Job hunting amid the pandemic: Five pointers to help you find that role
The Irish Times spoke to career advisers, educators and recruiters for advice on securing that job
‘Draw on every skill you have from part-time employment, volunteering, societies, hobbies and interests, employability awards.’
The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to curb its spread have had a devastating impact on Irish society and the economy. Yet, despite the increased unemployment rate, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting a job. The following are some tips to help you along the way.
1. Don’t get despondent
Firstly, do not get despondent or feel hopeless about your prospects of finding a job. Even if it takes a little longer than it would have in the absence of the pandemic, these times shall pass.
“While it’s understandable that graduates feel cheated by the recent economic downturn, it’s really important that they focus on themselves and what is in their power to achieve now,” says Deirdre Parker, a careers adviser at University College Cork.
“Use whatever resources are available to them, rather than focus on events completely beyond their control. It’s also important to not give up on career aspirations and think outside the box. The career plan might be longer now, with more unanticipated elements, but it’s still a plan.”
As Chris Paye, general manager of Jobs.ie, points out, the jobs market has already made back significant ground. “We have seen before that the jobs market can take sudden dips like it did in March,” he says.
“Compared to the start of April, the beginning of August saw a 500 per cent increase in jobs listings live on Jobs.ie. We are now within 25 per cent of pre-Covid levels. As we emerge from this period of uncertainty, we are all learning to live with the new normal.
“This includes employers who, as they begin to reopen, know that you still need excellent employees to get your business back on track. In certain instances, social distancing measures will mean they may even require more staff.”
Marie Laffey and Claire Murphy from NUI Galway’s Career Development Centre urge students to “keep applying and don’t dwell on rejection”.
“In pre-lockdown times the average student took six to nine months to secure their first paid position,” they say. “It is important to learn from each rejection and try and learn from each experience and then move on from it.
“The hope is that this situation is temporary. Graduates are not alone. Firstly, self-care is important. Reach out to support services in your colleges including career services or counselling.”
Jack Kennedy, an economist and researcher at Indeed’s hiring lab, says it is important to be patient. “The current crisis has thrown many business processes into disarray,” he says. “Just as many of us currently struggle to make decisions with no clear direction in sight, so are businesses.
“Many of their staff are working to clear backlogs, or they may be taking longer to make decisions than normal. Try not to become disheartened by this and keep the momentum up in your search.”
If you do find yourself getting constantly rejected, or, worse still, being constantly ignored, try to use the time you have to add strings to your bow.
“Don’t despair of long waiting times to hear back from employers,” say Laffey and Murphy. “Things are moving slower during Covid-19.
“Consider working outside your speciality in the interim. Seek out volunteering opportunities. All skills are transferable. Don’t limit yourself in your search. An opportunity may arise from the least expected source.
“Attend free webinars you see advertised for your sector to gain an understanding of your sector. Complete any free training courses to improve your skill sets. Volunteer where possible to build team work, organisation, communication skills.
“Employers are impressed with graduates who show initiative and are not just waiting around to hear about jobs. Showing you are improving your skills via courses, volunteering or part-time employment is contributing to your narrative of your story.”
Parker says the “best thing” an unemployed graduate can do with this unplanned downtime is to upskill, gain additional qualifications, and exploit newly available opportunities as much possible.
“Many courses and events are now available free, or at a reduced cost since the lockdown due to the goodwill of course providers,” she says.
“For example, eCollege is a learning platform that delivers online training courses in business, project management, information technology, graphic design, web design, digital marketing, software development and basic computer literacy.
“Their courses have been made available free of charge on a temporary basis as an additional support to those impacted by Covid-19 containment measures.
“The Springboard+ and HCI upskilling initiative in higher education offers free and subsidised courses at certificate, degree and master’s level leading to qualifications in areas where there are employment opportunities in the economy such as high-end manufacturing, data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence, via graduate conversion courses.”
3. Be open-minded
All is changed, changed utterly, as WB Yeats wrote, so you too should be prepared to change your plans and expectations accordingly.
“Be open minded about job searching,” say Laffey and Murphy. “Define a job searching plan. Keep a record on excel of what job, company and date you applied for. Always remember to save a copy of the job description.
“Multinationals such as Google, Stripe, Facebook, Amazon. Johnson & Johnson, Fidelity Investments, MasterCard, and Microsoft are working remotely so don’t limit your search to Ireland as you may be able to work from home for companies located abroad.”
Kennedy says it is important to remember that careers paths are no longer linear. “Just because they may not start their career on the path they envisioned, it doesn’t mean they won’t end up there eventually,” he says.
“It’s disappointing not to land your dream job right away, but it may provide a chance to learn what work you do or don’t enjoy, and it might even lead to some unexpected professional opportunities.
“People often presume they can only work in a particular industry, but the way we define industries is changing, for instance the finance sector has a demand for tech workers to work in areas such as cybersecurity and app development.
“More than ever employers are looking for diverse experiences and backgrounds to bring a fresh perspective to the table. Use it to your advantage.”
This is echoed by Mary McCarthy, a careers’ adviser at University College Cork, who says there is a lot of uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. “While this is a time of unpredictability for graduates, human resilience and ability can quickly adapt to new situations when called on to do so,” she says.
“One thing is certain, change is constant and graduates have successfully learned to adapt to new situations throughout their lives. At this time it is very important to embrace the unexpected and adopt openness, flexibility and a can-do attitude.
“Over the coming year or so many graduates may find themselves building a professional career path by adopting an eclectic, stepping stone approach.
“Some graduates opt to take the non-linear approach to their career by working in a sequence of varied types of jobs that may or may not necessarily connect to their university degree.
“This has many advantages: it allows them to earn money, develop well-rounded and wide-ranging combinations of practical and transferable skills while figuring out the career direction they ultimately want to take.
“It also demonstrates to future employers that they are industrious, willing to work, open-minded, adaptable and resilient.”
National Recruitment Federation director Geraldine King says that while unemployment is high there will still be many opportunities emerging because of the pandemic.
“Healthcare will continue to expand with new roles emerging all the time,” she says. “IT roles are still very much in demand as are funds and supply chain with new opportunities still growing.
“Roles that did not exist before will emerge in the hygiene sphere, technical and engineering specialists in sanitation will be hugely in demand, along with entry level roles as assistants and hygienist cleaners and planners.
“New roles emerging in retail in the customer service, logistics/drivers and warehousing due to the volume of online shopping. New roles are also emerging in deliveries of goods and we are starting to see new opportunities for drone pilots.”
4. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Emma Scott, people partner at PwC, says the biggest tip she has for job-hunters is to be proactive. “Really research around the companies and roles that you are interested in,” she says. “Check out the latest news sites for the issues they are commenting on as well as their own website.
“Check out all the relevant job boards and be ahead of the game. Reach out to recruiters and share your CV. While there may be a hiring freeze in some sectors, if they have your details you might be first to be called.
“Follow companies’ social media channels to get better insights but also to hear about job opportunities they may have. If they are hiring, find out the closing date and apply well in advance of this to avoid any technical issues.
“If you are still in college and are looking to complete your professional qualifications, find out what exemptions you have. If there are exemptions you need, see if you can complete these during the summer.”
Paye says jobseekers should pay attention to detail. “If they mention something specific in the job spec for example, see if you can amend your CV to reflect that you have that skill,” he says.
“Make sure that you register to receive job alerts in your field of work so that you are seeing the jobs advertised as they go live. Also make sure that your profile is updated in our CV database as recruiters regularly search for talent before they even advertise a job.”
5. Showcase yourself
Even those with virtually no experience of working have skills and talents that when presented properly can cast them in a whole new light.
“Relevant course work can be included on your CV to showcase your skills,” says Kennedy. “Writing, teamwork and presentation skills are just some of the skills you can refine in college. This, however, does not mean you need to list everything.
“For instance, your primary school education should not appear on your CV if you are currently graduating from university. Your CV should be powerful but brief. Make it easy for the recruiter to quickly understand how your history and experience align with the job they’re offering.”
Laffey and Murphy suggest building a profile or a personal brand online. “Draw on every skill you have from part-time employment, volunteering, societies, hobbies and interests, employability awards,” they say.
“Don’t underestimate the power of networking, even online. Put yourself on the radar of those who are hiring in your sector. Create a LinkedIn profile, follow employers in your sector, and use the necessary key words.”