Well, March 2020 was one crazy month. As a Career Coach, I can definitely say that this is an unprecedented time of uncertainty for all of us across all aspects of our lives. That, unfortunately, includes the job market.
We’ve seen some unbelievable statistics lately about the number of business closures and layoffs across not only just Canada, but the world. And I’m so glad to see that governments are stepping up to increase support for individuals and businesses at this time – although we would all like to see these measures implemented at a more rapid rate.
What does this all mean for job seekers? And what does this mean for anyone who received a layoff notice in the last month?
I used to work in Human Resources in the mining industry, which is pretty much the definition of a cyclical industry. We had periods of intense hiring, along with sudden downturns that unfortunately resulted in a large number of layoffs. Unfortunately, it’s a process that I become more familiar with than I would have preferred. It’s also something I’ve experienced myself, so I understand that it can be challenging and frustrating to recover from.
At this time, we’re seeing layoffs happening across the board – including cyclical and non-cyclical industries alike. This includes industries that were just ramping up their operations for the spring season including hospitality and tourism such as restaurants and hotels.
What To Do When Laid Off From Work
#1 – Take Some Time to Process & Plan
Universally, our initial reaction is shock. This is especially true as your business and employer likely showed no signs of stress (emotionally or financially) a short month ago. The rapid escalation of this virus (along with the government’s measures to enforce new policies that have now become part of our collective knowledge, such as social distancing and self-isolation) has left us all in a state of shock.
Suddenly, the realization that this is going to affect the vast majority of businesses has led to the reality that you are now left without a job and uncertain of the direction of your life in the coming weeks and months. You simply need to reflect and come to terms with the current reality. Let the feelings of guilt, shame and blame pass through your consciousness. This situation will pass, and ultimately NOW is the time to begin to plan what your life and career may look like in the future.
Although it’s not fun to face up to, now is also the time to do a bit of financial planning. You need to understand where you are financially, so you can plan out the next steps you need to take.
You should start by assessing any payouts you’re going to receive (severance, wages in lieu of notice, continuation of benefits) as well as any assistance available to you (such as Employment Insurance and Outplacement Services).
Additionally, you need to weed through the details of the litany of new Government COVID-19 programs to see which ones you may qualify for. Once you have a clear picture of where you are, you can plan out the next steps you need to take in terms of your job search.
Although it’ll be stressful, you’ll likely feel better knowing exactly what’s going on with you from a financial perspective. Even if you’re not in the best financial shape, it’s still better to know where you’re at and prepare ahead of time rather than potentially worsen your financial situation.
#2 – Avoid Negativity
It’s easy to start focusing on the negatives of the situation, especially when we’re facing an unprecedented situation like we are today!
Usually, a strategy about avoiding negative thinking starts with “avoiding negative people”. While this may now seem easy given our new reality of self-isolation, ultimately the stress and anxiety of your loved ones will be something you need to contend with (in addition to your own stresses about the situation!)
Remember, this situation is only your current reality: it will pass. As you undoubtedly will have more time on your hands, now is the time to read that book on meditation you have been putting off or, for the artistically inclined, pick up that brush, sewing needle, or cookware and get to work! You need to put your mind to some productive use and calm those negative thoughts on a daily basis.
#3 – Avoid Becoming Isolated (No, I’m not kidding)
Now, I almost had to laugh at the irony of this point. I was thinking about rewording it, but I actually left it as is because I wanted to draw attention to this point even more.
Although you’re required to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now – you still need to avoid isolating yourself emotionally and socially, which is entirely different from being physically isolated.
What does this mean? Well, when people go through a layoff, they experience a range of emotions as mentioned in the first point. And sometimes people really just feel like shutting down and disappearing from the world. While this is okay for a bit, if you become too isolated, it can make it more challenging for you to break into job search mode again.
So how do avoid becoming isolated when you are literally REQUIRED to isolate yourself for the foreseeable future?
First, reach out to your family and friends. They are likely experiencing similar yet different emotions at this time. You may be stressed about the money in your bank account, but your lonely grandmother could be feeling incredibly alone, worrying about her own health, and at the same time, fretting about her whole family. Reach out to her by phone! Video-chat with your friends, go outside where appropriate respecting all the social distancing guidelines, hug your pet, water those plants. The more connections you have at this time, the easier it will be to get through this trying time. And the added bonus – you will significantly improve the mood and well being of others!
#4 – Get Working on your ONLINE job search strategy
Let’s be honest – job searches were mostly online before COVID-19. But this crisis will now force everyone to up their game when it comes to searching for a job online. Here’s what you need to do to get up to speed:
Update (or create) Your LinkedIn Profile
If you don’t have a LinkedIn Profile, you need to sign up now. In a situation where we’re dealing with social distancing and self-isolation, the online job search will be more critical than ever. If you have a LinkedIn Profile but you don’t use it, get started right away. Make sure your profile is fully complete, especially the Summary and Headline sections. You should also ensure that the profile contains relevant descriptions for all your positions. You also need to have a professional profile picture. These factors are very important for enhancing the visibility of your profile.
Learn to Network Remotely
You need to start getting comfortable with networking online rather than in-person. This will mean reaching out to connect with people you know and people you don’t know. To make it easier, start with the people you know! If you don’t have many connections, start expanding your network and connecting with former colleagues and friends. You can also ask colleagues to write recommendations on your LinkedIn Profile before you leave your current job. You can learn how to effectively engage with the platform through LinkedIn’s online resources.
Make Sure Your Resume is ATS Compatible
The other aspect of moving your job search online is to make sure your resume is compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which are automated software systems employers use to scan resumes for specific keywords and rank the candidates accordingly. If you haven’t searched for a job in awhile, your old resume might not be in an optimal format and could be incompatible with these systems. Do some research online – there is a lot of information available about how to update your resume effectively in terms of content and format.
It also may be helpful to engage a professional to help you plan your next steps. If you were laid off, you might have career services as part of an outplacement package so be sure to look into that. And if not, it may be helpful to engage a Professional Career Coach.
While spending ANY money may not seem like a priority in these trying times, remember that this current reality will pass and maybe, just maybe this is the opportunity you needed to push you FORWARD in your career. I offer Resume writing (including LinkedIn profiles), Career Coaching, Career Assessments and Interview Coaching. I am here for you when you are ready to move forward.
Now take a deep breath, relax and see your future self in the post COVID-19 world.