Are you underemployed at the moment? If so, you’re not alone. Thanks to the global pandemic, many who are usually gainfully employed may find themselves out of a job or working in a position outside their desired career path.
Here’s how to navigate a pandemic-related career detour and get back on track with your goals.
Letting go of fear
While many industries have adapted to working remotely, a few still have not. While some businesses were able to transition to a remote work environment right away, others have been shuttered permanently. If you work for an organization impacted by the pandemic, you may be nervous taking an in-between job, such as a retail or service position, to make ends meet.
“In normal times, a labor job doesn't indicate a positive progression in one's career,” explains Francine Blume, PhD, assistant vice president for Career Services at UMGC.
She notes that the pandemic is a shared experience across all populations around the world, though, and that 2020 has been extraordinary.
“Employers understand that you have to do what you have to do in times like these,” she says. “There's absolutely no shame in taking one of the jobs that has opened up with the pandemic.”
How to find an in-between job
Even if a vaccine is available soon, there’s no guarantee that all of the jobs that have gone away will come back. If you’re currently in limbo with a position, you may have to make a very personal decision: Take a job temporarily or start fresh with a new employer. If you do decide to look, there is help out there.
Staffing agencies, which used to be called temp agencies, offer many of options for temporary jobs, temporary-to-permanent positions, or permanent positions.
“Job seekers can also look for gig jobs, and not just with Uber or Shopify,” notes Dr. Blume. “Websites like Upwork, Task Rabbit and Fiverr offer options for this category of work.”
An upside of a gig job is that it may leave you free time to continue with your job hunt in your desired field while earning an income.
A cup half full
With the right mindset, you can learn lessons from any job you have, even if the position is one you wouldn’t have expected to need. Consider this an opportunity to learn about a business from the ground up.
“If you've taken an in-between job, keep your eyes and ears open. What are you learning about how the company operates? What are you learning about teamwork? What you are learning about problem solving, because obviously the company is having to adapt to the pandemic?” asks Dr. Blume.
Don’t forget to network at your new gig. Always be thinking about how you can serve and help others, and they will return the favor.
“At UMGC Career Services, we like to talk about strategy and planning and being very purposeful in your career development,” Dr. Blume notes. “But sometimes, serendipity can lead to extraordinary career opportunities. Always be open to what may come next, even as you're planning and implementing your own career strategy.”
Positioning pandemic jobs during a job hunt
When you find yourself looking for a professional position again, you may wonder how to position your temporary job on your resume, in your interview and on LinkedIn.
Both on LinkedIn and on your resume, Dr. Blume recommends using a chronological format with your relevant experience highlighted. Then, in a small section at the end, speak to your other work experience for transparency.
“If someone has taken something after being laid off or during a recession or pandemic, it’s understandable,” she says.
In a cover letter, stick with the tried-and-true approach. Explain why you are a potentially great fit for a certain position and be sure to speak to your relevant skills and experience. Then touch upon all the value you bring to the position and organization.
During the interview, you can briefly mention your short-term work and explain how this can-do attitude will benefit your new role and company.
How to get back on track
Although the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic may seem endless, this, too, shall pass. You want to be ready to hit the ground running when your dream position presents itself. Be sure to keep your skill sharp even if you are working a gig job. Stay engaged with your professional associations, take advantage of any free professional development opportunities and read as much as you can to stay current. Keep your LinkedIn profile active, and don’t forget to reach out to others.
“Networking is really the key. It's not always that who you know will get you a new job, but who you know will tell you about the new openings,” Dr. Blume explains.
And don’t forget your UMGC community.
“UMGC Career Services is here to support you, but if you also attended other universities, access their resources, as well, to tap into an even broader network,” she adds. “Definitely tap into the alumni community. These are people who know what an outstanding education you received and know that you have grit, problem-solving skills, maturity and great time management to accomplish your professional goals.”
For more information on UMGC’s Career Services, log into CareerQuest to access career tool and resources, events, job and internship postings, and so much more.