Preparing for a Possible Post-COVID Work Life: How to Help Clients Get “Unstuck”
COVID-19 has dramatically disrupted most industries and individuals’ plans. As a result, some of our clients may have inadvertently moved into a state of limbo and become stuck there as they watch and wait for life and work to return to “normal.” No one can predict what the future will hold, but we can probably be fairly certain that it will be very different from what we used to consider normal. As career practitioners, we can take steps now to help our clients get “unstuck” and prepare for post-COVID work life by taking cues from our current situation. Here are some things to consider and discuss with clients:
Companies will be more conscious of costs, candidates’ skills, and technologies.
As businesses are becoming more agile and trying to recover losses, they will be focusing on candidates who can help them save money, make money, innovate, and solve problems.
During interviews, applicants may be expected to discuss how they have dealt with COVID-imposed quarantine or layoff and they should be asking their potential employers the same question. How has their team been impacted? What are the employer’s current, most pressing challenges? What problems need to be solved first? What short-term goals have they set for the next year or so? The answers applicants get may be good indicators of whether the company values its people or not.
Help your clients hone their unique professional offer: their combination of hard and soft skills, knowledge of technologies, and their ability to deliver value early on. Train them to be proactive during the job application and interviewing processes, always taking charge of the next step by following up, providing specific examples from their careers, and addressing target employers’ needs.
Companies may want to hire professionals who have similar past experience and do not require expensive training or onboarding.
Coach your clients to find online job postings that are an 80-100% fit and teach them to follow up actively after applying.
To help your clients save time and land interviews faster, train them to zero in on a list of 10-20 target employers where they would be a great fit, research those companies, and build connections there.
Help your clients identify their top 3-5 differentiators that they can use in networking emails, introductions, phone calls — to save the hiring manager’s time and stand out among competitors.
Remind your clients to analyze each job description carefully, pick the top requirements, and update their résumé accordingly.
Companies may want to hire professionals who have home office technologies in place and can be productive while working remotely, in case a quarantine becomes necessary again.
Coach your clients to add 1-2 lines to the résumé about their remote work discipline and be ready to specifically mention this during interviews (briefly describe their home office, technologies used, schedules they maintain, their responsiveness, and communication style).
List technologies like Zoom, Google Suite, GoToMeeting, and webinar hosting experience on their résumés. Some tech-savvy candidates may take these skills for granted and assume that they are self-evident; it’s always a great idea to articulate all technical skills.
Companies may want to hire professionals with strong communication skills, adaptability, good emergency response, and calm presence.
Ask about your client’s communication and leadership styles. Use their description of themselves to add these valuable differentiators to their career summary. In the world of remote processes, interrupted business operations, and rapid change, soft skills like reliability, loyalty, adaptability, clarity, strategic planning, and emotional intelligence make a difference and are appealing to prospective employers.
A candidate who can navigate through a difficult time would be given preference in any career level or industry. Help your clients to exude their calm, professional presence during interviews to align their brand on paper with their appearance in-person.
Some companies may be unethical in hiring new employees, exploiting the state of the economy.
Coach your clients to research their market value, know their salary ranges, and avoid complicated interview processes where salary and work conditions are not disclosed until the very last round.
Remind your clients that they can continue looking for an ethical employer, despite the economic downturn. They do not have to compromise their health or do work for free just because the economy is in recession and competition for jobs is high. It can be harder to recover confidence, motivation, and references after a bad work experience.
Train your clients to ask questions to determine the company’s culture and whether it’s a good fit for them: “Tell me about the most successful employee you had in your company. How did they become successful?” or “What would my hiring manager expect of me in terms of reporting and communication?”
Video and phone interviewing may continue to be commonly used.
Things move fast. Our clients need to stand out in the first few minutes of a phone conversation or during a video interview. Help them communicate effectively, with clarity, and craft brief messages about their professional value. For each client you work with, offer some customized templates of cover letters, LinkedIn intros, or follow-up emails. Encourage clients to practice introducing themselves in 1-2 minutes .
Networking online may become the preferred way to connect.
Help your clients make it a habit to identify the right people to network with and suggest authentic, meaningful ideas for collaborations or discussions to them. You may suggest that your client develop a list of target companies and roles people hold at these organizations (hiring manager, managing partner, etc.) and run searches on LinkedIn, company websites, hunter.io, or mailscoop.io to identify their contact information.
Having a short and clear COVID lay-off/furlough narrative can boost your clients’ confidence.
Many of your clients did not see a layoff coming and may still be processing the loss. To help them interview effectively with new employers and have a positive mindset, rehearse the layoff narrative with them. Help them speak positively about their previous employer, highlight their top achievements in the last role, and always connect their achievements and skills to the needs of the new employer.
Ask your client to identify what they accomplished during self-isolation that can be mentioned during interviews. Perhaps they improved their touch-typing skills, learned Adobe Suite, took a course on SEO, or developed any other number of technical or professional capabilities. They may have upgraded their home office equipment or software. They may also mention an improvement in health routines, emphasizing their athletic side and increased energy levels.
Above all, always consider your client’s personal goals and preferences. They will help you learn about their industries and current issues, as much as you can help them learn proven job search and interview strategies. These strategies worked prior to COVID and will continue to support them in advancing their careers!
Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a résumé writer and copyeditor with a background in university teaching. She is a member of ACES: The Society for Editing.