The Post-Pandemic Job Hunt: How To Find What You Really Want
Last year’s COVID crisis was a catalyst for profound political, economic, and even personal change around the world. The isolation brought on by lockdowns, remote work, or even job losses was eye-opening for many: people realized they were discontent and struggled to find meaning in such troublesome times. It goes without saying that the pandemic was devastating on many levels, but it also became a time of serious reflection.
What you wanted before the pandemic was likely one of the many changes you encountered last year. Whether you realize it or not, you entered 2021 a new person whose professional n
eeds, goals, and values have shifted. It makes sense, considering how the workforce itself had to adjust with remote work, loss of business, and the anticipated high turnover rate, what has now been termed the “turnover tsunami.”
We’re now cautiously optimistic as we head toward a post-pandemic world, with the U.S. job market beginning to re-stabilize while simultaneously preparing to see an enormous number of workers and laborers looking for new work. According to this recent Prudential study, 26% of American workers will be job hunting this year, and other studies estimate that that number will be closer to half. If you’re one of them, now is the time to figure out who you are in a post-pandemic world, what you really want moving forward, and how to get it.
Preparing for the Job Search
What kind of culture do you want to work in now? What kind of leader do you want to be? Alternatively, what style of management do you thrive under? These are just a few of the many questions you will be asking yourself during this time. However, the pandemic crisis was a time of great upheaval, forcing everyone to react immediately to things that couldn’t be controlled.
It might feel hard to take a break right now, but it’s important not to respond to unemployment, underemployment, or change in a rushed fashion. Take a step back and take some time to really think through your next steps and come up with a smart strategy. This is especially crucial if you are currently employed but are considering new employment. Taking a moment to self-reflect might be the difference in whether you find an impactful, supportive environment to work in moving forward or if you find yourself in another search at this same time next year.
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Gain Clarity: What’s Working, and What’s Not?
Your first impulse may be to ask yourself what you enjoy, what challenges you, what you want out of a career… but that can be challenging. Sometimes you simply don’t know yet what works best for you. It might help you to start by writing out what doesn’t work for you first. If you are currently employed, what are the reasons you are now considering a career change? Is the current style of management incompatible with the kind of worker you are? Are there not enough opportunities offered to help you develop professionally? Is the work culture outdated, or not inclusive?You can ask yourself these questions, too, if you’re unemployed. If your departure was voluntary, reflect on the past and what led you to leave. If you were laid off due to the pandemic, you can take this moment to reflect positively on the opportunities ahead of you: what will you not miss from your last job?
When it’s finally time to start job searching, the answers to these questions will help guide you as you research companies. For example, if your last company was inflexible when it came to paid time off, you can look into organizations that offer unlimited PTO (yes, they exist!). You may also want to read up on the various leadership styles, and be equipped to confidently understand what style works best for you and what style doesn’t.
If you’re not sure on what your next step in your career should be, I’d like to encourage you to ask yourself two questions: “what am I exceptionally skilled at doing” and “what do I love to do?” The intersection of these two is usually a great first step in finding clarity in what your next step should be and will help eliminate options that might not be a good fit for your passion or your skillset.
Assess Your Priorities and Values
In the same way you might write out all the things that haven’t been working for you, it’s also wise to write out what speaks to you when it comes to priorities. What is important to you? This is a loaded question, of course, but it can be quite simple: what do you want to achieve in a career? Perhaps you’ve never held a management position, but you’ve dreamed of being a great leader. Maybe you even know, deep down, that you would make an excellent leader and haven’t yet had the opportunity.
Maybe you will come to find that there are certain benefits that you value, like professional development opportunities or tuition reimbursement. Based on the aforementioned self-reflection, you may have come to realize that there wasn’t enough accountability in your last workplace, and that is now an important value to you. There are many directions to take this in: is risk taking important? Discipline? A work culture that offers employees some fun (like team-building exercises or taking the crew out to an Escape Room)? What kind of creative projects do you value?
Write out anything that comes to mind, even if you aren’t 100% certain that it’s a true priority. You’ll figure that out once you rank your values and priorities from most important to least important.
Pay More Attention to Your Network
Don’t waste time feeling bad for having lost touch with some of your most meaningful contacts. No one has the same social expectations anymore, especially because of the pandemic last year. If you haven’t been active on LinkedIn, it’s time to dust off your profile, update it, and re-activate your network.
Many people find networking uncomfortable or awkward; it can be difficult to ask for help from people. However, more and more, the job search has shifted away from the traditional classified search. In fact, most people now find jobs through “The Hidden Job Market,” social networking, word-of-mouth, and other means of finding employment that don’t involve job listings.
Be confident, but respectful. No one wants to feel like they’re being used, and neediness is not an attractive quality. Show your connections that you truly value them. Work on reconnecting or building a meaningful relationship with them. Ask how they’ve been, what they’ve been working on, what they’re looking forward to, and go from there.
Career Coaches: More Valuable Than You Think
Even if you’ve put your best foot forward, figuring out what you want versus what you need can be difficult, if not daunting. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to figure out where to start. Although a career coach can be an investment, it can be one of the most valuable investments if you make the most out of your relationship with one.Career coaches have been professional leaders and innovative thinkers for many years. What’s more, they will always give you honest, unbiased feedback and insight. Career coaches are well-versed in rejection and how to bounce back and they are most certainly experienced in the job hunt and how to tap into that hidden job market.
The great thing about career coaches, too, is that there are many different kinds of professionals to choose from. Some coaches specialize in personal growth and mindset (and can help you answer those earlier questions). Others specialize in resume building and networking. There are also coaches that specialize in specific industries. The list goes on. A great coach will help you stay accountable to your long term goals and will help you see the opportunities to improve and stand out among your competition. Take time to look through who is available, who you connect with the most, and who can help you achieve your goals, and you will quickly see that it might be the most important investment you’ll ever make.