Job Search During the Coronavirus Outbreak? Difficult But Not Impossible

“And just when I thought I had finally had my life under control,” I saw a friend of mine vent on his Instagram last week. I could sympathize. His job offer got rescinded last minute due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

True, he’s not fighting for his life in a hospital like many others. Compared to what’s currently happening on the frontlines of the pandemic, his problems may seem a bit trivial.

But the thing is, he’s not alone in this. There are hundreds of thousands of people who now have to look for a job in a time of a raging pandemic. As if job search wasn’t already difficult enough.

If you’re one of those people, you surely have questions. This article will try to provide answers to at least some of them.

Is there a point to looking for a job during a pandemic?

Yes and no. It’s complicated.

Most major economies worldwide are now undergoing a dramatic transformation. Entire industries have all but ceased to exist in some countries. That will soon leave an enormous number of workers out of their jobs and their employers on a brink of bankruptcy. Sure, it’s not all doom and gloom but the situation is very serious.

But while many businesses are laying off people, others are hiring. But wait, you might ask, isn’t everybody supposed to stay at home and wait until this is over?

The most important thing is to figure out who’s hiring.

On the one hand, yes. All of us should self-isolate to prevent the virus from spreading. On the other hand, it’s impossible to put everything on hold. People still need to eat, sleep, and pay the bills. And to provide for those needs is a monumental logistical undertaking.

Put differently, you can think of the pandemic as a huge problem that consists of a billion smaller problems and those are made up of even smaller problems. Each of those problems needs to be solved. To solve such enormous number of problems, you need people. Because of that, hiring continues even under these circumstances.

See? In the end, the most important thing is to figure out who’s hiring.

Now, let’s take a look at where to look and where not to look.

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What industries are not hiring?

  • Tourism. Most governments are trying to limit their citizens’ movement. That includes countries that are heavily dependent on tourism for their income, such as Spain, Greece, Italy, France, and so on.
  • Airlines. The airline industry is especially hard hit by the pandemic, as international and even U.S. domestic flights are restricted. The International Air Association projected that the U.S. and Canadian airline industry could lose as much as $2.1 billion in revenue
  • Hotels. The U.S. hotel industry employs over 1.6 million Americans, making it the ninth-largest industry in the U.S. in terms of total number of workers. Needless to say, demand for hotels has declined sharply.
  • Movie theaters, festivals, and others. Health officials worldwide urge social distancing. Movie theaters, festivals, and other cultural gatherings strongly feel an impact of social distancing. The CDC has requested that Americans avoid gathering in groups of more than 50, organizers of these events have no choice but to close down. Other countries around the world have imposed similar limitations on social gatherings of large number of people.
  • Live sports. NBA, NHL, EURO 2020, UEFA Champions League have all been affected. NBA alone could lose as much as $1 billion in revenue due to the coronavirus shutdown.
  • Film industry. Dozens of films and TV shows halted production either out of caution or because a cast or crew member had symptoms or tested positive.
  • Automakers. The entire Western auto industry has effectively ground to a halt in less then a week. Factories on both sides of the Atlantic are shutting down.
  • Oil and gas. People continue to work from home and avoid travel. The International Energy Agency sees a decline in demand by 90,000 barrels a day compared to 2019. Also, prior to the pandemic, the prediction was 825,000 barrel a day higher.
  • Retail. Apple has already closed all stores outside of China. Other major retailers made similar announcements. For most retailers, stores account for about 75% of sales. Their employees are also among the lowest-paid and most economically vulnerable. Some companies have announced plans to pay workers at least in the short term for lost wages.

If you’re looking for a job in one of the industries mentioned above, you’re not going to have an easy time getting hired. The coronavirus has drastically shifted the world’s buying habits and these industries are struggling to adapt.

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What companies/industries are still hiring?

On the other hand, some businesses are rapidly adjusting to the new reality. In fact, a number of major U.S. companies have just announced hiring thousands of new employees despite (or as a response to) the coronavirus pandemic.

True, it’s still too early to read too much into this. But some industries are more likely to benefit from these rapid changes than others:

  • Grocery stores and online retailers. These have been overwhelmed with an influx of customers who now have to spend most of their time at home due to the novel coronavirus. Walmart is hiring 150,000 temporary workers to help them keep up with increased demand. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 people in the U.S. alone. Albertsons (the parent company of Albertsons, Safeway, United Supermarkets) wants to hire 30,000 new employees to keep up with increased demand. Dollar General is looking to add up to 50,000 employees to its workforce by the end of April. 7-Eleven expects to hire 20,000 new store employees in the following weeks.
  • Pizza? Pizza. Papa John’s has just announced plans to hire 20,000 new “restaurant team members.” Domino’s plans to hire 10,000 and Pizza Hut 30,000.
  • Pharmaceutical and medical companies are inevitably going to play a major role in the crisis. Gilead, which owns the rights to treatment drug Remdesivir; Moderna, actively working on a vaccine; Roche, a major supplier of testing kits; and Fujifilm, with existing treatment drug Avigan, are all poised to benefit. Oh and by the way, CVS is also looking to fill a total of 50,000 positions nationwide.
  • Delivery. People around the world are blocked from leaving their homes. Products and services need to be delivered. Many food delivery apps have already launched a “non-contact drop-off service.”
  • Tech. Microsoft is making large investments into remote product suites. Its Teams app has jumped from 20 million daily users to over 44 million this month. Anyway, large tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and others, are too large to be put on hold. They are likely to keep hiring throughout this crisis as need arises. Also, companies that make tools for remote work like Zoom, Slack, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, experience are growing rapidly and will probably expand.
  • Digital entertainment. Disney+ has signed up 28.6 million subscribers in the last three months. Netflix subscriber numbers have also spiked. The video game industry is also seeing a boom from the same circumstances. Valve’s Steam saw an all time record number of 20.3 million concurrent users online this month. These companies are likely to grow together with or despite the pandemic.

The industries mentioned above are something we call “core industries”. Their growth impacts growth in other industries as well, as they depend on a dense network of supporting businesses.

In other words, if a company that produces medical equipment thrives under current circumstances, its suppliers are likely to grow too. You may want to take that into account.

The main takeaway? Looking for a job during a crisis doesn’t have to be a bad idea. Companies have less need for some skills but dramatically more for others. Ultimately, every crisis has its winners and losers and the current pandemic is no exception.

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Has job search changed because of the pandemic?

Yet again, it’s yes and no. 

The gist of job search remains the same. Like before, you need to convince an employer that you can help them solve a problem. After all, why else would they hire you if not to make their lives easier? 

The tools at your disposal remain largely the same, too. You still need a strong resume. And, like before, you still need to make a good first impression in a series of job interviews. 

Has anything changed then? And what can you do to increase your chances even in a time like this? 

1. Figure out who’s hiring

Don’t waste your time barking up the wrong tree. Focus your energy where you have the highest chance of success.

In other words, try to apply for jobs in companies that are least likely to struggle for survival in the upcoming months. Even better, focus on those companies whose services or products are likely to be in high demand.

In the end, everybody benefits. You get a job. The company gets a hard-working employee that will help them keep up with increased demand. And the world gets a well-functioning company that will help keep our civilization together in the months to follow. 

Do you want to help our civilization weather this crisis? Then target the right kind of companies! We’re in this together!

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2. Don’t be afraid to temporarily change careers to supplement your income

Not everybody can work from home. Entire industries have just ground to a halt! It’s not like people who have just lost their jobs can easily find a similar job next door.

If you normally work in one of those industries (tourism, hospitality, etc), you may want to consider a temporary career change. (NB: At first, we hesitated to call it a “career change” as it’s only temporary. On the other hand, you may need to change industries so…)

Sure, it’s not ideal. Career change can be difficult. And yet, people change careers all the time. Some of them even enjoy it! Under normal circumstances, people would see it as fashionable. Sure, now it’s kind of do or die, but try to keep your spirits up.

Remember, you can usually leverage many of the transferrable skills you acquired in your previous careers. Here’s a handy guide to how you can articulate those skills on your resume: How to Write a Resume If You’re Changing Careers in 2020 +Example. 

3. Any job is good but a remote job is currently much, much better

Sure, not everybody can work from home. On the other hand, anybody who has that option definitely should. 

If you can choose between two jobs right now, pick the one that can be done from home more easily. 

There are hundreds of platforms that list remote jobs only. Take MyRemoteTeam. Or SkipTheDrive, just to name a few. But traditional job boards like Indeed or Monster work just as well. Make sure to look for the right keywords like “remote job”, “work from home”, or “online work”. You may also look at stay-at-home gigs like tutoring or copywriting. 

In the end, self-imposed isolation is our best shot at helping hospitals keep up with the onslaught of new coronavirus patients. At the moment we cannot do without delivery or grocery store staff but the less people get exposed the better.

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4. Upgrade your home video conferencing setup

Would you rather be a blurry smudge or a FullHD beautiful human? Let me explain.

For the time being, we can only interact with the rest of the world as if through a window. Your computer’s camera is that window. Do not underestimate its role in making that first impression.

A nice quiet location. No backlight from windows. You may want to get a better internet connection, better webcam, or even a better computer. Video conferencing isn’t particularly hardware intensive but still, it’s another process for your computer to handle. 

In the end, it makes a huge difference if your future employer sees you as a blurry smudge or a FullHD individual. 

Sure, not everybody can afford a top-notch computer with a 4k camera. Still, first impressions are often driven by a gut feeling, rather than a rationale. People who can see you more clearly are also more inclined to trust you and, in turn, hire you. It’s not fair but it works.

5. Prepare your resume for a global pandemic

Your resume now counts more than it has in a long time. This week, we’ll be bringing you some practical tips on updating your resume during the COVID-19 crisis. Stay tuned.

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Did you do everything right but still didn’t get the job? 

At the beginning of this article, I’ve mentioned a friend who got caught off-guard by this crisis. 

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation and your job offer was rescinded too. After all, companies are shedding long-term employees like leaves at the moment. 

What should you do then? 

Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges. Be understanding. Thank them for their time and effort. Think of the future. Things will get better. You may get another shot. We’re in this together.

That’s the last piece of advice we have right now. And it’s not limited to job search.

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