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Expert Advice on Career Development During the Pandemic

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It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every industry, with some companies closing down and many jobs lost during these difficult times.

So, which companies are recruiting? What effect did COVID-19 have on individuals’ career development? How can recent graduates enter the workforce? How can you boost your skills and résumé from home?

To find out, we asked several industry experts to give us their insights and advice on how someone can continue improving their skills and developing their career during the pandemic. Read on to find out more from our experts:

Our Experts

Ann Marie Adams

Professional Development Coordinator at Ithaca College

Cindy Deuser

Human Resources Manager at Thrive Agency

Matt Glodz

Managing Partner at Resume Pilots

Rafe Gomez

Co-founder of VC Inc. Marketing

Willie Greer

Founder of The Product Analyst

Jerry Han

Resident Human Resources Expert and Marketing Leader at PrizeRebel

Max Harland

CEO and Resident Human Resources Expert at Dentaly

Thomas Hawkins

CEO/ Head of Human Resources and Hiring at Electrician Apprentice HQ

Jaani Nilsson

Managing Editor at Resumoo

Ottomatias Peura

Chief Marketing Officer at Speechly

William Taylor

Career Development Manager at Velvet Jobs

Jeff Walker

CEO of Best VPN Canada

Matthew Warzel

President of MJW Careers

Bud Whitehouse

Best-selling author of “When Can You Start?”, “The Insider’s Guide to Job Search” and “Career Success”

Chris Young, PhD, SHRM-CP

Director of Workforce Development at Texas Department of Transportation

Are companies still recruiting for jobs or internships?

Ann Marie Adams

We are indeed finding that companies are recruiting for jobs and internships. The opportunities are focused on four primary career pillars: health care (all sectors allopathic and wellbeing); technology (workstyle + lifestyle); education (K-12 + higher education, instructional design, delivery); [and] digital narrative storytelling (across all industries and organizations in all online platforms).

Cindy Deuser

The simple answer is yes, companies are still recruiting despite the pandemic. You see, as much as people want to keep their jobs, the pandemic has also put them in a situation that they have to relocate for one reason or another. This, of course, has led to roles that need to be filled in order to keep operations running. It may come as a surprise to some, but we’ve also lost some people because they were presented with bigger opportunities elsewhere. So, yes, companies are still recruiting and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

Willie Greer

Not because it’s a pandemic season means companies should stop recruiting for jobs, but with internships, there are some who think it’s not practical to do so, especially due to the transition to a work-from-the-home set-up. There’s a minimal chance that interns will be accommodated because companies are more focused on how they are going to adapt to all the changes brought about by this unfortunate situation and requires more professional workers to join them in the team.

Jaani Nilsson

Companies are most definitely still recruiting, and that is something we have been able to determine as a fact due to the increasing need for professionally written résumés. Many companies have changed how they work due to the pandemic, which has opened up new positions needing to be filled.

Ottomatias Peura

Yes, companies are still hiring. Hiring continues to pick up post-lockdown.

William Taylor

We have a continual flow of job postings on our job boards during COVID-19. While some industries have certainly become affected and have reduced their hiring, there are other industries which have increased considerably in their hiring efforts. It has become more of a shift in demand than a gross reduction in demand.

Matthew Warzel

Yes, I am personally aware of three internship opportunities at the moment. No matter the economy or labor market numbers, somebody is always hiring. If you know the recruiter in charge of the opening, send a message asking, ‘What can I do to show you I’m the right fit for the role?’ Reach out to other people in the organization and other recruiters to help identify the hiring manager if you feel you are an ideal candidate; move your way up the rungs until you get to the head honcho, but be prepared to sell yourself. But, know your threshold and when to move onto another role to target.

Bud Whitehouse

Companies are recruiting. My clients are getting jobs at roughly the same rate as before the pandemic. People hire to solve a problem, and there are plenty of problems!

Chris Young

Yes. Do not get distracted by current events. As a matter of fact, everyone in the HR business had been worrying more and more every day in America since 1999 about where all the people were going to come from to do all this work. COVID gave us all the opportunity to slow down and reprioritize. As a result, we’re all still hiring.

Are there any opportunities for recent graduates to work or intern remotely?

Ann Marie Adams

Most certainly true of internships pushing into the summer. The work opportunities vary by location and level of protocol [that] individual areas have deployed or what companies have enacted.

Cindy Deuser

Absolutely. Here at Thrive, 80% of our workforce are under a work-from-home arrangement. The other 20% can choose to work from home anytime, as long as they can come to the office when needed. I believe that, as more and more companies adapt to the remote workplace setup as the pandemic drags on, recent graduates will have more opportunities to intern because remote office environments will be the new normal.

Willie Greer

The thing is that recent graduates will be burdened to find jobs that will suit them or their degree now that businesses are in a transition period. From a business entity’s point of view, it’s difficult to onboard employees who lack experience knowing that we can’t train them as rigid as we do our previous hires. However, there are still companies who take advantage of interns, knowing that they work even harder and always tend to put their best foot forward to impress the employers, which is a positive thing for the business entity’s end.

Jerry Han

Recent graduates and unemployed people can offer their services as a freelancer during this pandemic. Freelancing gigs are a good way to build experience across various projects and develop interpersonal skills. With the economy in a recession right now, the job placement industry’s current state is not looking good. Companies rely on contractual workers and freelancers to get work done without spending the same amount of money for a full-time employee.”

Jaani Nilsson

Remote work is generally easier to find than remote intern positions. Also, for graduates, internships often require more guidance, which could be difficult to provide online. When you are a graduate, you tend to have limited work experience, but this does not have to be an issue if you know how to catch a hiring manager’s interest.

Ottomatias Peura

Yes, absolutely. Remote work has increased substantially during the pandemic because of the lockdowns. Many companies now have devoted time and resources to build remote work policies and are adjusting to the new normal.

William Taylor

Remote working has increased considerably this year and I predict this is only going to grow further. There are plenty of opportunities for graduates as organizations shift to remote working. Graduates should take initiative and research the industries that are growing their remote working opportunities.

Matthew Warzel

Absolutely. In fact, even more so with the early career new graduates who will, hopefully, find a ton of empathetic hiring managers who will even look at work gaps and say, ‘Oh that was because of COVID, they get a pass,’ — same will apply to 2020 graduates.

Chris Young

Every organization is different, but the organizations you’ll want to work for will have it figured out by May. If they don’t, then you don’t want to be there anyway and you’ve saved yourself the hassle. Additionally, people are dropping out of school and we see it — you’re going to have less internships available, but that may be offset by having less competition.

How can I develop or learn new skills online? Are there any valuable resources?

Ann Marie Adams

Extremely prolific environment to train, certify, learn online. Both nonprofit, for-profit and higher education endeavors to offer. One can also look to the offerings of professional trade associations, such as PRSA (Public Relations Society of America, either national or regional chapters). Many of our student organizations are also offering opportunities to learn to their members.

Cindy Deuser

There are many platforms that offer virtual courses — some are free and others you need to pay for. Even Ivy League universities are now offering distance learning. It’s now easier than ever to learn and develop new skill sets because of the rise of virtual e-learning.

Matt Glodz

An excellent way to boost your résumé during this time is through online courses. If you’re currently unemployed, taking online courses shows that you are committed to your career growth and intentional about building your skills. If you are looking to switch sectors, they can help you sneak relevant keywords into your résumé, demonstrating that you are both serious about your move and will be able to hit the ground running.

Willie Greer

Today’s also a good time for recent graduates to make their skills diverse and learn new skills that will put them on the ranks for positions that are newly created, such as social media manager. There are short courses which they can take and, apparently, this is the next best thing to offer to the table.

Jaani Nilsson

The internet is full of free online courses, which allow you to boost your skill set without having to leave the house.

Ottomatias Peura

In the marketing world, there have been so many free resources open during the pandemic. I know of several free classes that big SEO and PPC companies have offered. Other companies offer scholarships for those that apply and can commit themselves to complete rigorous training programs.

William Taylor

I absolutely love Udemy. They have a wide range of courses on a whole host of topics. I’ve learned how to use Photoshop, the computer programming language Python, and marketing — all in my own time.

Matthew Warzel

Most people have skills and experience that can transfer nicely to another industry or job. The key is knowing how those skills reasonably transfer and what sort of value they bring to the prospective employer. The challenge is that most are unsure of how their skills are exchangeable to other duties. If you’re an accomplished professional, it’s best to use actual methodologies, processes, skills or technologies relating directly to the open job description and your experience. These are good ideas for those greener candidates.

Some common skills that immediately come to mind are:

  • Project Management: Each day, we complete tasks that are a part of a larger project.
  • Cross-Functional Communications: Each day, you talk with different people of different socio and economic backgrounds.
  • Data Analysis: Each day, you look at different options to consider which should be prioritized, not knowing that subconsciously you’re sorting data to determine each project or task’s weighted value. Analytics training is a positive for all roles and industries.
  • Scheduling: Each day, you adhere to some sort of schedule to track your daily routine.
  • Document Control: Each day, you control your messaging, both physical (mail) or digital (social media, email), as well including where to put email attachments and stored information.
  • Quality Assurance: Each day, you monitor your task and project fulfillment quality to make sure you’re doing it accurately.
  • Strategic Planning: Each day you strategically plan out both short- and long-term goals to drive personal and professional productivity.
  • Time Management: This may be the ‘fluffiest’ of each of these buzzwords, but it still exists on résumés of more early career candidates.
  • MS Office Suite: The most fundamental software that can be weaved into your résumé.

Bud Whitehouse

Now is a good time to brush up [on] or increase your tech skills. Take courses [and] practice using software that supports what you do or want to do.

Chris Young

Again, don’t get distracted by current events. Online training, certifications and education have matured very well over the last 10 years. The bonus is that now they’re competing for your attention and money — you can even take certification exams that used to be offered only in-person from your home. My advice is the same as it was pre-COVID: If your network hasn’t heard of the training, skill, certification or degree, then you may want to look at it more critically.

How should I prepare for an online interview during the pandemic?

Ann Marie Adams

Key preparation in personal branding to self-advocate is to be able to state clearly who you are in this moment, what you are capable of, and where you are headed.

Cindy Deuser

I say prepare the same way as you would for a face-to-face interview because the process we HR professionals follow is pretty much the same. But, of course, make sure that your internet is stable, your webcam and audio are working perfectly, and wear a smart-casual outfit. As tempting as it may be to just wear your pajamas, we won’t be impressed if you show up wearing your plaid sleepwear to your virtual interview with us.

Willie Greer

Apart from the usual questions which will be asked, prepare for questions regarding how you will be able to balance your time given that you will be working from home. There’s always a question on how you can assure productivity despite not being monitored. It’s your efficiency and adaptability that will be questioned now that we are in a pandemic.

Thomas Hawkins

Make sure all of your tech stuff is working properly — such as your webcam, headset and Internet connection — and log in to the website beforehand and do a trial run. Don’t fret about employment gaps in your work history if related to COVID — employers will understand. Just give a brief explanation. Make sure you’re on time, dressed professionally and have a prepared list of questions to ask the interviewer at the end — just as you would for a traditional interview.

Jaani Nilsson

Just because you are not going anywhere for an interview, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be professional. Set up your computer somewhere with a professional-looking background and good lighting, make sure you look presentable and, if possible, use a headset so that the interviewer can hear you properly.

Ottomatias Peura

Online interviews should be just as professional as in-person interviews. We tend to ask more questions in an online interview to understand how well a person might fit in our company. As it is more difficult to read body language via Zoom, the additional questions help us to learn more about the person’s personality traits before making a final decision.

William Taylor

My main tip is to not take online interviews for granted. Make sure you’re in a tidy room that is quiet, dress up smartly just as you would for a face-to-face interview, and keep some notes next to you out of shot. They can be helpful to keep you on track.

Jeff Walker

Nothing beats a perfect preparation — especially in an online interview. First things first, you need to be ready with your tech. Based on my experience as an interviewer, not properly working techs, such as internet connection, is a fatal flaw of not hiring the applicant. A day or two before the interview, check and test everything — from your internet connection to audio and video quality to the background scene. It should perfectly work and can be used to communicate effectively. Familiarize yourself with the videoconferencing tools you’ll be using.

Test your internet connection 10 minutes before the interview. Check if your headphones are working and, if possible, use a noise-cancelling one to eliminate background noise. Set your camera at the perfect angle. Lastly, make sure that the scene is free from clutter.

Above all other personal preparations, never show up late. As much as possible, be the first to be online before the interviewer. Dress appropriately. Rehearse everything from top to bottom. And, always remember to think that it’s just the same as the usual face-to-face interview — nothing more, nothing less. Smile, relax and show the best you can be.

Matthew Warzel

Look at YouTube for tips put out by the employer’s branding team to see what else you can work on in terms of their brand and understanding how the culture may be ahead of time. Do some research on the industry and their place, respectively, as well as the company in a basic (and most recent) Google News article. Most candidates do not explain enough or get deep enough into what they specifically did for that specific project or achievement. Make sure those experiences you shared during the interview should be on your résumé already so managers can identify that parallel.

Don’t come across as desperate or arrogant. Take inventory of where your skills align with that role and focus on those as your answers to reconfirm your skills with the hiring managers. What will separate you from candidates is to explain what you’ve been doing to better yourself and career while out of work, especially during COVID. Behavioral-based questions are preferred and they’re trying to identify what type of character you possess and the soft skills you bring (and they use LinkedIn and your résumé to identify both your hard and soft skills). They want to see your succession, how long you’ve been in your roles, and how you articulate your skills and accomplishments throughout your tenure. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements.

Practice interviewing with a friend or in the mirror by yourself, as well as technically simulating a Zoom call (or whichever; find out ahead of time from the recruiter!) to ensure you don’t mess up. And, utilize the STAR interview format for each answer. Also, act like you’re there in person — except try to make sure you’re looking into the camera’s eye as much as you can, if not the entire time, which is preferred. You can even put a printed photo of someone (or yourself, whatever) near the camera — keep it small and tape it so it doesn’t move — to stare at.

Bud Whitehouse

Prepare like you would for any other interview, PLUS create a space at home for interviews — no backlighting, avoid windows, lighting should be centered in front of you. Practice with different arrangements until you find the best for you.

Chris Young

The same way you would for a real interview. Now, instead of figuring out how to drive to the interview, you’re figuring out the best backdrop. We were all hiring online before COVID, so you should be just as comfortable online.

How can I boost my résumé while at home?

Ann Marie Adams

Take advantage of opportunity to volunteer, such as Taproot, Election Polls, Civic Formation. Leap into an entrepreneurial endeavor. Use your written and spoken words to tell a story in online platforms that can create change, lend to a cause, make a difference.

Cindy Deuser

If you don’t have a full-time job yet, my suggestion is to try to pick up some freelance projects while you’re waiting to land a full-time job. Freelance projects will help you practice and hone your skills and even give you an opportunity to learn new ones.

Willie Greer

Take online courses, which can be an addition to your résumé. You can also work out the details you put in that curriculum vitae and make versions that will tailor every job opening you find. You can’t have the same résumé for different types of jobs because it won’t always work out. Now that you are spared free time, it’s best to improve that paper, which is every company’s first requirement and basis of impression

Max Harland

Professionals should invest in their career development by enrolling in online courses to learn new skills or improve existing skill sets. The pandemic gives people enough time to focus on themselves. With mandatory quarantines and lockdowns, people stay inside their homes most of the time. With a lot of free time, professionals can use this opportunity to better their competence by enrolling in online courses. Since training sessions are online, professionals are in a safe environment away from the public. In this set-up, they can’t acquire the virus since they don’t interact with anyone physically

Thomas Hawkins

Make sure it is 100% up-to-date as far as work history, even if there’s a gap or you’re currently unemployed. The company will be able to find this information anyway, so don’t hide it. And, depending upon the position you’re applying for, tweak your talents and skills as best you can so they fit the job description. You might want to switch over to a functional résumé format, which focuses more on skills and experience than work history, especially if you have a gap. But, by all means, do not shy away from the gap — this is just a way to make your résumé more presentable and relevant.

Jaani Nilsson

Graduates often struggle to find work, but the issue isn’t always them, but their résumés. You can easily boost your résumé with experiences you already have and you do this by wording them properly. With the right words, you can make almost anything sound like an achievement.

Ottomatias Peura

Depending on what you want to do, there is plenty of training. There are also many entry-level remote positions opening up that were once filled in-office.

William Taylor

While meeting face-to-face becomes more restrictive, there are still no restrictions on phone calling people. Why not call some of your colleagues or previous colleagues and reaffirm with them some of the key responsibilities and achievements in your current and previous jobs. You’d be surprised at some of the aspects of your jobs that you may have forgotten. You can then note these down on your new, updated résumé.

Bud Whitehouse

Your résumé should sell success. An endless litany of duties and responsibilities doesn’t help you. Identify successes and get them onto your résumé — increased revenue, reduced cost, increased efficiency, etc.

Chris Young

The same way you would pre-COVID. Find stretch projects you can do at school or with your current employer. Get a certification. Complete a training program online. Find a mentor and share your résumé with them.

Is networking a good idea at the moment? If so, how should we approach employers?

Ann Marie Adams

LinkedIn provides a unique environment to offer connectivity to those closest to us by organization or profession, as well as organizations like: We Are Next; The One Club; New York Women in Communication, Inc.; [and] Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council … all offering engaging events [and] activities in virtual space.

Willie Greer

Networking is a big risk, and not everyone becomes successful with it. Before diving into this, prepare yourself and know all the things you have to learn about networking so that you won’t get shocked the moment you finally get into it. Approaching employers will always be tricky because they vary in approachability and what works for one might not work well for everyone. The thing is you have to observe properly and study every character’s diverse and general trait and know the best way to handle such. Put yourself into their character and ask yourself how you would want to be approached.

Thomas Hawkins

Networking is always a good idea, even during a pandemic. Get more involved with LinkedIn and try to find relevant professionals to connect with. Starting a blog or website can be a good, as well, where you can showcase your experience and attract relevant professionals. There are also probably a plethora of online networking events you can attend. Just do a generic internet search for your industry.

Ottomatias Peura

Linkedin is a great place to network. We have found some of our best employees on Linkedin. We have also found that most people are willing to share their knowledge on the platform and even sometimes refer people in their contacts for jobs.

William Taylor

Using LinkedIn is still a great way to connect with potential employers. Before cold contacting them, consider liking and commenting on one of their social media posts to build up that warm connection. If you do this, they are more likely to be receptive and recognize you when you mail them.

Matthew Warzel

Make your LinkedIn robust enough so they can identify you as a viable candidate (meaning, fill it out entirely). Post twice on LinkedIn everyday and interact with two already current individuals in your network and two new individuals. Offer value. Comment on four posts a day to interact. Build genuine relationships. Put time into your communication cadence if you’re networking on LinkedIn with a recruiter or hiring manager or like-minded or similar industry professionals. Join job search groups.

Bud Whitehouse

Networking is ESSENTIAL at the moment. The internet deals with only about one-third of the opportunities out there. The other two-thirds will come through networking. But, networking is NOT asking other people to find you a job!

Chris Young

Not to promote a product, but you have to be on LinkedIn. You have to have a full profile with a headshot and real content. Think of LinkedIn as a free portfolio site. Once you establish your presence, follow as many folks as you know in the real world and then start following the organizations and the employees with whom you share a connection of interest. Some will say yes, some will say no, but none of them will help you if you don’t ask.

How should we prepare for an interview after the pandemic? Are things going to change?

Ann Marie Adams

The shift to video collection of candidate information was already in motion prior to the pandemic. It has amplified in its use [and] typically comes in two forms: employer sends questions asking the candidate to record answers and submit; [and] third party contracted by the employer to solicit and collect with an online platform. Again, [it] goes back to greater preparation in self-advocacy around personal branding, values, interests [and] abilities.

Rafe Gomez

The key to differentiating yourself from other job applicants and making yourself irresistible to a prospective employer is to have a clear-cut interview strategy — whether it’s during or post-pandemic. While this may seem like an obvious plan, it isn’t to the majority of job-seekers, who instead focus on job interview tactics rather than having an overarching roadmap to follow.

Tactics such as how to sit, how to fold your hands, what kind of lighting to use in your video interview, what to wear and how to answer certain questions — even if executed flawlessly — will not be effective in giving you an edge over other applicants.

What will position you as the best person to hire will be if you explain how you would be able to make the company money, save the company money and/or improve the company’s image in the marketplace. (You’ll know what you should focus on by doing extensive research on what the company needs and is focused upon in its business endeavors). These three classic, sales-based ‘closing triggers’ are exactly [what] organizations are seeking in a new hire.

If by using data, facts and engaging before/after anecdotes, you can prove that you have the experience to deliver these crucial benefits, you’ll be able to position yourself as a valuable solution for the hiring company. This methodology will not only help you to ace the interview, [but] you’ll also get the job.

Willie Greer

This pandemic assured one thing. Change is inevitable and we have to get used to it or else we will be left behind and will fail to get along with the pace. We should prepare for employers asking how we’ll be able to adapt should another unforeseen event happen. Employers are more likely to ask about our productivity and efficiency to work in a changing environment, and these are the questions that we should prepare for should we choose to attend interviews after this pandemic.

Ottomatias Peura

Yes, things have already changed. People and, by extension, their businesses are adaptable. Online, remote work will continue among many businesses that have already worked it into their operational process, and it will continue to grow. There is no going back.

Bud Whitehouse

No one knows how things will change. It’s probably safe to say there will be more online interviews, but that’s about it. Research the company, ask yourself the questions they could ask you and have answers ready. Understand that you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you, so ask the questions that will get you the information you need to know if the job is a fit, and whether or not you want it

Chris Young

You should understand that this is equally stressful for everyone — including your interviewers. Acknowledge the weirdness with some initial banter and rapport building, but then get down to business — this is still an interview. Will things change? No. Never. Things always remain the same. But, seriously, things will change and we want to hire people who are flexible, adaptable, and can do it all with a smile

Any other insights you would like to share?

Ann Marie Adams

If one can design, develop, deliver, implement and evaluate/analyze content online, the market is extremely hospitable. This includes strategy in designing communication, content development (written and spoken words), video/photo production and editing, delivery systems/media channel selection, media planning, data science/analytics, customer engagement, sales.

I am under the impression, by the volume of these opportunities, that the upside to the pandemic is that a great many professional offerings have amplified beyond traditional patterns this time of year — perhaps going so far as to say that the pandemic created many more opportunities in the four career pillars cited earlier than had the pandemic not occurred.

Matthew Warzel

Sometimes, postings will be open even if they filled the seat so they can collect résumés for their pipeline. Draw your line in the sand if the recruiter ghosts you. Do you really want to work with that type of company that doesn’t provide a solid candidate experience? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) differ for all companies with different rules [for] each, so there’s no one way to “beat” the ATS. Cover letters still matter (list three reasons why you’re a fit for the role, as well as the best value you offer to the organization and how you can help impact change). Infographic résumés do not work.

Bud Whitehouse

There is no way this is a fun time to look for a job. That said, if you’re unemployed, it’s the only time you have, so persevere. The truth is you aren’t looking for a job, you’re looking for a person with a problem! It’s unlikely that you’ll find that person online, so most of your time should be spent networking.

There you have it: HR Experts’ answers to the most common questions asked about career development during this pandemic.

If you found this article useful and informative, please feel free to check out our Expert Insights & Roundup Series.

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