is the feeling of a lack of control. Anything you can do to feel that you are regaining some control over the process will help to put you in the right zone and project yourself more confidently during the interview.

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