Americans have a history forged in hard work and the pride that comes with achieving a career that is both fulfilling and affords a good quality of life. The average worker will spend nearly a third of their life at work, making it at times difficult to see the line between where work ends, and our personal lives begin. When our sense of self is so often attached to our jobs, it is easy to see why the COVID-19 pandemic has had such a monumental effect on our personal and professional lives. Those who have lost their jobs are especially concerned with how to navigate the job market in this unprecedented event. Others who are still working may be reflecting on their choice of career, and considering new options.
The American workforce is undergoing massive change and looking to a new way forward. A study conducted by Joblist found that those who work in hospitality, food service, entertainment, and bank tellers were the most likely to pursue a career change this year. Those whose highest level of education is a high school diploma are also more likely to seek new and better opportunities. Whether you are seeking a new career in a different field, or you are looking for an opportunity to take the next step in your current career trajectory, we have compiled a strategy and list of tips for navigating the 2020 job market.
How to Change Careers
Making a career change is a considerable undertaking when it is planned and intentional. When a change is forced by way of a layoff, being made redundant, or other external factor beyond your control, navigating a new career path can be even more challenging. Although pivoting in a new direction comes with challenges, it is a journey that could improve your lifestyle, refresh your passion, and lead to rewarding opportunities you may not have considered before.
Before you begin your job search, review these tips:
Evaluate yourself and your current situation
If you find yourself seeking a new career after having been laid off, or for another reason beyond your control, you are likely feeling a great deal of emotion and uncertainty. You may even be angry at your prior employer. Bringing that emotional baggage to your job search or your next job can set you up for dissatisfaction, poor interviews, and may even hinder your ability to fully embrace your new role.
Reflect on your past job experiences and create a list of what you succeeded at and what you struggled with. Next, write down why you were successful, or in the case of struggles, why you feel you did not meet your potential. Did you receive adequate training? Was your manager supportive and committed to your growth? Were you held to realistic expectations that put you in a position to succeed? Defining what went right, what went wrong, and the reasons why, will help you identify careers and environments that are suitable for your work style.
Define your skills, the values you seek in a company, and your goals
A change in career focus presents a great opportunity to pursue dreams you may have put on the backburner. To help identify your “dream job” wishlist, you must first clearly define your strengths & skills, and how you think they will help you in your new career. Next, outline your values and what is most important to you in a work environment. Will you flourish in a young, energetic start up? Or do you prefer a more corporate, structured environment? Is it important to you that a company set aside time for charity work or volunteerism? What kind of work-life balance do you expect? Do you want a job that lets you work from home? Finally, define your professional goals and how you think a company can help you achieve them. The clarity you gain from this exercise will give you helpful discussion points in an interview, and guide you toward companies that align with your goals.
Research ideal companies and their current employees
Now that you have a sense of the type of job and work environment you want, it is time to research companies in your chosen field. Be sure to research large and small companies, as well as national and local businesses. Varying sizes of companies, and those that exist in larger cities, tend to provide unique lifestyles and “personalities” that may or may not suit you. You may also find that the company that best fits your goals will require you to relocate to a different city or state. This could be a deal breaker for you, and if it is, you can cross them off of your list and move on to the next employer.
When evaluating the employees of your goal company, be sure to use sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to research current and past employees. You can discern a lot about a company by evaluating the length of time that employees worked there, and you can gain visibility on whether or not there is upward mobility.
Network, network, network
You have already researched employees who have worked, or currently work for your ideal employer. Take the extra step to reach out to them via LinkedIn, alumni sites, or via email, and ask for a short meeting to learn more about their job and company. If the employee is local, invite them to lunch or coffee. You might be surprised how many people want to share their stories and experiences. You may even ask for a job shadow opportunity, to experience a real-world example of a “day in the life” of the company. Finally, be sure to ask how they found their job. This may prove to be a critical step in getting your resume noticed.
How to Search for Jobs
By now, you have done a great deal of research into new career opportunities and companies you may want to work for. Now it is time to search for available job listings. The internet is chock full of employment websites, recruitment agencies, and career search engines. Consider signing up for job listing alerts at the following websites:
Or, if you are seeking a job in a specialized industry such as Accounting, Technology, or Medical jobs, search for specialized recruitment agencies in your desired city or state. These services generally come at no cost to you, and a headhunter will do much of the heavy lifting of a job search on your behalf.
Remember to tap into your network! Do not be afraid to reach out to peers you have already connected with, or seek more professional connections for tips on finding job listings. They may be able to provide you with unique keywords you should search for, or other tips for getting your foot in the door with your preferred companies.
How to Update Your Resume
A well crafted resume will be the most powerful tool in your search for a new job, and the clarity, consistency and readability of your resume will determine whether or not it gets a second glance. You will no doubt make updates to your resume if you are actively entering the job market, but you should consider updating your resume consistently as a form of routine “professional maintenance.” As you gain new skills, earn promotions, or achieve a career milestone, you will want to update your resume immediately. It can be difficult to remember all of your successes as time goes by, so be sure to keep your resume current. Here are some additional tips for crafting a winning resume:
Keep your resume simple
While browsing online you may have come across some graphically interesting or highly designed resumes. New graduates, and those who are seeking a job in a creative industry such as marketing, design, or animation will often create resumes that are visual works of art. While those resumes may be appealing to look at, they are not always appropriate or appreciated in other industries. Play it on the safe side and keep your resume simple.
Create plenty of white space in the header, footer, and margins of your resume. A cluttered, text-heavy resume is overwhelming to read.
Tailor your resume to the specific needs of the job or employer
Many companies use software that will scan your resume to see if you match the qualifications of the job. This happens before a pair of human eyes ever see your resume! To get past this digital gatekeeper, you need to edit your resume to speak specifically to each job listing you are applying for. To help your resume reach the desk of a hiring manager, follow these tips:
Lead with your personal details. Your header should include your first and last name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile url (if applicable).
Next, write a short 2-3 sentence summary of your skills and qualifications. Do not focus on what you want out of the job, but rather the value that you can provide to the company based on your experience and talent. This should be tailored to align with the job description, and include keywords from the job summary so that resume-scanning software can identify your qualifications.
Use a reverse chronological format when listing prior experience
Hiring managers have come to expect that resumes will list work experience in reverse chronological order. This means that you should list your most recent job at the top, and work backward in time.
Use bulleted lists to explain your experience and responsibilities at prior jobs
Bullets are much easier to read than paragraphs. Remember, hiring managers will read hundreds of resumes. You will want to be succinct and clear about your accomplishments. Under each job experience, build your bullets using the S.M.A.R.T method. This method will help you identify your skills, measure outcomes, and quantify the impact you had.
S.M.A.R.T stands for:
S = Specific. When explaining your experience or role, cite specific examples of a task or duty you performed.
M = Measurable. For each bullet point or example you provide, define how your success was measured so that you can prove you met or exceeded the expectation.
A = Achievements. If a task was specially given to you by your employer, it means that they trusted you to lead the charge and ensure the task was completed successfully. Be sure to draw attention to special projects you were put in charge of.
R = Relevant. List experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
T= Timeframe. Define the period of time it took you to achieve an impact. Potential employers are looking for employees who achieve results quickly and efficiently.
Here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T bullet point:
Supported management by learning and executing accounts receivable tasks which resulted in consistently accurate customer account balances over a two year period.
Cite your education and certifications
After listing your work experience, include information about your education (school name, location, attendance/graduation dates) and list any special certifications or training you may have obtained outside of traditional schooling. You may also list your proficiency level with computer programs such as Word, Excel, Access, or industry-specific software that may be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Be patient and remain hopeful.
As you may have discerned, finding a rewarding job is a large task. It will take a lot of introspection, careful research, strategic planning, and time to come to fruition. Do not get discouraged if you do not find the specific job you are looking for right away. New opportunities can spring up overnight, especially as companies navigate the “new normal” and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. You may even find that you need to expand your certifications or education in order to achieve your dream career.
Remember that every goal is worth pursuing, and you should be kind to yourself as you go down a new path. Focus on the steps ahead of you and remain positive about your future by recognizing the unique skills and talents you have to offer. Practice patience and diligence to your goals, and you can achieve your career ambitions.