It’s now been more than 12 long, hunkered-down months since the coronavirus pandemic upended our everyday lives. For career counselors who devote their 9-to-5 to helping people find vocational fulfillment, this chapter has challenged their standard MO, for sure.
From advising clients on how to ace a Zoom job interview to using downtime for career advancement, their sessions have been more than “let’s buff up your resume.”
Here, these occupational gurus reflect on the best lessons they’ve learned this past year and how you can move forward during the coming one.
Grieve and go forth
For some, this may mean processing the loss of a job or being abruptly furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. For others, this might be saying goodbye to college or grad school and facing uncertainty.
Through witnessing this unfold, Elena Mosaner gleaned one of her biggest insights as a coach specializing in career development and high performance.
“It’s key to get past the grieving stages, such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and arrive at a final stage of acceptance,” Mosaner said. “Those who were able to accept the loss of their former lives, including the loss of jobs and what it would offer [travel, perks, social aspects of work] could reinvent themselves quicker.”
Take one of Mosaner’s clients, who lost her clerical job. She accepted the unplanned job loss, using it as fuel to forge a new path. “She decided to become a police officer. She found the courage to let go of the job she believed would bring good money and instead go for what she previously believed [she couldn’t achieve],” said Mosaner.
Find an impartial adviser
As a career coach working with unemployed clients, Debra Wheatman, president and founder of Careers Done Write, learned that people need someone they can talk to candidly. “They need a non-judgmental resource — someone who will offer straightforward guidance and advice as to how to actually look for work in a way that is productive,” she said.
It may be beneficial to find a confidante in someone outside your field to offer a different perspective, since they’ll likely be less preachy, not having had firsthand experience in your career niche. Say, a college athletic coach for a recent college grad or a friend in software engineering if you work in advertising.
Be more patient after interviewing
“Hurry up and wait,” as my dad always says, has now been raised by a factor of three in the wake of bureaucratic hold-ups that many companies are currently embroiled in.
“Candidates have not factored in the increased length of time a hiring decision takes due to the pandemic,” said Damian Birkel, founder and executive director of the Professionals in Transition support group. “With many people working from home, trying to gather people to make a hiring decision is like herding cats.”
On the plus side, because of these lengthier timelines, you may find yourself with a job proposal in hand when an offer for another potential gig comes through. Using the leverage of two offers, you may be able to negotiate a higher salary, more time off, flexible hours or other perks.
Take care of your mental health…
The dramatic changes in our day-to-day life in the wake of the pandemic made it “crystal clear” for Joshua Crawford, career coach for Proprius, that prioritizing mental and emotional health is a must, particularly when job hunting or embarking on a new career. That’s why Crawford recommends keeping a schedule close to standard working hours. Forget snoozing until noon.
“Get up early, get moving and stay optimistic,” he said. “This will translate to your job search.
Carolyn Kleiman, career coach at ResumeBuilder.com, added that job seekers should spend an hour each day reading up on news in their respective fields and an hour devoted to reaching out to people and setting up meetings.
“Browsing the same big job board day after day is likely not going to yield the result you want. It is a false sense of moving forward,” Kleiman said. “People often think, ‘I sent 50 resumes out last week, now I’ll sit back and wait for the call.’ That is rarely a successful method.”
…and physical health, too
“Building better habits has become one of the key elements for personal growth while in limbo and trying to figure out what is next,” said Mosaner, recalling counseling a college football coach from Coney Island who found himself unemployed last year.
“The man just lost his job, got on unemployment benefits and was experiencing severe anxiety about his future. Taking care of his health [by] improving eating habits, cutting sugar from his diet and stopping smoking has become key to his transition into a new life,” she said, adding that they did an entire session on building better habits.
Accordingly, Mosaner stresses the importance of taking the time to care for yourself, exercise daily, improve your posture and start a new lifestyle (if needed) as you look for a new job or plot your next move.
“Become an even better version of you. Don’t let COVID-19 be the reason for poorer health and becoming overweight. Do the opposite. Beat it.”
Log the wins
Alrighty, so you’re meditating, putting the pedal to the metal on your stationary bike and following the guidelines. Here’s one more essential habit you can add to your job-hunting routine.
“Keep track of the things you are doing [for your job search] and the wins. This allows you to see the positive things,” Wheatman said. “Keep an open mind for the future. Things are constantly evolving and changing. The future brings new and exciting challenges yet to be uncovered.”