Confronted by the challenges of staying at home and of an uncertain future, it may seem that this pandemic lockdown time is a career vacuum. There are, however, some steps that you can take to be ready when job opportunities present themselves.
With any of these six steps outlined below, it is important to tap reliable job information, such as that found on government websites like the Labour Market Information Portal, Job Jump Start and Job Outlook.
1. Update your resume
You may not have needed a resume for many years and face the daunting task of having to now produce one.
Your resume should be up-to-date and provide relevant information about your education, employment history, experience and workplace achievements. Keep it simple and easy to read. You could use a template from the Job Jump Start website if you are unsure what to include.
While most of the information in your resume will stay the same, keep in mind that as every job is unique, your resume should be tailored to a particular job, by highlighting relevant skills and experience.
Regardless of the job you are applying for, it would add value to your resume to include under each of your recent job descriptions a short list of the results you delivered. Staff are not only expected to perform the duties of a job, but also to perform those duties to a standard, and to deliver results for the employer. For example, many jobs expect you to do your work accurately, safely, and within expected timeframes. You are also expected to be cooperative, helpful, share information, support others, take account of any feedback given to you by supervisors, and be willing to learn.
2. Update how to search for jobs
It may be some time since you last looked for a job. The Labour Market Information Portal sets out where to find jobs. This Portal tells us that the main source of jobs is recruitment websites and job boards (55%), but there are other sources: word of mouth (32%), recruitment agencies and government services (15%), social media (13%), newspapers (11%) and approaching an organisation directly (9%). Some employers may use more than one recruitment method. This means you need to be exploring as many of these job sources as possible.
3. Know what employers want
Research tells us that employers look for specific qualities and skills in employees. Qualities include a positive attitude and willingness to work, willingness to learn and take direction, being reliable and responsible, and being respectful to people. If you aren’t keen to turn up on time, do the work you are asked to do without being repeatedly checked up on, and be courteous and respectful to co-workers and customers, then employers are not interested in you.
While you may have qualifications and training, many years of experience, and know a lot about a subject, these are not the top details employers look for. Employers look for some key skills and they are teamwork, problem solving, communication, organisational skills, and initiative. Regardless of the work you have done and experience you have, you need to help other staff, share information, solve problems rather than leave them for someone else, be able to talk with a range of people in different situations, know how to organise your work, focus on what is important, follow instructions, meet deadlines, pay attention to detail, and work according to any rules, guidelines, and procedures.
If you are unable to convince an employer you have these qualities and skills, no amount of training and experience will get you a job.
4. Know what skills you offer
You need to be able to talk about your skills in resumes, in applications, and to employers. If you need help with identifying your skills, go to the Job Outlook website, use the Skills Match tool, type your job title in the Select careers or jobs box, click Add, then Next, and you will have a list of skills with explanations of what they mean. The list includes skills that are important to employers.
5. Upskill using free online courses
There are plenty of free online courses on offer, plus useful information available on sites like YouTube. Working through a course, completing all requirements, and applying skills learnt will add to your skill-set as well as show that you have used downtime productively.
6. Use lockdown time to showcase skills
You can use lockdown time to show employers you have used the skills they seek. Here are some examples.
- A positive attitude, being reliable and responsible: Shown by using a mindfulness app to diffuse anxiety; doing what you say you will do without having to be reminded; exercising and eating well; keeping in touch with isolated people.
- Willingness to learn: Shown by taking an online course.
- Communication and being respectful to people: Shown by listening to what other household members are saying; noticing a neighbour needs help with shopping; complying with social distancing rules; thanking staff in shops and medical facilities.
- Teamwork, initiative, problem solving and organisational skills: Shown by planning your day with breaks; working with family members to work out who does what to keep the home running; being willing to do the tasks you agree to do even if you would prefer not to; completing tasks when they need to be done; noticing who is struggling with a task, such as homework, and offering to help rather than hoping someone else will do it.
Competition for jobs is now much higher and employers can afford to be fussy. With an up-to-date resume, knowledge of what skills you offer, and an understanding of what is important to employers, you will be better placed to tackle job searches to locate jobs that match your skills.