Looking for a job when you can't leave your house and the economy is halted may seem like a contradiction. But surprisingly, there are a few ways you can continue your job search during lockdown. Whether you were looking for a new job before COVID-19, need a new job due to layoffs or cutbacks, or are planning your first-ever job search after graduation next month, here are five strategies you can employ now that will put you ahead of other job seekers when the world opens up again:
1. Decide what's important. When considering what your next job should be, think about what you really want. Is it more pay? More challenging work? A better culture fit? You might know the answer instinctively, but if you don't, take some time to think it through. Write down what you like about your career so far, what you haven't liked, what interests you, and what skills you have. As you write, look for patterns and truths that may not have been apparent before. Are there skills you're sick of using? Do you need to develop a new skill to get into a field that interests you more? Do you love your work but hate your boss? Make a list of the criteria your next job should ideally have, understanding that no job is perfect. Use this to guide your search.
2. Narrow your targets. While you might be open to taking any job that will pay you, you'll actually have an easier time getting hired if you set specific targets for your next role. Make a list of 10-15 companies that match the criteria you selected (or up to 5 types of shows, if you're looking for production roles). Think about what drew you to the industry in the first place and what drives your passion and look for companies that match that. Is there a specific genre or type of content you're into? What do you watch, and how closely do you want your work to relate to your pleasure viewing? Do you have a secondary interest like social justice, politics, marketing, research, criminal justice, education, etc. that you could potentially explore with the right firm? Let this information drive your approach -- it's good to be selective!
3. Build your network. Comb through your LinkedIn and alumni networks to see who you know who either works at your target companies or can introduce you to someone who does. Set up Google and LinkedIn alerts for those companies' job boards, so you'll get pinged when they are hiring. Tell everyone you know that you're focusing your job search on a specific company or type of organization -- slip it into Zoom happy hours or email closer friends. It's a lot easier for people to help you when you give them a specific request, like, "Do you know anyone who works at Hulu in development?" as opposed to "I'd love to be a development coordinator." One begets a "Yes, I'd be happy to connect you," while the other is met with "Cool, I'll keep an ear to the ground." You may not be able to set meetings just yet, but it's good to have a list of targets ready to go for when you're able to get back to in-person networking.
4. Prepare strong application materials. You'll want to apply for jobs as soon as they're posted, especially as the market grows more competitive. Make sure your resume is up-to-date and that it's telling the right story. Look at some job postings in your chosen field, even if they're outdated, and select relevant keywords to include. Since you'll be doing a lot of networking to get your resume into the right hands, you'll also want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, that your summary is up to date and indicates what you're looking for, and that all your jobs match your resume. Of course, we're here to help with this portion of your job search if you want a hand!
5. Practice your interview skills. The best time to prepare for an interview is when you don't have the pressure of one the next day! Now's a great time to develop strong answers to common interview questions, including perfecting short anecdotes you can share to illustrate your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and accomplishments. Practice your answers out loud in the shower, or even ask the people you're isolating with if they'd be open to conducting a mock interview (People are bored! They really might be willing!). We're also available for virtual mock interviews if you need more extensive feedback.
Most importantly, don't stress about finding a job right now. If you need to focus on the more immediate future, these strategies can still be implemented post-lockdown (and we're proof that they have been!). Whenever you do decide to look for a job, keep in mind that a targeted and strategic approach is always better than applying to 50 jobs a day and hoping for a call.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
This is a guest blog post from our content partner, Backstage.
The majority of creative people I coach start their careers or businesses while working a second “survival” job. A survival job helps pay the bills as you work on developing your acting, singing, or another creative career. Honestly, I prefer the term “freedom job” because when you find the right one, that’s what it provides: the freedom to fulfill your creative function on this planet. However, if your job is inflexible, financially incompatible, or sucking all your energy, something’s gotta give.
It’s possible to take giant steps toward your creativity and your career while working a freedom job, so it’s worth spending the time to find a good one and work with your employer to make it the best it can be. Remember, your experience coming up as a creative person has trained you to be both personable and professional, making you a great catch for any employer.
You can thrive at your survival job. Here’s how:
1. Communicate with your boss.
If you’re unhappy at your money gig, take a moment to get really clear about what is dragging you down. First, determine which sucky issue you’re dealing with and then simply go to your boss and ask if there’s any way to address it. You must do a clear-headed, mature, searching, and fearless inventory of your “work-self” before making this ask. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers: Are you good at your job? Are you always on time? Do you uplift the energy? Do you contribute to the efficiency by creating an atmosphere of problem-solving? Do you make your boss’s life easier? If you answered yes to all of these, it’s a done deal. Go make the ask!
If your boss is open to getting creative to make your work, well, work then fantastic! Get specific about how you’ll be able to serve her better when the job better serves your life. If she says no, also fantastic. You have the answer you need. Now you have to get serious and emotionally sober with yourself and decide your next move.
2. Your freedom job probably won’t be in your chosen creative field, and that’s totally OK.
Don’t feel bad if your freedom job is in a different field. These jobs take all kinds of forms. You need to earn a living. Financial security breeds spacious, creative thinking and allows you to show up for classes, interviews, auditions, and writing sessions feeling confident, stimulated, and inspired.
3. Start measuring success with a new quotient that’s not financial.
You’re probably already doing this! Remember that independent film you produced just for the experience? If that very same unpaid student film got into the Tribeca Film Festival, I think you’d be pretty fulfilled regardless of the fact that you didn’t make a dime. You need to be aware of your finances, but don’t let money blind you to other successes.
4. Don’t let your freedom job consume you.
If you can get it together to clock-in on time and smell good for your Saturday night bartending shift, then you can work on your web series or creative portfolio for three hours on your day off. Don’t forget why you decided to take this job in the first place!
Find yourself a freedom job -- or celebrate the one you’ve got -- that allows you to make some money, stay focused, and pursue your calling. Honor the very human desire to pay your rent each month and take the occasional vacation!