Wondering how to find a job in a pandemic? Here’s all that you need to do.
It was the eleventh day of the nationwide lockdown in India. There was still no official word (crisis response mail) from my organisation on a work-from-home policy. Or any update in relation to how they were planning to deal with the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times.
I learn that nothing reveals a company’s culture more than a crisis
Most of my friends, family and acquaintances had been asked to work from home since March 15. Or even earlier. While I remember going to work till March 21 and feeling valueless, measly and vexed.
“How can they not value and care for their own people in these testing times?,” was a question all of my fellow colleagues and I were asking ourselves and each other at work.
After a lot of back and forth with the HR (one-on-one hushed discussions), we were ‘allowed’ to work from home beginning March 23 until further notice. With the contention that we would receive only half our salary per day for each day spent working from home. This, along with the fact that we had to beg for our safety, was enough for me to commence my search for a new job.
I experience anxiety for the first time in my life
On the 12th day of the lockdown, I woke up with a weird heaviness in my chest. For someone who had never felt a zilch of anxiety, this was something completely new and intimidating. Wanting this feeling to go away, I made a list of organisations I wished to work at.
The criteria – digital, creative, feminist and in Mumbai.
The list wasn’t so long because of the unique filters I’d added. But it helped me stay focused on the position I was aiming for. For someone whose self-worth stems from her work, this was no less than a mission. And I’d given myself a deadline – July 2020 was the month I would start afresh.
I take the first steps towards finding a new job
I started by giving my resume and cover letter a new avatar using Canva. There were a bunch of free templates to choose from – professional, creative and even outlandish.
So my resume went from looking like this:
Next came keeping a track of vacancies posted on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and websites curated for COVID-19 job updates.
Of course there were little to no vacancies, as most media companies had either frozen their hiring processes or were announcing lay-offs and pay-cuts. While this wasn’t surprising, it was certainly sad and made me feel like a measly candidate trapped in a nightmarish situation. Regardless, I applied to some postings that suited my profile, if not my career goals.
I start networking instead of sulking
A friend suggested I start networking with people already working at places that I wanted to be associated with. This turned out to be a better idea. Instead of sulking around waiting for a call back for the random jobs I’d applied to on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, I actually had something to do.
This move opened some doors for me as my cover letter and openers started getting me active leads.
Leads converted into conversations and in less than a month, I was giving virtual interviews to a few organisations from my list.
Meanwhile, my own organisation wasn’t stepping up to give us clarity on salaries, pay-cuts or a potential leave without pay arrangement. There were rumours floating all around. I didn’t know what to believe. Every mode of communication with the management was blocked. This added to my helplessness. The pressure of getting out and into a new place was increasing monumentally.
I try to stay patient even as nothing materialises
None of the virtual interviews materialised, either I got rejected or the role didn’t satisfy my talent and appetite. But in hindsight, this was happening for the best.
tip: patience and optimism are more helpful than you think. These two values are highly underrated, imbibe them from people around you.
Patience helps you not come across as a desperate candidate (even if you are). And optimism keeps you going through unsuccessful leads. However, there’s one mistake I had made, which you shouldn’t – not following up. Had I done that, I would probably have landed a job sooner. More often than not, recruiters will forget about your application due to an increased number of candidates. Give yourself a responsibility to follow-up with them, to know where you stand.
And finally, I land a job that checks all my boxes
Cut to June, the search was still on, very aggressively so. By now I had applied to all the organisations from my list and hundreds more, randomly.
Since, I was pretty active on LinkedIn, I would receive notifications of new job postings as soon as they were being posted. which is what worked out well in my case.
I applied for my current job as soon as I saw it and my skill-set matched the job requirements to the T. What was even greater was that this job checked out all the boxes in my criteria, which was quite surprising looking at the dwindling job market and my unstable job-hunt trajectory so far. Needless to say, after two rounds of remote interviews, things worked out and I got the job.
It took a month, but was worth the wait. I am now nearing the completion of my first month in the job. And I am content and hungry for good work.
And now, I write down some key-takeaways for job-seekers
What worked out well for me, you ask?
- My strategy of applying with focus, knowing what I wanted and also reaching out to people on community and networking platforms like LinkedIn. Most of the interviews happened via networking and the cover letter helped me get recruiters’ attention.
- Values like persistence, patience, optimism and focus do make this difficult process rather bearable. But most importantly, keeping at it is what matters the most. If you snooze, you lose. This was the only learning that mattered to me.
As for the company I left, believe it or not, this job is much more than just a place of work. I feel fulfilled. As dreamy as it may sound, I did find a great job in the middle of a pandemic, and within the deadline I had given myself. So can you.
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