As the uncertainty and anxiety about the coronavirus outbreak consumes our daily lives, you may still be considering or are in the midst of a career transition.  Some clients have felt that they should suspend their job search until the outbreak subsides. Understandably, the stress of an unknown future and one’s routine totally being upended may prove to be too much emotionally, and it may be best to stop your search.   A recent article by my partner Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin discusses how to stay grounded during this pandemic.

However, if you do feel mentally and emotionally prepared for a career shift, or if you have no choice but to find a new job, I would encourage you to continue your job search process, since companies are still hiring.  And even if the hiring process may be delayed, you will still be better positioned to transition quickly when the situation stabilizes, if you maintain your momentum.

Therefore, for those of you are who are currently unemployed & searching, or for those who may be employed but want to make a change, here are some tips to managing the process during this increasingly challenging period:

For Those Unemployed and Currently Searching
  1. Develop a structured routine–  one of the biggest challenges of being forced to work from home is to develop a routine that enables you to still feel productive.  You may have felt that going to a local café or a co-working space gave you enough separation from home to not be distracted, and now you may be having trouble staying focused. Part of the transition to at-home work is setting up a structured routine. What time are you getting up? When do you eat and/or have your coffee?  Do you take breaks to connect with loved ones?  When does your “work” day start and end?  By creating a structure with a start time and an end time, including breaks, you can be intentional and focused on your job search goals.
  2. Create a work space– once you have established your schedule, it is important to create a work space for yourself. Ideally, if you have a desk or a table, which can serve as a desk, that would be great.  However, if you don’t have that luxury, I would encourage you to carve out a space, other than your bed, to serve as your workstation, with all the tools you might need at your disposal (e.g. computer, phone, etc.). I typically discourage use of one’s bed as a workspace because it is important to have separation between work & personal activities, especially if you may have sleep issues. However, if you have no other option, and need to use your bed, I would recommend that you clearly have a routine which transitions from work to personal (e.g. ending the workday by removing all work items from the bed), allowing you to reclaim your home/leisure space.
  3. Establish realistic goals– you may feel like you should spend every waking hour doing job search tasks (e.g. applying online, networking, etc.) and you may beat yourself up when you feel that you could be doing more.  There is a temptation to do so, but it is unfair to your process.  Instead set some tangible and manageable goals (e.g. apply to 5 jobs and reach out to 3 contacts a day), which will allow you to evaluate your progress, and allow you to determine if you should increase or decrease your target goals. The expectation should not be that you spend 9-5 on job search tasks, but rather that you are reaching your goals, and continuing to increase your output.
  4.  Continue to network- as a result of social distancing, you may not be able to have coffee, lunch, or drinks with contacts, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop your networking process.  You should still reach out to old and new contacts, to set up some videoconference or phone chats.  You may also consider further leveraging LinkedIn to make new contacts and to connect with active groups.  Finally, even consider a Zoom or FaceTime “happy hour”, where you can catch up with multiple people online in a leisurely way.
  5. Expand your options– you may have been focused on a few specific industries or roles prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, which can still be viable. However, as certain sectors are severely impacted by the pandemic, you may have to reassess your job search strategy, and identify areas of emerging opportunities. For instance, another recent article by Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin highlights several remote job sites, which may be useful for you.
  6. Seek support-  whether reaching out to a career coach or identifying an accountability partner among your trusted loved ones, it will be important to have someone to both keep you moving forward, but also to support you when you may not feel as motivated or hopeful in your job search.
  7. Commit to self-care– this is an extremely stressful period, and in addition to your other responsibilities, the job search can also create high levels of anxiety and discomfort. Therefore, practicing self-care will be even more critical for your emotional and mental wellbeing, while you navigate your job search. Meditation, yoga, using breathing techniques, exercising and making sure to get a good amount of sleep are some key self-care activities, which can be done at home. If you were used to going to a gym or a yoga studio, you might need to now find online options, and to include self-care as part of your daily routine.

In addition to the applicable tips above, there are additional tips for those who are currently employed

For Those Who are Currently Employed and Also Searching
  1. Develop appropriate work boundaries– now that you are working from home, there is the risk that you may feel that you need to constantly be “on call.” You can easily fall into the practice of constantly working from morning to night.  Further, your employer may believe that since your commute is eliminated, you should be able to devote more time to work.  However, that should not be the case.  You should still commit similar hours that you did when you were in the office to work-related tasks.  By setting good work boundaries, you will have time to devote to your job search and to your self-care which will be critical in this period.
  2. Commit focused time to your search– if you are working from home now, you may feel like you have either less or more time “at work.”  Once you set your work boundaries, however, you will now need to dedicate time to the job search.  While the average job search takes 4-6 months, if you commit 10-15 hours a week to it, you may not have that amount of time each week, given your work duties and other home responsibilities.  However, the key to a successful job search is the consistency of effort.  Therefore, think about how much time you can consistently commit to your job search each week.  Whether it is one hour a day or 10 hours a week, the key is to protect that time no matter what other issues might emerge.  Consider the minimum level of time you can devote to the job search, and start with that number, even if it is 30 minutes a week.  Once you consistently meet the minimum goal, you can gradually increase it, until you develop a good rhythm in your job search process.

With a high degree of uncertainty clouding our every day functioning, given the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to lose hope or motivation in your job search.  The key elements in achieving your desired job search results are to believe you can reach your goals and that you are consistently motivated to do so. By using these tips, you will be able to manage your job search, while maintaining your momentum, and increasing your hope for a successful career transition.