By Jason Alba
Before you think I’m an expert in the history of pandemics (check out this great infographic for a visual of pandemic history), I’ll admit that I’ve never experienced anything like what we are going through today. The world seems to be at a standstill with no more eating inside restaurants, all conferences postponed… even the Olympics have been moved.
Job panic in the pandemic
At first it seemed the biggest problem we’d face was getting toilet paper. Don’t get me wrong, not having ready access to toilet paper could be catastrophic. As time passes it seems that, without discounting the tragedy of illness and death, we are looking at economic crises that no one living has experienced. I’m seeing a lot of fear, panic and a lack of focus.
The first week people started working from home en masse, the comments I saw and heard were that people just didn’t know what to do. Routines were rattled and people wondered what this would mean for their jobs. Recruiters have been talking about hiring freezes. Recruiters, by the way, are like a canary in the proverbial coal mine when it comes to the economy.
Opportunities in the pandemic
Even then, with the confusion and major changes to life and work, some businesses are continuing with as much force as they had B.C. (Before Coronavirus). Some companies, such as delivery, shipping, and manufacturing, have announced massive hiring needs. Of course, these aren’t all executive jobs, or senior management jobs, but if a company is about to bring on thousands of new employees, they’ll have management and leadership needs they might not have had before.
I work with a Saas (Software as a service) company that is continuing to grow, close deals, and see expansion with current customers. The business success they are seeing isn’t related to current events. Rather, business must continue, and businesses continue to invest in growth and other initiatives. Businesses are even investing in employees. While you probably see hiring freezes in some companies, surely there are other companies that have their normal needs, or will have new needs. This becomes your opportunity.
Job search in the pandemic
Here’s what I know about the job search during this time: While some things will be different, other things will very much remain the same — especially what works. The pandemic makes it necessary to do more of what we know works best.
Networking will be more important. Jobs have always been filled based on trust and relationships. People hire who they know, or who is referred to them, or who somehow ends up on the radar. Networking doesn’t have to happen in person, though. When you think about networking as relationship building more than as a superficial exercise, you’ll find your networking efforts are more focused and effective.
Talking to the right person will be more important. I was talking to a colleague during a sales conversation and he stressed that we were not pitching to the right person. Our conversation was not even with a gatekeeper. While the other person was eager to hear what we had to say, they were neither an influencer nor a decision-maker. It was then I realized that talking to people was great, but talking to the right people was more important. This is as true in sales as it is in the job search.
Having the right conversations is even more critical. When you talk to the right people, make sure you have the right conversation. The conversation with a gatekeeper is different than the conversation with a decision-maker. In the job search you will talk to plenty of people who are not hiring managers, but they might help you network with hiring managers. Make sure you know which conversations to have with which contacts.
Follow-up is more essential. Unfortunately, networking in the job search means meeting a lot of new people, online, at networking events, or in outdoor venues when society opens back up. Meeting new people is important but it’s not enough. You must follow up. Not having a follow-up strategy is an indication you really don’t understand networking. As I mentioned, networking is about relationships, and you don’t form professional relationships with just one conversation. We need to have multiple conversations, and follow-up is a big part of that.
These have been the basics of job search for decades. Unfortunately, for many years job seekers have relied on job boards to do most of their work. Why network when you can almost anonymously upload a resume, without talking to humans? For introverts, this was like a dream come true. For everyone else, we felt forced to do job search that way, lest all the good jobs were posted and filled with job-board applicants.
The truth is, plenty of jobs were found by the principles above. This was true during great economies and horrible economies. Even while everyone seems to be working from home, who you know and who knows you is as important today as it has ever been. In fact, today it’s more important.
Jason Alba is the CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com, a web-based CRM-like system that organizes and manages a job search and networking. He recently created The Job Search Program, a six-week tutorial framework in which Alba guides a job seeker through planned, daily tasks necessary to land a job.