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Don’t Give Up on your Dreams: Finding a New Job in a Pandemic

Financial Well-Being

There are few things we tie more closely to our identity than our job. After all, it’s one of the first questions asked when you meet someone new: “What do you do?”  

Right now, if you are searching for the next right career move, you might feel at a loss for how to even start. Maybe you were displaced along with thousands of other Americans, or perhaps COVID has been a wake-up call for finding a job that aligns more closely with your values & priorities. Either way, if you find yourself in the spot of considering a career change, take heart. Great organizations are still invested in searching for great talent, and these could be the very best places to call home. Here are a few practical thoughts to consider:

Consider what is the very best version of yourself before starting the job search process.

Where and how do you thrive? Granted, this might be difficult to juggle with virtual home-schooling and all the other things that create today’s chaotic world, but operating as best you can from a place of emotional health will set you up for success (note: this does not mean perfection!).  

One of the most impactful solutions we’ve found is to make a list of what fills your bucket, and then work on incorporating those into your week and day. Ironically, filling your bucket often takes a lot of discipline on the front end (i.e., setting aside time for exercise, meditation, or prayer). This is where habits become crucial. “You do not rise to the level of your goals,” said James Clear in Atomic Habits. “You fall to the level of your systems.” Creating successful habits based on what fills your bucket will take a lot of the hard work of decision making out of the equation.     

Why does this matter? In Jon Acuff’s book Do Over, he discusses how a better job begins with building a better you.  “If you want to have a better job right this second, that’s possible. All you have to do is choose your attitude and adjust your expectations.”  Now – let’s be clear – this does not mean you absolutely must stay in your current job. But it does mean that when you operate from a place of intentionality and gratitude in life, you will be able to make better career decisions.

Job searching is still all about relationships. 

It is 2020 – and a world where everything has become virtualized and digitized – but relationships are still the most foundational element of job searching.

Acuff points out how it is often the casual relationships (or acquaintances) that are crucial for finding the next opportunity. “The reality . . . is that your next job is likely to come from someone you don’t know well.”  

Think about who you know in various categories and who is well connected in your desired business community. Create written lists of those people and start reaching out strategically. Since networking is currently mostly online, take the time to update your LinkedIn profile and stay active.

“Community Shines Brightest in the Darkness of a Career Bump,” says Acuff. “You’re not meant to go it alone. Careers are best built in the context of community. Beware the temptation to isolate or hide during your Do Over. We need other people. We need friends. We need advocates. We need relationships as a critical part of our Career Savings Account.”  

Make a list of your values and priorities -- and stick to it.

This aligns with the first point, but once you have determined whether the change needs to start with you or where you are investing your time & energy, you’ll be able to make a list of what matters most in a new career opportunity.  

“One thing you have to be careful of during a pandemic is not to make a decision without career mindfulness,” said John Uprichard, CEO of executive search firm Find Great People, Intl., as he reflected on common themes he hears from candidates. “When there is significant global disruption, it’s easy to make decisions from a place of emotion.”

One helpful practice is to make a list of all your “must-haves” – whether it be values, leadership, culture, location, flexibility, etc. and then evaluate your potential opportunities. You can also assign a weight to each criteria and then evaluate your new job in that regard.

Realize that the interview process has changed. Many interviews are shifting to virtual. It can be difficult to tell the true nature of a company’s culture in a virtual setting, so Uprichard suggests offering to go in and meet people face-to-face if possible.

From the opposite, corporate-oriented side, we do see many of our clients (and ourselves!) continuing to recruit and hire top talent.

It may seem an odd time to be hiring, but we want to take advantage of a market where people are considering new opportunities. This is not the first time in history upheaval has created hiring opportunity. When faced with a languishing, post WWII economy in the 1940s, Hewlett-Packard’s legendary founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were faced with hard decisions. Harvard Business Review powerfully shares one of the most defining moments in the company’s history. “As legions of great engineers streamed out of closing or soon-to-close U.S. military labs, [Hewlett and Packard] realized they couldn’t let such an amazing hiring opportunity pass them by. When asked how they could afford to keep taking on new people in those difficult years, their answer was simple: ‘How could we afford not to!’ Years later, when asked about the biggest contributor to HP’s success over the years, they routinely cited their willingness to invest in talent no matter the external economic climate.”

“You are starting to see what is at the roots of a company,” said Uprichard.  “In a pandemic, you have a rare chance to discover the organizational DNA.”  Chances are, companies that are continuing to hire through COVID are entrepreneurial at heart and could be a good fit. 

If today’s environment has shaken up your thinking about your career, we suggest thinking clearly first about yourself: what you value, want and need to feel most fulfilled. With that in mind, look closely at organizations whose values align with yours and that are investing in talent through the pandemic.  Believe in yourself & what you have to offer.

At some point, 2020 will be a blip in your career history – and you have the choice to make of it what you will.