Tips for recovering from a COVID-19 layoff
There’s not much good to say about a global pandemic. It’s affecting thousands of families, overwhelming hospitals and shutting down businesses. Everyone has been caught in the crossfire on some level.
For many people, their jobs have evaporated seemingly overnight. If you’re interested in some somber reading, this Macleans article details a list of notable Canadian mass layoffs.
Even tech workers aren’t safe. Before coronavirus, software engineers enjoyed a job candidate’s market. Salaries were high, and the job postings were plenty. Now, even tech has seen a hiring freeze and a shedding of non-core positions.
The small silver lining is that tech has been somewhat less affected than more public-facing industries such as tourism, hospitality and retail. Developers can transition to work-from-home and get their job done just as well. Technology teams can stay connected through apps such as Slack, Zoom and Atlassian.
Still, tech workers are by no means safe from layoffs. If you’re in the midst of a career transition to tech, this is a tricky time to get hired. And if you’re a new grad, you are now invited to play the career navigation game on expert mode.
Most tech companies have adjusted their growth plans for the foreseeable future. They’ve implemented hiring freezes, have reduced hiring budgets, and are rescinding job offers. The job market is now decidedly more competitive. Candidates with at least 3–5 years of experience are mainly sought after, since companies need workers who can hit the ground running.
If you’ve been affected by coronavirus layoffs, this is a really tough time. There’s no use pretending it will be easy to bounce back tomorrow.
We’ve put this article together to act as an unofficial guide for how to proceed in these exceptional circumstances. We enlisted help from career coaches, recruiters and HR managers to give you insider advice on how to stand out in the job market, and how to take care of your mental health too.
1. Accept it will be difficult right now
Having a realistic mindset can help you stay emotionally steady while searching for a new job. Many people are taking an extended break to rest and wait out the pandemic. If you feel like you’d fare better by doing the same, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Future employers will certainly understand if you have a gap in your resume.
If you want to keep on with the job hunt, keep in mind that the playing field is much tougher than usual. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get callbacks or interviews. Keep in mind that this situation is temporary. Just because your job search is currently slow, doesn’t mean that it will be like this down the road.
2. Emotionally recover from your layoff
They say when you fall off, you have to get right back on the horse. This can actually hurt your job search efforts. It’s important to take some time after you’ve been laid-off to mentally process the event. A layoff is a huge life change, and can feel very personal.
Hopefully your layoff is only temporary, and your employer has every intention to bring you back on once things return to normal. If you’ve been laid-off indefinitely, take this chance to reset your life. Most people get stuck at a job that they don’t really like or they’re not suited for. Being laid-off, while sad, is a fresh opportunity to find a job you’re more passionate about.
Organize your finances after your layoff. Make a spreadsheet of all your monthly expenses and make projections for your financial situation over the next few months. It’s not fun, so do it sooner rather than later. The clarity you’ll receive will actually give you greater peace of mind.
Make sure to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. Getting some exercise will supply you with endorphins, which will automatically lift your mood. Enlist a friend or therapist so you can talk about your feelings. Finding balance will help you sustain momentum in your job hunt, and will help you present a fresh and friendly image in job interviews.
3. Consider a survival job
Taking a break during coronavirus is great in theory, but your financial situation might not allow it. If CERB isn’t enough to cover your expenses, or if you don’t qualify, then a survival job might be necessary.
Only take on a public facing temporary job if you don’t have risk factors for COVID-19 — that is, you’re under 60 years of age, and you don’t have any chronic health conditions that affect your immune system.
Businesses like grocery stores, delivery services and medical suppliers are hiring huge amounts of staff right now. These positions might not stick around once the pandemic ends, but by that time you’ll hopefully be able to shift into your preferred career field.
4. Rework your resume and Linkedin profile
It’s a good idea to freshen up your resume and online profiles when re-entering the job market. Update your resume to include your most recent work experience. Make sure your Linkedin headline is accurate — you can add a note about looking for a job.
With your resume, you’ll want to highlight accomplishments at previous positions rather than tasks or responsibilities. Any performance metrics you can pull in will be much more impactful than a generic description of your job duties. A great way to structure your resume is by using the STAR method.
If you’re comfortable, post on Linkedin that you lost your job due to COVID-19 and are actively seeking opportunities. You’ll get a sympathetic audience, and will cast your net to a much wider network.
5. Go where the jobs are
For every bust, there are some industries that benefit. Right now, companies are having to fill emergency Customer Success roles. With people being at home 24/7, they’re doing more streaming, gaming, video calling and remote working. All the software that supports these functions is being used overtime, which means things are breaking often.
Experienced tech Customer Success workers are in high demand right now because they can hit the ground running once they’re hired.
Companies in EdTech and Health Tech are exploding with demand right now. You can probably find software engineer job openings within these spaces, at least to handle temporary demand.
When you do succeed in securing a job interview, you’ll want to ask questions that are pertinent to the current global situation. Juno College has outlined 5 important questions to ask of a potential new employer in their article, here.
6. Look at remote jobs
One perk of the tech industry is that companies are usually flexible with remote work. Even in regular times, lots of companies hire purely remote roles. This lets the companies pick from an international talent pool, saving money on salaries and office space.
Here are some popular job listing sites that offer remote tech positions:
You may have to apply a filter to specify “remote only” in your job search parameters.
7. Network online
Networking is more important than ever now that the job market is overcrowded. But, it’s hard to establish real connections over the internet without some extra hard work and personal touches. Consider joining a tech organization or two. You’ll get to have direct conversations with people in leadership positions, and you’ll often get early access to job postings.
People are spending more time on social media now that they’re at home, so post to your own accounts often. Stay positive, and engage with other people. It’s one more way to get your name and face out there.
When you’re applying to a job, make sure to contact the head of HR or recruiter and introduce yourself. The recruiter might not reply, but it’s worth a shot. And it’s one of the only ways to get noticed out of 1000 other applicants.
8. Pick up new skills
If you’ve been meaning to learn a new skill, coding language or software to advance in your career, this is the time to do it. Python is the world’s most popular coding language, but what makes sense for you to learn depends on your career history and the jobs you’d like to apply for.
There are free tutorials available on Youtube, or for a small fee you can take courses on Linkedin Learning, Udemy, Skillshare or other online learning platforms.
Recruiters emphasize that one of the most important skills you can bring to the table is soft skills. Your personality, how you relate to others, your storytelling skills and your coachability are key things employers look for. Oftentimes, the most technically skilled candidate won’t get the job. Instead, the role will go to a less experienced person who seems like a better culture fit for the team.
9. Think long term
Not to be a downer, but the job market is tough right now. You might not get a job right away. In fact, it might take months. On average it takes 16 weeks to secure a new job, and it might be longer if the economy remains slow. So, imagine your job hunt as a marathon, not a sprint.
The work you put in now will create positive outcomes down the road. Stay connected to your network, look for volunteer work opportunities within your industry, and keep learning.
Getting laid-off during a pandemic is scary — no one knows exactly when things will return to normal. Despite the troublesome news in the world, it’s important not to give up hope. Be gentle on yourself, and take time for your mental health if you’re feeling overwhelmed. By staying positive and making a constructive plan, you’ll be better able to handle this new playing field.