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10 tips to help you find work or keep your career on track during the COVID-19 pandemic

This time last year it was unlikely that anyone could have imagined 2020 would deliver so many challenges. The impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be significant, and with devastating levels of job losses and business closures, it’s not surprising many people are worried about their health and financial security.

With so much you can’t control and an increasingly tight employment market, it is more important than ever to look after yourself, be informed, develop your skills, and know your value to an ethical employer.

So here are 10 tips to help you find a new job, plan for a career change, or use your time to place yourself strategically to be ready and competitive when the crisis eases.

1. Do your research to find which sectors are strong and where to look for jobs

While many positions have been impacted and jobs lost, several sectors are still strong, with opportunities particularly available in mental health, health care and disability services, amongst others.

If you are looking for work now, be resourceful – try to think creatively when assessing your skills (why not try the government’s Skills Match on Job Outlook?)  and be prepared to compromise, at least to some extent, in the short term while other industries start to recover.

To stay aware of new job opportunities in the sectors that are relevant for you, sign up to job alerts on EthicalJobs.com.au to get relevant job listings to your inbox daily or weekly.

2. Update your CV – does it adequately reflect your achievements and grab the attention of readers?

Ensuring your CV is easy to follow and is targeted specifically to the job you are applying for is vital in helping you land an interview. Here are some pointers for making sure your CV is as effective as it can be:

  • Use a plain, modern font for easy readability.
  • Pay attention to page one. A short engaging profile paragraph is critical because a recruiter may have only seconds to spend looking at it. If you are further along in your career, include a Career Highlights section and see if one of your referees would write a short, compelling testimonial about your work that you could include.
  • Focus on your achievements rather than a list of duties or responsibilities, showing prospective employers how and where you added value. Enlist a friend or trusted colleague to help or look online for some resources to help you identify your achievements at work and describe them.
  • Avoid borders, photos, columns, text boxes, graphs, and abbreviations as some ATS (Applicant Tracking Software – see below) struggle to read and interpret these.
  • Also avoid listing referees on your CV. If asked after an interview, put forward the most appropriate referees for the role (having ensured they have been adequately briefed beforehand).

For more tips on how to make sure your CV stands out from the pack, take a look at this guide.

3. Tick the boxes of Applicant Tracking Software

Some medium to large organisations in Australia use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to track job applications submitted online, so it’s valuable to tailor your documents to comply with some ATS that rate your CV based on keywords.

Ensure your cover letter and CV clearly outline how you are a good fit for the organisation and the role by specifically addressing the advertised key selection criteria. By using key words from the job listing in context, you can ensure your documents meet the requirements that the ATS is searching for.

Be wary of overdoing this though, as it’s still important to maintain your individuality and be personable (rather than starting to sound like a keyword robot). Ensure the keywords are only written in context, and don’t interrupt the flow of sentences to force them into your text.

4. Make your LinkedIn matter

LinkedIn has the potential to build your industry credibility and, importantly, connections. Recruiters and prospective employers are likely to view your profile and making a great impression can help attract their attention.

Start by refreshing your profile and keeping it up-to-date. Ensure your title and profile is keyword-optimised. Does your photo need updating? Consider an eye-catching, yet appropriate banner background image to help your profile stand out.

Write a brief but compelling paragraph in the “About”, section making sure your personality shows through and some career highlights are included. Check that dates and job titles align with your CV, though avoid posting your CV on your LinkedIn profile as you need to be able to tailor it to the role you’re applying for.

Make your connections and content genuine. Consider where you can add value to a discussion and what you can learn from the platform’s resources. LinkedIn’s benefits also include letting recruiters know you are available for work, while keeping this information private to the rest of your network.

Testimonials are another important feature that add enormous value to your LinkedIn profile. Ask some trusted referees or former clients/customers if they would write a LinkedIn testimonial for you. Keep in mind that writing testimonials for your colleagues (past and current) is a good way to initiate one being written about you; it’s also just a great way to recognise the good work of others and potentially support their job search too.

5. Take some time for upskilling and professional development

If you do find yourself with more time on your hands, and you are in a position to, it may be an excellent time for you to complete study, short courses, update licenses, or catch up on your Continuing Professional Development and plug skill gaps – especially those essential for the industry in which you work or aspire to. 

6. Volunteer

When, in the current climate, it is safe and appropriate to do so, get involved. There is, and will be, so much need and people are mobilising to help. EthicalJobs.com.au lists some volunteer roles, or try Volunteering Australia or your State-based volunteering body as the starting points to finding volunteering opportunities.

In the longer term, volunteering can sometimes even lead to paid employment or new career paths and is always a good inclusion on your CV as it can help demonstrate many new skills.

7. Brush up on your virtual interview skills

Virtual interviews will be a necessity for many job applicants now. Prepare for a possible future interview by checking your technology is compatible with that of your prospective employer and works well; practice speaking to the appropriately placed camera and ensure your background is uncluttered and free from distraction.

Remember that panellist(s) may be interviewing you from their home(s) so be prepared for a remote work conference scenario. Of course, keep your CV next to you and know it well.

(For more on this topic, read 8 tips to ace your next video interview.)

8. Contact your networks – including your referees – for help

While it is always important to keep in touch with your networks, it is perhaps more critical now. If you are looking for work, contact those you are close to in your work and personal life and enlist their help. Keep in touch with your referees and have a think about who you might be able to be a referee for.

9. Know your entitlements and obligations

State and Federal government websites are providing regular updates on COVID- 19 and the support available, including the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments).  Also see the Australian Fair Work Commission for the latest entitlements and obligations.

10. Most importantly, take care of yourself

Finally, balance is important – you cannot job search all the time!

Look after yourself: try to bring structure to your days, keep in touch with those who matter to you, watch what you eat, exercise, and get enough sleep. Reach out if you need help with your mental health.

Look out for the signs that your mental health might be declining during the pandemic, and invest in activities that can help improve your mental health.

This is a really challenging and uncertain time. If you are struggling, please reach out for help:

This is a guest post by Helen Green, qualified careers practitioner, careers writer and Director of Career Confident. You can read the original post here. Photo by Marcus Aurelius.

 

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