This article was named a top job search blog post for 2020 by JobMob.co.il. It was originally posted here
By Jeremy Schifeling
“What do I do now???”
As a former career coach, I’m getting this question everyday from anxious job-seekers.
And I totally get it. With each hour bringing gloomier headlines, it’s easy to feel paralyzed by the pandemic.
But it doesn’t have to be that way…
Because the #1 psychological advantage of successful job-seekers is that they feel empowered to control their career destinies.
This internal locus of control means that, no matter what the world throws at them, they retain the agency to chart their own course. And so when others surrender to the winds of fate, these job-seekers persist — and ultimately win out.
So how do you stay in control when everything is out control?
The key to retaining control is knowledge.
Whereas job-seekers with an external locus of control see the future as essentially unknowable, job-seekers who take charge of their destinies recognize that certain future outcomes are vastly more likely — and then build a solid plan around those likelihoods.
OK, so what’s most likely to happen next?
To identify the most likely ways the pandemic will change job searching, it’s important to establish a logical chain from what’s happening right now to what will happen months from now. Because without that step-by-step logic, we’d just be shooting in the dark!
Another way to think about this domino-like chain of events is through the lens of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Order Effects — i.e., how does one effect today lead to a different effect tomorrow?
What’s the pandemic’s 1st Order Effect on job searching?
This is the easiest effect to predict since it’s happening already — the massive layoffs of millions of workers in the most affected industries (travel, hospitality, etc.).
But here’s some less obvious news: There were actually over 1,000,000 jobs posted in the US last week.
This may seem surprising, given all the bad news hurtling our way. But it makes total sense once you understand how hiring really works.
That’s because, in order to post a job at most organizations:
A hiring manager needs to have a burning need (i.e., they probably could have used someone 6 months ago but now things are so bad that the pain of hiring is outweighed by the pain of the empty role)
They’ve had to go to their own boss and maybe even an executive-level committee to get permission to hire
They’ve had to get a recruiter to agree to support their search (which is no easy feat, given how busy recruiters have been in the past 10 years)
And so, with all of those hoops jumped through, hiring managers aren’t about to give up just because things are uncertain. Instead, the endowment effect of having invested so much in the process already will keep hiring alive for at least a little while longer.
That’s great! So nothing to worry about now?
Well, there are two things to consider:
If you need a new job, now is absolutely the time to apply. Just because there are lots of jobs on offer today, doesn’t mean the same will be true a month from now (more on that in 2nd Order Effects).
Sure, there are lots of jobs still out there — but now you’re going to have to interview virtually to get them.
And while #2 may seem like a small price to pay to weather this storm, it’s not one that most job-seekers have fully thought out. Because as someone who’s done dozens of video interviews on both sides of the hiring table, there are three big mistakes almost everyone makes.
What are the biggest video interview mistakes?
Although everyone focuses on the technical challenges (and yes, be sure to practice using Zoom, Webex, etc. ahead of time), the biggest video interview mistakes actually have more to do with mistaken human assumptions:
Candidates assume video body language is the same as in-person body language. Just because you have your webcam on, doesn’t mean you look the same as you would face-to-face. In particular, everything about your appearance on a flat screen comes across as, well, flat. So just like an actor projects extra energy to reach the cheap seats, I recommend you amp up your natural body language (leaning in, smiling broadly, using hand gestures for punctuation) to cross the digital chasm.
Candidates assume video time is the same as in-person time. When you’re face-to-face with your interviewer in a small conference room, you’ve got their full attention — and hence, the luxury of telling deep stories. But the same is absolutely not true online — just think of all the Slack messages, emails, and Facebook notifications that pop-up on your screen in a given hour. So to make the most of your interviewer’s limited digital attention span, you’ve got to hone your stories to the three most important points (e.g., the challenge, the solution, and the result), outline these points up-front (“There are three reasons I’m excited about this opportunity…”), and then stay concise (ideally, two minutes or fewer per answer).
Candidates assume video limitations are the same as in-person limitations. While video interviews can feel inferior to on-site ones, there is one big advantage: You have an on-demand, unlimited visual portfolio at your disposal. In other words, why just tell your interviewer about your awesome project when you can show it? Since people are generally better at processing visual information than auditory details, having several examples of your work ready to show can make a significantly more lasting impact — you just need to be comfortable with sharing your screen!
And lest you think that the above recommendations are just nice-to-haves, always remember that humans make decisions about each other based on two simple perceptions:
Do you seem competent?
Do you seem warm?
So body language, concision, and visuals all play a huge part of shaping those perceptions — especially when interviewers don’t have an in-person encounter to go on!
Finally, to make sure that all of these factors are on-point, record yourself ahead of time using LinkedIn’s new video interview feature. And then get feedback from your network on those two critical dimensions (Did I seem competent/like I could do the job? + Did I seem warm/like you’d want to do the job with me?) so that you’re ready for primetime.
But what if I’m not ready to search today? What are the 2nd Order Effects?
While hiring is still robust at this very moment, it’s also already unequal.
For example, of those 1,000,000+ new jobs, there are vastly more in, say, Project Management than in Cruise Directing:
And because of the incredibly linked nature of our economy, you can imagine how the 1st Order Effect on the latter function quickly becomes a 2nd Order Effect on the former:
As Cruise Directors are laid off, they no longer have the disposable income to invest in a brand-new Google Stadia video game system
As their former employers start to shutdown, they no longer have the revenue to invest in Google Ads
And so hit from both B2C and B2B angles, even a blue-chip firm like Google will have no choice but to cut back its previously robust hiring.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what’s happening across firms as diverse as Adobe and Adidas — even with seemingly no direct connection to the pandemic:
So if I want to start searching in a month or two, what should I do?
Given the expected reduction in job postings and the massive increase in applicants (as layoffs roll through the economy), job searching later this spring or summer will mean facing a much more competitive talent pool.
And given that 90-99% of all candidates are ruled out at the application phase (i.e., they never receive an interview), increasing your odds at this first stage is your single greatest point of leverage.
So that means finding a way around the recruiter who stands between you and an interview:
1) By de-risking your candidacy. For a recruiter, the easiest reason to reject you is because you seem risky — maybe you’re not perfectly aligned with their role, maybe you don’t have lots of obvious experience, maybe he/she just isn’t familiar with the places you’ve worked. And while you can work on shoring all of those up on LinkedIn and your resume, the single fastest way to de-risk your candidacy is to get an insider to go to bat for you. Sure enough, referred candidates are 10X more likely to get the job, so if you do nothing else to improve your odds this year, get a referral.
2) By going straight to the hiring manager. But let’s say it’s now July 2020 and there are 1,000 candidates applying for each job. Even if just 7% of them get a referral as the stats above suggest, that’s still 70 referred candidates — far too many to interview. So if you want to increase your odds even further, consider going the extra step and making your case straight to the hiring manager. Unlike the recruiter, the hiring manager bears all the consequences of the new hire, so he/she has a very strong incentive to connect with awesome talent. And using my LinkedIn hack, you can now identify and engage the very hiring managers who welcome your outreach.
So even though the labor market may look daunting this year, remember that where you place the locus of control is still up to you. Because no matter the odds, you can always take those 1-2 extra steps to stand out and keep your career destiny in your hands.
What about after this is all over? What should I focus on this fall or next year?
While the toughest prediction of all is the exact date when the pandemic will recede, the precise timing is actually relatively unimportant to long-term career strategy.
That’s because whether things slowly revert to normal this summer or whether the first vaccine isn’t rolled out until next summer, some of the 3rd Order Effects of the crisis are already starting to become clear.
To understand this connection, we need only look at the way that previous crises continued to shape our lives years after the initial threat subsided:
The need for durable, inexpensive clothing during the Great Depression gave rise to the first synthetic fabrics, which are still firmly embedded in our collective wardrobes
World War II food shortages led to the rise of commercial frozen foods, which then became a staple of American households after the war
And the Great Recession gave rise to the gig economy, as workers looked for more immediate and flexible employment opportunities amidst all the chaos — a trend that continued long after the formal recession ended
So what will the 3rd Order Effects of the pandemic look like?
If the 1st Order Effect was layoffs and shutdowns in directly-related industries (travel, dining, live entertainment) and the 2nd Order Effect is rolling hiring freezes across the rest of the economy, the 3rd Order Effect will speak to what’s left standing after the crisis has wreaked its havoc.
And so just like with the now-permanent changes wrought by former crises, it’s clear that certain changes taking place today won’t be easily given up:
If you’ve tried grocery delivery for the first time and found it surprisingly convenient, how eager will you be to get back in your car, drive 20 minutes, and spend an hour shopping after the crisis is over?
If you’ve started working from the home for the first time and found it surprisingly easy, how eager will you be to get back on the highway, drive for an hour, and then do it all over again after the crisis is over?
If you’ve subscribed to a streaming service for the first time at $10/month and found it surprisingly affordable, how eager will you be to head back to the theater, drop $15 on a ticket, and $20 on popcorn?
And what do all these changes have in common?
They all favor the tech industry.
So given that the pandemic represents an all-out assault on our physical lives — in-person meetings, brick-and-mortar stores, etc., its greatest 3rd Order Effect will be an acceleration of existing trends towards more digital living.
What does that mean for my career?
Even if you’re not looking for a job today, this accelerating trend means you may want to keep your eye on the tech industry for future opportunities.
Because, to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, you always want to skate where the puck is going, not just where it’s been.
And so if you can imagine a world where Amazon is the largest grocer, Zoom is the primary facilitator of work meetings, and Netflix is the dominant way people watch movies, you may want to consider the many roles at firms like these — and which ones are right for you:
So start reaching out to alumni who work in the roles that most intrigue you. Because if there ever was a time when you could count on others to be waiting at home and happy to do a video chat, well, now is that time!
And that way, when the crisis does recede and the future is here, you’ll be ready to seize it.
Woah — that’s a lot to think about. What should I focus on?
Thanks for joining me on this exploration of what the future holds. I know things feel incredibly uncertain at the moment — and that the immediate horizon looks bleak.
But if you take away only one lesson, it’s that no matter how dark things get for the world as a whole, you always retain an incredible superpower: The ability to change your own future.
Whether that’s by accelerating your timeline, building a human connection via video, taking an extra step to stand out, or pivoting your focus to where the future is headed, all those tools are firmly within your reach.
I wish you well on the adventure ahead.