How To Job Hunt Now

Tips for navigating the job market in a difficult time

Nov 09, 2020
Management and Organization

SMITH BRAIN TRUST  With a pandemic and a struggling economy, it’s not the easiest time to be job-hunting.

For those who are looking for work or contemplating a career shift, Julie Neill, a career coach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, offers some advice.

Study the market

Firstly, she says, take time to strategize and survey how the landscape has shifted over these past few months.

Companies like Google, Amazon and Zoom adjusted well to remote work and are still hiring, and many biotech firms have expanded, as they work toward a COVID-19 vaccine. “There are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look,” says Neill. “This is about recognizing what types of companies have needs, what roles and skills are in demand and how you can satisfy them.”

Don’t skip the networking events

As any career coach will tell you, networking is the most important part of the job search. With the job market growing even more competitive as the economy has tightened, the emphasis on networking should be even greater, she says.

More competition, however, means that job seekers must get creative in how they approach their interviews and networking events. For those looking for a place to start, Neill says to go back to basics and practice the fundamentals. Classic interviewing tips are classic for a reason, she says.

“You can stand out virtually with practices as simple as turning your webcam on. Being able to see one another provides a great opportunity to show that you’re listening,” says Neill. “You can do that by nodding, providing verbal affirmation and keeping that camera at eye level. There are so many ways to build rapport and that starts with being present in the conversation.”

Optimize for Zoom

Other tips Neill suggests for job seekers include making sure you have a strong wifi connection, checking your audio and video settings beforehand and being aware of your surroundings. But there are also little things you can do to brand yourself and gain an edge, Neill says.

“Maybe you’re interviewing with Nike, you can place a product of theirs that you really like somewhere in the camera shot to potentially use as a talking point in your interview,” says Neill. “Employers take note of these things and they’ll remember who showed the most interest and who was engaged throughout the process.”

Be considerate

During these times, it’s also important for people to practice empathy toward recruiters and be cognizant of how the pandemic has changed the work-life balance, Neill says. Communications should be short and sweet. A little good goes a long way when it comes to networking, she says.

“Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. How would you like to be reached out to and how can you be respectful of that person’s time? Reframe networking as a relationship and think of ways you can be of service to others.”

Remember your alma mater

For job seekers and students, Neill encourages them to take advantage of resources like HireSmith and Terrapins Connect to engage with employers or utilize Maryland Smith’s extensive alumni network. But don’t just stop there, Neill says, keep pushing forward because the opportunities are there to be seized.

“Look for other opportunities to engage with companies on social media. Have you looked at their website or checked out any of their new initiatives? Be creative in getting your name out there and don’t hold back,” says Neill.

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Robert H. Smith School of Business
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University of Maryland
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