On the twenty-fourth entry of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, addresses a pressing concern – whether or not to continue applying for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasizes that not all hope is lost and shares a handful of effective tips to help you set yourself apart from other candidates during this trying time. She also talks about her newly-launched Career Chasers Members Club – check the show notes for more information!
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Latesha: Hey, what’s up, everyone? Welcome to another episode of The Link Up with Latesha. Happy Saturday. Happy Saturday. I know that all of our days may feel the same, but I encourage you to find something of joy to do today or to do over the weekend. What I want to talk about today, which is a recurring conversation that I’ve been having with clients, that I’ve been having with some friends in media that reached out for interviews, is “Should I stop applying to jobs? Should I halt my job search fully?” And that’s what we are going to be talking about today. I don’t think that we should put a halt or a stop on applying. I don’t think we should slow down. However, with this pandemic a lot of things have changed. Companies have went on hiring freezes. And I’ll be honest with you, I want to speak from a place of conversations that I’ve been having with my clients and what they’re currently facing, and in full transparency, as a career coach, it has been really hard to, you know, process what is happening here, you know? Before this pandemic hit, the job market was boom-ing. Like, booming, you know? My clients were applying and interviewing and at these networking events and just kind of killing it, and they’re still going to kill it, and if you listening to this podcast are applying for jobs and seeking to make a change you will too, but this has definitely put a wrench into, you know, the job search. There is no doubt about that. And so today I am really just speaking from a place of authenticity. I don’t have a lot of notes planned, but this has been wearing and tearing just on my heart, because I feel for all of you that may be seeking employment or that are facing doubt and uncertainty right now, and if you are in need of any, you know, positivity and light and some, you know, awakening, listen to this podcast, because I want to give you some advice on just being real about the situation but also being proactive about the situation as well. I do not think all hope is lost, and that’s one thing I want to make sure that you all know. I don’t think all hope is lost, but I do think that you will want to be much more strategic and intentional in your efforts, in your outreach efforts, but really truly in dealing with your emotional wellbeing, with your emotional health. That should come first. That should come before, you know, any of these job applications that you’re submitting or before you are hopping into an interview or a networking conversation, you know? Take care of you. Living Corporate has released some great episodes on just how to really manage your stress at this time and manage your emotional wellbeing, so I encourage you to listen to those episodes. So before I hop into the reason why I say yes, you should keep applying and looking, I want to share something with you on a good note [laughs] that I recently launched, my Career Chasers Members Club. It is an online community for women of color that are seeking just to hit new heights, you know, in their careers that are on the brink of really chasing and striving for career greatness, that are searching for not just any opportunity, not just any job, but for a career. So if you are on the path of chasing a career, shameless plug, I will drop the link in the show notes. And we have–so excited–over 80 women that have signed up for this members club in a matter of 10 days. I am so proud and honored to be able to work with each and every one of these women. What else does this membership bring you? There’s a monthly workshop. Well, there’s a monthly theme, but with each monthly theme there will be a live workshop with me, or webinar. Our first one is this upcoming Monday on job searching during a pandemic. So like I said, I’ll drop the deets in the show notes. There’s a digital workbook that comes with each workshop that we have to help you to strategize and plan for your future. Outside of that, there is an online community. So if you are really feeling alone in your pursuit, you know, you’re in need of that support, that encouragement, that accountability, that clarity and that strategy, I want you to join my members club. Now, the membership did close on the 10th, but I want to keep it open until Sunday night. So for any ladies who are listening out here and you feel like this is for you and this is your time and you need that tribe, you need that community of women that are really looking to achieve their career goals, I want you to sign up, all right? So enough of that. Super excited to get started with that and very thankful for everyone that has signed up. So, with that being said, you should still be out here applying pressure on your job search, and I want you all to go back to an older episode that I recorded for The Link Up with Latesha for establishing or building a career toolkit. It has all the things that you need as you prepare to launch or relaunch your job search. Saying that to say that there’s a lot of preparation that goes into searching for a position. You know, people have asked me before, “Should I start looking for a job,” or “Should I go get a new job,” and I want to make sure that, you know, you know that there are multiple steps and procedures that go into actually landing a new job. It’s not like walking into a car dealership like, “Okay, I’m gonna buy a car today. Do I want this Escalade? Do I want this Beamer? Do I want a Honda?” You know, picking out colors and leather and cloth interior, whatever, and you walk out with a–or not walk out [laughs,] you’re driving out of the dealership in your new car. That’s not how getting a job works, you know? You don’t walk into a job dealership and you’re like, “Hm, do I want to work this job? Do I want this one? Okay, yep. Boom. Mm-hmm,” negotiate your salary and you’re out. That’s not how it works. There is the networking that goes into it, then applying, first round interviews, phone screenings with recruiters, second round interviews, panel interviews, you know, group interviews, dinners–well, we’re not doing dinners no more, but some companies used to have dinners, lunches. We’re not doing none of that, but there’s still an interview process that you have to go through. So you interview, you’re negotiating your salary, you get a job offer, then you gotta get onboarded, and there’s so many things that go into it, so I want you all to not just ask yourself, “Is this time for me to get a job?” but “Am I going to be fully committed to doing what it takes for me to get a new job? Am I going to be fully committed to this process?” And that is going to give you your answer. Now, I want to go back to the conversations that I’ve been having with my clients over the past week or two. A lot of companies are putting their hiring freezes going on or they’ve gone back to the drawing board and said, “Okay, what are our most critical roles that we still need to make sure we are hiring for?” There are some companies that have started to lay off some of their staff. There are some companies that are cutting out benefits. They’re not doing any promotions, they’re not doing any raises, you know, they’re not doing any bonuses. Saying that though, you should still make sure you are managing your performance and always asking for feedback, ’cause this thing is not going to last forever. But with that being said, companies are taking the precautionary measures to make sure that 1. they can either keep their lights on or they can still keep their staff employed, and for some it has not been working out, you know, as well as others. Looking at this from a place of being super just real, it’s going to be harder to get a job now for sure, and I know you all probably know that, but it’s not impossible. It’s definitely not impossible. I have many clients that are still interviewing today. Even this past week, I have clients that have accepted job offers. They may not be starting right away, but they do have new jobs. So going back to the original topic, “Should you be applying to jobs?” Yes, but there are other things that I want to make sure that you all are doing in tandem with applying to jobs. Yes, companies aren’t hiring, you know, maybe as aggressive as they were at one point. Of course it depends on the company, it depends on the industry, but that means that you want to make sure that you are putting your best foot forward, that you’re really setting yourself apart from the competition. And I want to really just dive into a few tips that will help you to do that. The first thing is to network online. Network online. There are no more networking events, so we really have to rely heavily on social media. Facebook groups, you know? I’ve had clients that tell me, “I don’t have a Facebook.” Well, you know, hey, you want to make sure you’re getting plugged in. I just joined a few groups on Facebook about job opportunities in Charlotte since I am based in Charlotte and about, you know, 20% of my clients are here locally. So there are some groups on Facebook that you might want to join. LinkedIn as well. Networking on LinkedIn is huge. Join LinkedIn groups. We don’t emphasize that enough, but there are groups dedicated out there solely for, you know, they can split it up by industry, you know, they split it up by where you’re living or by interest. I want you to start joining those industry-focused groups on LinkedIn. We overlook those, but that is a great opportunity to really connect with people in a more genuine way versus just cold reaching out to someone. When you are in a shared group with someone on LinkedIn, you want to start engaging. You want to start posting, sharing things, and then from there it might be easier for you to reach out to a member in that group and then introduce yourself. Now, I don’t want to say that cold reaching out never works, because trust me, it does. I’ve done it before even when I was searching for job opportunities, and it’s gotten me some interviews. So definitely start reaching out to people on LinkedIn and reaching out to see if you can set up a phone call. One of my clients said she’s doing some virtual coffee chats. So you could reach out to someone you admire, someone in the industry, and say, “Hey, I want to sponsor a coffee for you.” Send them, you know, $5–I’m not saying you gotta bribe people, let me not say that, but someone has done that to me and it actually worked. [laughs] So ask people if you can do a virtual coffee chat, you know? 15 minutes and that’s it, all right? Now, when you do reach out to people on LinkedIn, there’s a few different ways or methods you can do this to increase your chances of getting a response back. First thing is go through your first connections. Filter it by companies that they work for or by industry or by job title. Sift through your connections. You’d be surprised to see who you are connected with who might be that person that will help to get you in the door. Sift through your connections. Start with your first connections. Go through your second connections, and if you have mutual connections, ask a first connection to introduce to that second connection. Y’all know the networking game. Y’all know how it goes. Your probability of getting on the phone with that person or getting in a meeting with that person is always going to be hire if someone else vouched for you and they said, “Oh, can I introduce you to Latesha? I think she’d be a great person just for you to connect with. You guys have similar interests. You’re in the same industries, you do the same work. I really think you would benefit from having a conversation with this person.” Because not only are they committed to–I don’t want to say committed to you, but if that other person introduces you to them and they hold that person in high regard, that facilitates that introduction. Not only will they be more prone to connect with you, they will also kind of feel accountable, you know, to that person that facilitated the introduction. So make sure that you are networking. Don’t ever lose sight of that. Your resume and LinkedIn. We don’t spend enough time on the preparation end. We just go straight into applying and that’s it. This is a wonderful time to really just take a step back and start to beef up your resume. Again, your application needs to be super tight. It does need to be super tight right now, so make sure you’re adding numbers, you’re quantifying your results. Make sure you have a summary that clearly aligns with what they’re looking for, making sure that they are able to read your resume and understand how what you’ve done is directly related to how you can add value in that particular role. Start working on that resume. Take a step back and really go through it line by line and word by word. Come up with examples. I call these your “hero examples,” these hero stories, stories in your experience where you have really set the bar high, where you have solved a problem, you have created an initiative and implemented something new. Just think about those things that you’re really proud of, where you solved a problem, you helped the company, you added value. You want to come up with your hero stories so that when you do get into this interview and they’re asking you, “What are you most proud of in your career?” or those behavioral questions, “Tell me about a time where you had a difficult co-worker, difficult boss, you had to think quickly, you were under a tight deadline. How did you handle that?” You already have those hero stories or examples that you can speak to. Get your LinkedIn complete. I’m tired of getting up here and preaching about LinkedIn. [laughs] Do the things that are going to get you noticed and that’s going to set you apart. Being that your networking has shifted to 100% online, having a great LinkedIn profile, you can never, ever, ever go wrong with that. Again, when you apply, I encourage you, for every job to apply to, to have a referral. Have a referral. So don’t just apply, but have a referral, someone at that company that is vouching for you on the inside. And the last thing that I want to say here is it’s easy to get frustrated. It’s easy to want to give up, but all hope is not lost. I cannot emphasize that enough. You will find that next opportunity. You will come out of this on top. So you want to make sure you’re giving yourself some grace and taking days off. If you feel really frustrated about your job search or if you are just completely burnt out from networking and doing all the chats and the virtual happy hours, then take some time off and get back on it, but just don’t give up. If you feel like you’re on the brink of giving up, that means that you just need to rest and take a break and get back to it. So I’ll just end it with that. The last thing that I’ll say is that the reason why you want to continue to apply is because this thing is not going to last forever. Companies are going to be back hiring once this is lifted, and so if you are already right now in the process of building those relationships, of networking online, I want to make sure that you are top of mind when these job opportunities do present themselves or when these companies are ready to make an offer. So again, keep applying, but also network, network, network. Manage your contacts. I use Trello to keep up with–even for me–to keep up with my client leads. I have hot, warm, and cold leads, and so I’m really on top of my hot and warm leads. My cold leads not as much. You can have different frequency touchpoints for each of those categories, but again, you want to stay top of mind. So, you know, continue to put yourself out there, but also make sure that you are engaged, showcasing your skill set by, you know, posting status updates, posting articles, just staying engaged and staying visible even online is going to be key. So when the company releases their hiring or comes up off their hiring freeze and they are have job opportunities that you would be perfectly aligned for, you want them to say, “Oh, my gosh. I remember Latesha. I just talked to her a month ago and she was looking. Let me check in and see if she’s still looking for an opportunity, because now we’re ready to hire again.” I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen miracles when it comes to getting a job, so I believe in it. I know you deserve it, and I want you to keep pushing. I hope this was helpful, and I’ll talk to y’all again soon.