Feeling uncertain about the future of your job search in light of the coronavirus? Ease some of your stress with these tips.

As the days tick by, there's an increasing amount of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the novel coronavirus. Each morning we wake up to more breaking news updates, more reported cases, more stay-at-home orders, more market volatility, and more jobs lost. It's difficult to feel optimistic during these times, but it's important to stay motivated and proactive, particularly when it comes to employment.

Whether you've recently become unemployed, you're in the middle of the job search, or you're hanging onto your current job for dear life, here's what you need to know to get through these next few months.

What to do if you've been laid off

If you've recently become unemployed, you're not alone. At the end of March, unemployment numbers soared, and states have become overwhelmed with unemployment claims.

A $2 trillion relief bill was recently signed into law to help keep individuals afloat. Not only will many Americans receive a check payment, but the bill also beefs up unemployment benefits, broadening eligibility and adding an extra $600 to the base amount a worker receives from the state for the next four months. 

The bill also adds on an extra 13 weeks of unemployment insurance. It's worth noting this isn't just for those who've been laid off: Gig workers and freelancers who've been affected can also qualify.

The specifics vary by state so visit your state's Department of Labor website to check out the details and apply for unemployment, if needed. The U.S. Department of Labor also provides additional details. Above all, it's more important now than ever to know your rights as an employee.

Still employed? How to prepare for an uncertain future

If you're still employed, you're probably feeling thankful — and perhaps a bit wary. The best thing you can do right now is to rock that remote work life. Keep chugging along and proving your worth, and do your best to stay focused while navigating the distractions that working from home can throw at you.

If you can't calm your nerves and just have a bad feeling about the future of your company, it might help ease your mind to take some productive, just-in-case steps. Taking matters into your own hands can make you feel more in control and empowered.

The first thing you can do is take steps to prepare for a layoff. It never hurts to brush up your resume and start your job search. If a layoff does happen at your company, you'll be ready to hit the ground running. If it doesn't, then no harm. You'll at least be able to soothe a few of your worries by knowing you're prepared. You can also take these steps to recession-proof your career: update your resume, continue to build your skill set, manage your online presence, and start networking.

The key is to be realistic and prepared — not panicked.

How to start (or continue) your job search

If you've recently lost your job, or you were already in the throes of a job search pre-coronavirus, it's important to keep going. There are still companies out there hiring, so as difficult as it is, try to stay optimistic. Use these tips to help you navigate your job search during this pandemic:

Update your resume

First thing's first: If you haven't already, it's time to update your resume. Include your recent work experience and update your skills section. If it's been awhile, you might still have an objective statement — delete that. You'll want to replace it with a professional summary

Also, don't feel obligated to include every single job you've ever had. Include what's most recent and relevant and forget the rest. If you want resume feedback — or even a total rewrite — you can always work with a professional resume writer.

Embrace virtual networking

At this point, many Americans are living under stay-at-home orders, and even if you're not, you're probably staying at home as much as possible. That's good — that's what you should be doing — but it can make networking seem quite impossible. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to network virtually.

First, you'll want to update your LinkedIn profile. Spend time making connections, setting up job-search alerts, and making yourself easy to find by using keywords. You'll also want to make yourself available by selecting “open to job opportunities” in your profile, and update your current title to include “Seeking New Opportunities,” so recruiters and employers will know you're available for work.

Second, consider recruiting a personal board of advisers. A personal board of advisers is basically a group of mentors you can turn to when you have questions, face difficult decisions, or need career advice. These are professionals who can help shape your approach to various situations, including getting laid off and unemployment. If you haven't connected with any of your mentors lately, now's a good time. Schedule a short video call to check in, catch up, and discuss the future of your industry.

Keep your eyes peeled for new opportunities

As you start (or continue) your job search, take a few steps to set yourself up for success. Start by determining your go-to job-search websites, and if you're on your phone more often, you might want to download a couple of job-search apps. To cut out unnecessary noise and clutter, pick two to three of your favorites and leave the rest.

Next, set up job alerts. Many of these websites and apps allow you to subscribe to daily emails. Instead of visiting each site each day and combing through pages and pages of listings, you'll simply get an email with the newest listings tailored to your search.

Once you find a job to apply to, you'll want to customize your resume. Carefully review the job description, noting any important or prevalent keywords. Then, create a copy of your “master” resume (the one you so beautifully updated) and work these keywords into your professional summary and skills section. You can also highlight any additional relevant experiences or achievements.

You'll also want to take some time to do your homework on each company. Try not to feel panicked and jump at your first job opportunity; you still want to find a good fit. Do some quick research into the company and its culture, as well as its track record. You don't want to waste your time or energy applying to jobs that aren't a good fit, and this is an easy way to wade through some of the clutter out there.

During this time, you can also approach your job search from another direction. Instead of searching for positions by title, you might want to search for positions by company. Believe it or not, companies are still hiring during this time, including Army National Guard, Amazon, Lowe's, HCA Healthcare, Intuit, and Whole Foods. If you want to expand your search, think about the companies offering products and services that are in demand right now, including food and meal delivery, groceries, and medical services.

Don't be afraid to look for short-term options

If you can't find jobs that feel like a good fit, you might want to look at some short-term options — which could mean looking for jobs outside your current profession.

Jeff Berger, founder of Talent Inc., recently shared his advice with Fast Company

“No one will penalize you for taking a job outside of your field or career path for a little while. They'll understand and it may even make you more marketable when the crisis is over.” Hey, you might even find an exciting new opportunity you'd never pursue before.

When exploring your short-term options, look for work-from-home or telecommuting opportunities. Chances are, we have at least several more weeks at home, and these jobs are typically location-independent so it doesn't matter where you live.

You could also start up a freelance business. Can you offer small-businesses consulting? Pitch your writing, editing, or design services to online publications? You could even create and sell an online course or e-book.

Be prepared for virtual interviews

If you get a job interview in the next couple of months, chances are it'll be virtual. If you're not used to them, a virtual interview can feel more nerve-racking than an in-person interview. But not to worry: You'll feel more prepared if you simply practice. Ask a friend or family member to get on a video chat with you, and make sure you feel comfortable using the video program, that your internet is strong, and that your equipment is reliable.

You can also use this opportunity to check your settings: What's in the background? How's the lighting? Is the room quiet? Make sure your surroundings are clean, simple, and appropriate, and that you're not backlit by a window or lamp. As you go through a few practice questions, focus on maintaining eye contact (look at the camera, not the screen) and make sure your attire translates well on screen.

How to stay productive and keep your momentum

Many of us are navigating these uncertain times from home, and that can be difficult — especially if you have kids. Plus, with the 24-hour news cycle, it's nearly impossible not to get trapped scrolling through the latest doom-and-gloom headlines. If you're having trouble staying focused and productive, implement these simple tips into your job-search process:

  • Make a morning to-do list: With so many distractions, it's easy to lose focus, but hold yourself accountable with a to-do list. Just make sure it's realistic. As you accomplish each item, it'll feel good to check it off.

  • Designate a time (and space) for your job search: Block out a couple of hours each day to help you stay focused.

  • Hide your phone or mute its notifications: It might sound silly, but our phones can be a huge distraction. During your designated job-search time, put your phone on do not disturb. If you need to be available for an emergency, adjust your do not disturb settings on your phone so certain callers can get through.

And don't forget to think outside of the process of simply searching and applying for jobs. You can also use this time at home to “upskill.” There are a ton of online platforms that'll help you learn a new skill. Some, including Udemy, Masterclass, and Coursera, are offering discounted or even free classes right now. Several universities are also offering free online college courses. If you're not sure what you want to learn, consider the top professional skills employers seek and the most important skills to develop in 2020.

Above all: Try to stay positive because this too shall pass

When you're feeling anxious and like everything's out of control, focus on what you can control. You have no idea what tomorrow's headlines and news will bring, so try to focus on “now” and doing what you can to prepare.

“While you cannot control how this virus has affected individuals and the job market, you can take action,” Berger wrote. “When you understand what's changing, you have the opportunity to better manage your own outcome.”

Berger added: “Think about what you can do today, or during the next 30, 60, and 90 days. This is not about forever, it's about right now.”

Remind yourself: This is only temporary, and this too shall pass.

TopResume is here to support you. If the COVID-19 pandemic pushes you to search for a new job, get a free resume critique for expert feedback.

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