Author Jennifer Folsom is partnering with Know Your Value’s A-list roster of experts to launch REBOOT Camp, a series featuring women who have lost their jobs amid Covid-19 and are struggling with their employment search amid uncertain times.
We are following their journeys, their highs, and lows, in hopes that sharing their experience will help others looking to reboot their careers as well.
When we last checked in with our Rebooters, we saw the rollercoaster of each of their job search experiences. Every job search runs the gamut of emotions, but like everything else during Covid-19, they seem to be magnified.
Tonya Johnson, a former federal contracts manager with years of experience, thought she would have no problem getting a new role right away. But she quickly found she wasn’t getting many bites on her applications. Anne Nichelson, a single mom in Massachusetts who worked with non-profit organizations, continued to do all the right things, like growing her network and scheduling informational interviews, but wasn’t getting enough potential new opportunities in her “job pipeline” to get to the right role. And Dana Taylor wasn’t quite sure where to begin in her search for an organizational development or leadership position, particularly while supervising virtual kindergarten for her 5-year-old daughter.
We connected these Rebooters with experts in job search strategy, resume writing and communication. As a result, their searches got better, and they became more focused and realistic about their options. But like the 2.4 million women in the U.S. who have lost their jobs during this pandemic, they still find themselves unemployed.
My advice to them – and to you, if your struggling with your own search – is to remember that you can do all the “right” things and not feel immediate success. According to Indeed, a global job board and career resource website, the average job search is nine weeks. And what we’re seeing anecdotally, it can be even longer during a pandemic. But don't give up. It’s important to manage your expectations, and make a plan for getting through a longer-than-hoped-for period of joblessness.
For example, I recently spoke with Johnson and her frustration was palpable. “I keep talking to companies who want me in the office, five days a week, with a really long commute and a significant pay cut,” she said. We discussed a few different strategies, and I pointed her to LinkedIn’s free Job Seekers resources. Not only free, these resources show job seekers how to best use the LinkedIn platform to connect with recruiters and hiring managers and provide the much-needed "behind-the-scenes" do's and don'ts of what these employers want to see.
When I checked back in with her a week later, Johnson had two great interviews that resulted in second interviews, both for roles with compensation at or near her most recent level and that were going to stay remote. “I don’t mind a minor pay cut if I’m not commuting two hours a day,” Johnson admitted.
Likewise, Nichelson continues to network, apply, and interview with organizations and roles in the community impact and social responsibility space. She is the embodiment of staying positive. “It’s really helped that the boys are back to school now,” said Nichelson. “I have solid blocks of time where I can really focus on the search and make those important connections.”
And as a result of her introductory post, Taylor has reconnected with a number of individuals who are eager to help guide and support her job search. “People kind of came out of the woodwork, and everyone wants to be helpful,” said Taylor. "I felt a lot more comfortable telling my story, and being able to describe what it is that I am looking for in my next role, as well as talking about the kind of work-life flexibility I am going to need."
If you also find your job search dragging on, here are five strategies to keep the momentum going.
1. Consider contract work.
Johnson reached out to many people in her network to take on some part-time, remote consulting work. This kept her head in the game, her industry contacts warm and provided the financial breathing room to be choosy about her jobs. Because of the part-time income coming in, she was able to decline jobs with an hour-plus commute and a 30 percent pay reduction to hold out for positions that were more in her wheelhouse.
2. Investigate Returnships.
Nichelson noted that many forward-thinking companies are launching returnships, a formal program to recruit, hire and integrate those that have stepped away from the job force. “They tend to be marketed towards moms who have been out of the job force for more than two years, but I’m looking at these as well, even though I was laid off due to Covid-19.” Check out In Her Sight, Glassdoor and the Society for Human Resources Management to help you get started.
3. Check out LinkedIn Resources.
I’ve long been a fan of LinkedIn and love how easy they make it to get and stay connected to my professional network. But the resources page on getting the unemployed back to work in this tough and wild labor market are top rate. I especially like the free learning tools to build skills in high-demand areas like digital marketing.
4. Enlist your network.
Zabeen Mirza, the CEO of Jobs.mom, a mom-focused job board and resource website, advised job seekers to “call, text, email your friends, colleagues, peers, acquaintances, and people in your professional rolodex. Yes, even clients. Tell them you’re looking for work, and you’d appreciate it if they could recommend you to roles, refer you to others, and/or keep a general ear out for relevant opportunities. On social media, it's the same thing. Honest, open, clear, and consistent messaging to your network. Especially on LinkedIn. That is the entire purpose of the platform. Ask for help.”
5. Be realistic, then renegotiate.
“In a time when many are being let go because companies are restructuring or doing more with less, you have to be realistic and not expect the same thing you would in a different marketplace,” said Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski. “Sometimes you need to come in lower than you would like, but do not miss the moment again when you can ask for more.” Get in, prove yourself, then renegotiate.”
Next time, we’ll check back in to see how Johnson fared in her second-round interviews. We’ll also talk to Nichelson to see if her continued networking is leading to more interviews- and offers- and see how Dana Taylor’s focused job search is faring, all while leading virtual kindergarten. These are challenging situations, but not impossible.
Jennifer Folsom is vice president of growth at ICF Next. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband Ben and has three teenage sons. Her practical guide to modern working motherhood," The Ringmaster," is out now.