Editor’s Note: All NRTA webinars are recorded and readily available to view at your convenience. Access them here.
This difficult job market is something no one anticipated, and for those currently seeking employment, the prospects can seem incredibly hopeless. While the circumstances are unfortunate, there are still options to explore and methods for furthering your career. In a webinar hosted by the NRTA, “Optimizing Your Career in an Uncertain Job Market,” Mike Powell, president of Marc-Allen Associates, and Scott Singer, president of Insider Career Strategies, stressed that developing a robust strategy—or “toolbox”—will maximize your chances of success.
Much like a toolbox holds a variety of tools, a job seeker needs to be flexible and ready to try many avenues for their search. Most people turn towards job listings, but when many positions are filled internally or are never public at all, candidates need to do more than applying to every posting on Indeed. Think critically: who do you want to work for? If there’s a company that catches your eye, be proactive and follow their social media for job alerts and networking opportunities. Staying in contact with the right people massively increases your chances of landing a dream job. Need career guidance? Work with an executive recruiter tied into your main industry who can connect you with clients. Go to informational interviews to gain insider knowledge into businesses related to your career. Even freelance work is beneficial, as it allows you to stay active in the market and begin to expand upon your personal brand.
Thinking of your “brand” may sound complicated or overwhelming, but in truth, the core idea is rather straightforward. Each person is unique, with their own personality, skill set, and strong points. Your role is to consider what sets you apart from the rest and let that shine through your website, portfolio, LinkedIn page, or social media. In a digital age, those tools are critical for leaving a strong impact on a future employer. Your resume and cover letter should reflect these same ideas, so utilize keywords, action verbs, and specific facts and figures to make your application as focused as possible. Ensure that your resume is easily scannable and tailored to the job—postings often get hundreds or thousands of applications, so companies often use applicant tracking systems to filter out resumes that don’t match the requirements of the job description. With a handful of edits, you can drastically increase your chances of receiving a call.
When you do have the opportunity to interview, take it seriously through research and preparation. Most likely, the interview will be conducted online, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Dress professionally, make sure your space is clean and quiet, and approach the matter with a positive attitude. From there, follow tried and true advice for interviewing: know your resume by heart, prepare detailed questions, and follow up with a thank you note to everyone you interacted with.
At the end of the day, that touches on the core of the matter—this situation is unprecedented, abnormal, and profoundly difficult, but it doesn’t require starting from scratch. COVID-19 doesn’t negate the importance of networking and resume-building. The job market is struggling, and it’s hard to predict how it will change in the future, but applicants who take proactive steps to advance their careers are far more likely to weather this time of uncertainty.