I got a new job while I was sick with COVID-19, and the reason I share that is to give people hope. It’s hard to imagine a bigger negative for a panel interview than fighting a serious lung infection. Now that I’m working, I thought I’d share some ideas on the pandemic job market.
First off, you have the great good fortune of not having to compete against me for a job, because I’m out of the game. Tee here.
Look, it’s important to treat unemployment with a sense of humor. Why? Because if you get sucked into despair and dread, it will give you a different attitude than if you find a way to project confidence and good cheer. Fake it if you have to, but attitude is a bigger determiner for hiring than your resume is.
Always be emitting rays that express, I can help you solve your biggest problems.
As opposed to: I have big problems.
Which is probably true! But money can probably solve many or most of those problems. I love financial problems because they can be solved with money. Problems that cannot be solved with money - like COVID-19 - are, as they say, “the suck.”
During my divorce, I was plagued with a series of unlikely problems. I had no income because I was in the midst of a workers comp case, then the IRS came after me because someone else’s salary was reported under my Social Security number, then I fell down the stairs and broke my tailbone, then the court dismissed my divorce case three times. It was a really annoying year. A year full of lawyers, a year when I earned $1410 and almost all of it went to legal fees.
I started working for money when I was 10 years old, but that was the year that I really learned how to make something out of nothing and figure out how to get by.
Honestly, of course. No matter how bad things are, committing a crime will make it worse. Either you get busted and you lose everything, or you become known to other criminals.
If you want to become financially comfortable, your reputation is quite literally everything. There is an entire different universe available to people with good credit who can pass a criminal background check and get a security clearance. Keep that in mind if you don’t feel like you have much else going for you - you may be drastically undervaluing your clean record.
There are three huge mistakes that we tend to make when we’re unemployed:
Point one: If you’re going to let pessimism control your search, to the point that you’re willing to take a bad job with bad hours and a horrible commute working for a mean boss, then please at least do me one single favor.
Make sure you take that cruddy position in a field that you want to know more about.
My family always wanted me to learn a trade, and by that they meant a blue-collar job such as an electrician. I do have a trade, except the collar is pink instead of blue. With basic secretarial skills, I can get a job in any industry anywhere in the world. If I wanted to, I could use my skills to get an entry-level position in law or accounting or marketing or interior design or whatever I like.
This is why I feel like I am better equipped than a lot of people to give job search advice. I’ve worked in dozens of fields. As an admin, I also dealt with dozens of job applicants. I even worked in an employment agency for a few months.
I’m buds with a couple of astronauts, a couple of professional athletes, and a few people who run their own restaurants. They’re cool people, but none of them has ever had a normal job!
Point two: the person offering you advice may be rich, may be brilliant, and also may know nothing whatsoever about how to get you the job you actually want. You’re better off Googling your field and reading blogs by people who do that type of work.
(And if they’re as broke as you, then why are you listening to them??)
Point three: about the job search. I’m working with a few people who are down on their luck right now, and not once has one of them actually beat me to something I suggested that they do. The default is to take several days to apply for something when someone brings it to their attention, then spend the rest of the time worrying.
Eight hours a day, five days a week is the minimum. That means researching your field and it means going directly to the source (the company where you want to work) and it means writing as many separate, targeted versions of your resume as necessary.
If you raise money for one single thing, let it be to pay a professional to go over your resume with you. Sell stuff if you have to. I paid a consultant to go over mine with me, and it got me almost 50% more than I made at my last job. I also got hired for only the third position I applied for.
This brings up another point, which is: multiple streams of income. This is what poor and rich people have in common, that middle class people do not. Don’t expect to pay all your expenses through a single source.
If you need a thousand dollars, you can do it several ways:
Earn a thousand dollars from one job;
Earn $500 from two sources;
Earn $250 from four sources;
Earn $100 from ten sources;
Any other variation you can think of.
The basic strategies are to work for someone else or work for yourself. If you’re working for someone else, pick something that tends to survive financial downturns and then make yourself indispensable. If you’re working for yourself, are you selling to broke people or rich people? I can sell something that costs $1 to almost anyone. If I’m selling to rich people, I want to charge as much as I can get away with or they’ll think I’m incompetent.
These are the areas where I would be looking, if I were unemployed right now:
COVID-centric jobs. Anything medical. Contact tracing. Insurance and medical billing. Online universities and tutoring services. Collections agencies and repo. Biohazard cleanup. Real estate and auctions. Bankruptcy and payday lending. Mortuaries and funeral homes. This stuff is depressing but it can’t be argued that someone will pay for it to get done.
Side hustles: You probably want to avoid the traditional stuff, like delivery and ride-share, cleaning, babysitting, or dog-walking because you want to avoid physical contact with people, right? I would look to offering services online to people who are housebound. Is there anything at all you can teach, especially to bored kids? Are you good at something like interior design, makeup, or styling? Can you tutor? Do you have something unique you can do on camera, like sock puppets, that someone might pay for you to do to entertain their kids?
Think for the future. Whatever you wind up doing, it’s for the short term. Think about what you want to be doing five years from now. Not what you think you can do with your current resume, but what actually appeals to you. Five years is plenty of time to train for it, whatever that is.
Keep in mind that when times are hard, you have very little to lose. That makes it a much better time to take risks! Scarcity thinking will make you want to contract and pull in your energies and aim lower, but that’s the biggest risk of all. Aim high - there’s less competition up there.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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