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By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
“You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you.” — Barack Obama
Many hardworking, ambitious people now find themselves jobless, some after many years of faithful and loyal service. It’s a shock, but also a circumstance out of their control. Who can control a worldwide pandemic and make it go away overnight? The reality is that it’s a circumstance that no longer fits the usual paradigms – go to college, get a job, grow your career, and reach a point of stability. Many have made sacrifices for the sake of their employers, only to be told in the retreating tide of pandemic confusion that their jobs no longer exist.
Many reasons for terminations and layoffs exist, from HR misinterpreting FFCRA rules, to businesses closing partially or fully. But the impact on employees is the same. If you’re one of them, you need to find another job and fast. How is that possible in a pandemic? It’s a matter of following a disciplined process that puts you in front of the right person at the right time, just as in any other job search process. Only this time, it has to be more intense.
In my many years of coaching jobless professionals, I’ve discovered some methods that work 100% of the time. Hard to imagine, but yes, people who have followed these steps in every case have been hired for the jobs they wanted. The steps are designed to help you move quickly in the right direction, without endlessly waiting for call backs.
Did you know many smart, savvy people can’t even get beyond the initial phone screen? One client had that very complaint, so I designed a role play, with me as the interviewer and her playing herself as the interviewee. It didn’t start well. First, she shrunk herself into a corner of her chair, and gazed downward. Then, I noticed that she unconsciously covered her mouth when she answered the mock interview questions. Obviously, the phone screener couldn’t hear her and couldn’t make out her words! After several sessions and lots of practice, her confidence along with her voice grew, and she got hired before her coaching sessions were even completed.
Other people stumble when they realize their video interview is not with a person, but with a screen. How do you master that without any notice that it’s coming? And if you don’t know a soul at a company you’re targeting, how do you get through the front door, or even more puzzling, how do you conquer that Applicant Tracking System (ATS)? You don’t want your brilliant resume and cover letter thrown out because of an unknown technicality, right?
I can’t promise that finding a new job will be easy, and to be honest, you must devote a full eight hours every day to your search. Your new full-time job is finding a job. Not watching reruns of “Let’s Make a Deal”.
Try these tips and “hacks” if you find yourself out of a job during COVID.
Be visible. Not the most obvious thing during a pandemic, however, your presence on credible social media outlets is critical now. Make sure you have a stellar LinkedIn profile. Only join professional Facebook Groups. Post often and post topics of value on both platforms. The more visible you are, the more views and reactions you get. This will push your social profile to the top of people’s feeds more quickly. You can also toggle the “on” button for letting people know on LinkedIn that you are open to job opportunities. LinkedIn will also notify you by email if a job comes up in the category you are interested in, or at a company you like. Do not post personal material in these feeds. No one cares about what you made for dinner, unless you are in a food group.
Another credible way to become visible in these trying times is to join a charitable organization and do something that gets you safely into the public eye. You can do some work for food donation organizations. You can help distribute PPE. You can volunteer to shop for and deliver groceries to the elderly or young families who can’t get out. The point is to show your face and let people know you are looking for a job. Volunteering has proven to be one of the best ways to fall into a new job, even when you are not looking.
Make it personal. One of the best ways I’ve found to get a job is to know someone on the inside. In fact, every job I’ve ever gotten has been through knowing someone who could help me. In today’s digital world, there is such a thing as making valuable personal connections online and developing your chances to become more personal with other professionals with similar interests. This connecting is not “trolling”, it’s reaching out to people who you think could help you land a position. If you see a posting you like, Google the company and see if there is anyone in the company staff that you may already know, and connect with them. And pay attention to the company’s website for details about their products, hiring practices, their values, their people, etc. What I like to recommend to clients is that they search on LinkedIn for the job posting and see if there is a reference to a hiring manager. If not, search for the employees of that company who may be local or who are on the organizational chart on the website. Find something in common with one of the people and politely ask through LI messenger to connect on LinkedIn. Mention whatever you find in common, a hobby, a common school, or place you lived as part of your ask for connection. You can also ask a reasonable question about the company. Try to develop a conversation over several days or weeks with the person, and then ask about the position you’re interested in. You could even ask if someone on the inside would be willing to do an informational interview with you. But this connection has to be based on “know, like and trust”, so if you’re not feeling the love back, that’s your signal to move on to someone else more open. Look at LinkedIn as if you were reading a magazine every day. Read the notifications, follow people and join groups relative to your job hunt. Once you virtually “meet” enough people, you’ll find people will start following you and reaching out as well. Then you know you are well positioned and most likely known by a number of decision makers who can help.
Make the Networking Rounds. If you’re not an experienced networker, this task may indeed feel daunting. Now is not the time to be shy. You need a job! Google local networking groups and meetups. Search through Eventbrite, and check out local newspapers, paper or digitally. There are numerous virtual networking groups of every stripe. Professional Women, job specific groups, professional organizations, Chambers of Commerce, even the SBA is now holding daily instructional webinars where you can be introduced to new people who are willing to help you. The rule of thumb now is, join a virtually networking event at least three times a week. These meet at all times of the day and night, from about 7:30AM until about 9:00PM, so there is really no excuse for not joining in. Be prepared to download Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft Team, WebEx, and now Facebook Rooms. Look for professional or business Facebook Groups that hold networking meetings on a regular basis. Offer to host one of the meetings so people will always be looking for your postings.
Connect and Over Communicate. When is the last timeyou spoke to or connected with an old boss or colleague? Now is the time to pick up the phone, send an email, text or drop a note in the mail to your old friends. Reach out and update them on what you are doing. Ask how they may be handling the pandemic and other social ills of the moment. Get that friend mojo going again. They’ll be so glad to hear from you in these times of isolation. One great idea I found was to fire up your Christmas card list and connect with that group to rekindle those fun times and let them know that you need help. Keep asking until someone points you toward an interview, a posting or a new connection. Another clever way I learned to contact people is to think of the 250 who would want to attend your funeral. If they’d show up to see you laid out, chances are they’ll help you now in life, when you need it. These two lists are the most likely candidates you’ll ever need who are more than willing to help you. You only have to ask for help, because, like it or not, now you need it.
Learn the tips and tricks of LinkedIn’s job-hunting services. According to AARP, “LinkedIn is a job seeker’s best friend because it avoids gatekeepers—the guard dogs of important executives,” … In fact, LinkedIn is probably the only place where you can get a message directly to the person doing the hiring,” via InMail. In addition, there are numerous books, articles and other publications about how to best use LinkedIn. The education you receive will pay off with the reward of a new job. My favorite book for LinkedIn job hunting is LinkedIn For Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide by Sandra Long, and I recommend this book to all my clients. LinkedIn now has algorithms to show you exactly how to get in front of the right audience, get job alerts in your personal email inbox, and let recruiters know you are open to new opportunities. (However, never put that phrase in your LI profile. It’s not a good look.) Don’t forget to use LinkedIn Learning for brushing up on your skills, and LinkedIn’s Advanced Search Feature to find companies, people and jobs in exactly the field or location you want.
Find a champion. Despite all your best efforts, you will need some help from other people. Job hunting is not a solitary task. Look for someone to support you to be on your side. This person can be a professional coach, a previous boss or co-worker, a member of a professional organization, or a connection you make through LinkedIn or Facebook Professional or Business Groups. Ask for help in practicing your phone screens and video interviews. An experienced person who has been down this road before, who knows the ropes, and can show you where the rocks in the stream are can make you look like you walk on water. In every business dealing, people need support and connection. Friends and relatives can also be your champions (most commonly in Asia, even if the hired person is incompetent, the family member will get the job first). When you are out of a job, it’s no time to be shy or humble. Get some confidence training, join Toastmasters, and consider paying a professional coach, consultant or mentor. You know you need to do something different than you’ve done before, because what you’ve done so far hasn’t worked.
A former client of mine moved to Providence to find a new job. Her target job was a senior management position in a healthcare organization. We finally settled on CVS as a good candidate, even though a new position hadn’t yet been posted. My client spent a lot of time looking through CVS postings on LinkedIn and learned who some of the key decision makers were. She actually drove to CVS headquarters on her own, in Woonsocket, and spent time in their lobby noticing people coming and going and listening in on public conversations. On one of her forays to CVS, she chatted up the receptionist who gave her a lot of inside information, at least more information than my client knew at the time. She consistently watched the CVS postings, and one day, a senior manager position came up. She contacted some of the LinkedIn connections she knew at CVS and asked for an informational interview, which was granted. She sent in her resume and cover letter and informed her inside connection it was coming. She passed the phone screen after investigating some of CVS’s company finances and made some charts about quarterly earnings and profits and how her role would fit into that scenario. Next, she was scheduled for a video interview, with no person on the other side of the screen, only questions that popped up, and the CVS screen recorded her answers. She made the cut and was brought in for a personal interview and did well. When she didn’t show for her next appointment, I contacted her and asked if she got the job, and she HAD! It wasn’t easy and took a lot of hard work and perseverance, but my client set her mind to it, and did everything she had to in order to get hired.
You may not love all these methods, but now is no time to be squeamish about being forthright and confident. For you, your family, and your well-being and happiness, you will need to step up and get hired.
Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, PCC, SHRM-SCP
147 Francis Horn Drive, Kingston, RI, 02881
Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach (ICF-PCC), Society of Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary is also an ICF certified Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, and a Certified EQi-2.0 and EQ360 Practitioner.
Mary O’Sullivan has over 30-years’ experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In addition, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area. Today, Mary dedicates herself to helping good leaders get even better through positive behavior change.