The Covid-19 crisis has ripped millions of Australians from their jobs or have seen their hours reduced as a result of the business shutdown.
Not only have people lost jobs, but job ads have dropped dramatically, making the employment market more competitive than ever.
But despite the uncertainty, there are still things job-seekers can do to put their best foot forward during their job hunt.
In Episode 3 of the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club: Live Online webinar series, executive coach and co-founder of the Colin James Method Erica Bagshaw and Indeed ANZ head of career insights Jay Munro revealed their top tips on how to increase your chances of landing a job during the coronavirus crisis.
1. Reset your mindset: deal with your emotions first
One of the most difficult things about this period may not actually be the process of the job-hunt itself: rather, it’s the sense of uncertainty and instability in the air.
“There’s not a great degree of certainty around how effective a business is going to be in surviving Covid-19 right now,” said career coach Erica Bagshaw.
“There’s a lot of challenges out there, and being realistic about that and recognising that it is a boat most people are in, it’s not your fault, and it’s not going to last forever,” she said.
Even for people who have kept their jobs, the degree of change around work (for instance, the transition to remote work) also causes “quite a bit of anxiety”, Munro said.
“We don’t have the ability to feel like communicational information is being delivered as quickly as we may have felt it was being delivered previously, when we were all in the one office or one workspace. I think that’s really affecting a lot of us as well.”
2. ‘Break up’ with Covid-19
Bagshaw has an unorthodox method of articulating your emotions: write a letter to the coronavirus.
“A tongue in cheek thing to do, because sometimes you gotta try and lift your mood a little bit, is to do a break-up letter with Covid-19. ‘It’s not me, it’s you,’” she said.
“Get all your anger and frustration out in that letter and tell Covid-19 why it’s made a mistake, why you’ve got all these skills and capabilities and COVID-19 can just head off to where the sun doesn’t shine.”
Writing this letter will also help you begin the process of thinking about your skills and what you can bring to the table, as well as think back on key people who have helped you in your career.
“Start reaching out to the people who can give you some support and give you some affirmation around your value and your ability.”
3. Figure where else your skills can be placed
Covid-19’s impact on the economy has been uneven: while some areas have taken a serious hit, other sectors are under greater pressure and demand. So while your industry is struggling, you may possess skills that can easily be transferred to another role.
“If you have transferable skills, it’s about looking at: what are the adjacencies to your skills and competencies? And where are people in demand, rather than in decline? So it’s identifying those and seeing where the opportunities are for you,” said Bagshaw.
But how do you actually identify the skills that you have? Often, even experienced executives lose sight of the fact that they have more skills than they realise because they’ve been doing their role for so long that it’s become natural to them.
“Let’s look at what you were doing three years, or that five years before that. What are the skills that you’ve consistently built over this time that it’s like water, like air to you, and [is] so natural and easy? Because that’s actually your superpower,” she said.
“That’s actually what people come to rely on you for, but because it’s easy for you you don’t recognise that that’s actually something that’s valuable. And so it’s about looking with an outsider’s eye at your CV.”
An easy way to see your skills afresh is to get a very honest friend to sit down and ask you questions about all of your previous roles, such as what you hated about the job but also what brought you energy.
“If you’re talking about something that you’re really clearly enthusiastic about and have skills and capabilities, that will shine through.”
4. ‘Fake it til you make it’
Now is not the time to be humble or shy about your capabilities – and this is something women in particular suffer from. Research shows men tend to apply for jobs even if they don’t meet all the criteria, whereas women feel discouraged from applying when they don’t feel they have all the required skills.
“I would suggest you borrow wildly from the man’s bias to confidence and go ‘yes I can’, and go for it,” Bagshaw said.
“Confidence and certainty are two things that are just like muscles you have to build because that brings energy and enthusiasm. And so people are more likely to be interested in you.”
Bagshaw referenced the work of American social psychologist Amy Cuddy, known for her research and TED talk on ‘power posing’, where changing your posture can affect your biochemistry and result in better performance in job interviews.
“If you change your physical body and just shift into an open posture – stretch your arms out so that you’re taking in a full breath, even just for two minutes – just doing that will change your biochemistry and help you feel more confident and more alive,” said Bagshaw.
Now that everything is done virtually – even job interviews – this projection will be more important than ever: “You have to bring them way more energy than you needed to in a physical environment,” she said.
This means doing things like ensuring your voice is strong enough; inflecting your voice so you don’t sound monotone; and looking into the camera, she added.
5. Just get the basics right
It’s important to give your emotions some breathing space, Munro acknowledged. “But I mean, you have to jump back on the horse very, very quickly,” he said.
It won’t be easy, and it will take a bit of time. “It’s really going to come down to a lot of hard work, being really pragmatic and structured in your job search,” he said.
Invest some effort into tailoring your resume or CV; writing a cover letter that shows off your transferable skills, the value you will bring to an organisation or the work you’ve done previously; and following up with applications after interviews.
“Make sure that you think about every single step, and prepare every single step as well.”
6. Fast-track into another field, or up-skill
On the topic of transferable skills, see if you can find pockets of opportunities to build on an existing skill you already have in an industry that has a shortage of workers.
For instance, a flight attendant who has lost their job will have first aid skills – and that could be an opportunity to get into the healthcare or nursing sector quite rapidly, if that’s something they’re interested in, Bagshaw pointed out.
And if you’re looking to up-skill, there are lots of ways you can do that: many ‘bite-sized’ learning platforms will teach you a bit of a skill every day.
“There’s so many apps now where you can just jump on out of interest, and they’re so beautifully written. It’s very tiny, bite size micro learning; you can start doing some things quite cheaply without taking time away from your family,” Bagshaw said.
7. Find a mentor
A cheap but invaluable method of boosting your job hunt is to find someone who can guide you, said Munro.
“I think one thing that we often forget about which is really really valuable is seeking out a mentor,” he said.
“Often over your career or in jobs, you’ve worked with someone who’s just inspiring or knows what they’re talking about. Reaching out to them and asking for advice or for them to become a mentor is something that is usually free as well,” he said.
“And [it’s] a really great opportunity because if you work well with them and show that you’re eager and enthusiastic, often they’ve got a network as well who might open doors for you.”