Job Hunting During the Pandemic

by Penny Johnson, Ph.D.


A friend has been looking for a new job since February for all of the typical reasons: She wanted something a little more challenging, with better hours, and a little higher salary. When the pandemic happened, her search was put on hold. Now, she is wondering how she should begin looking for work again?

I’m also in touch with other colleagues and friends who are getting furloughed or terminated by their employers because of the economic crisis that is taking over some industries. What should these administrative professionals, executive secretaries, and personal assistants do to find their next employer?

Most offices have already adjusted their work, and people are getting into a new routine with WFH (work from home—including HR staff. They still need to hire due to retirements, planned promotions, transfers, and the like. Now is the time to apply and let your skills shine. Here are my tips when searching for a job during the pandemic:

Update Your Resume for the New Normal

The first step is to review your resume. Of course, you want to make sure that the information is current and accurate. In today’s “new normal,” there is an extra step. Make sure your resume is updated with skills needed during this time: Digital proficiency; confidence in online and remote environments; resource management; providing support to online work-teams; and using current technology.

You should consider your previous employment positions. Were there projects or tasks that now seem more important because they prepared you to juggle multiple people, multiple environments, or learn new technologies? Think about those experiences and identify how you were able to rise to the occasion and help your organization be successful. Identify the key skills and duties you applied during those times.

Focus On Technology & Digital Skills

If your resume didn’t include things like Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, list them as long as you’re comfortable and familiar with them. In our current situation, name-dropping these technologies is important. If you are not familiar, look for free online training via LinkedIn or other sources. Don’t forget cloud computing tools like Google Drive and SharePoint.

In addition, list your ability to use collaboration tools, cloud computing for remote work, and working with multiple online platforms to support digital workplaces.

What should you do if you don’t have this experience? Working with technology is not always about the specific software name; employers are willing to train new employees. Your ability to learn and leverage technology is the key. Mention any experience you have with adapting technology to support executives, teams, and colleagues in a variety of environments.

Working with Online Teams

List your skills for working with others remotely: Managing multiple calendars and negotiating a variety of demands on time and resources. Detail your ability to coordinate technology, conduct remote meetings, and support online teams.

Don’t forget to mention every aspect of the support you have offered: Providing training or manuals and procedures; clearly communicating changes to aligned with messaging expectations; documenting changes accurately and promptly; delivering prompt and accurate responses.

Transferable Skills

If you have ever worked across multiple industries, now is the time to mention that experience and highlight your ability to transfer skills to a new level. This shows your resilience and adaptability, hot-ticket items in the “new normal.”

These transferable skills stretch across employment positions, so they are a great item to highlight in a callout or sidebar. Alternatively, you might use a special section heading such as “Special Skills.”

Innovative Thinking

Most assistants not only had to adjust their own work for the pandemic, but they had to help others. This required innovating thinking as we considered what resources are needed, how will support be provided, and what documentation/training is available. That innovative thinking also happened at lightning speed. Stop and recognize how your skills and abilities helped you and your office transform. You can use those skills for your next career move.

Reach Out Online

You must have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and connect with others. Look at the wealth of career resources available online to stay current with trends and skills. Then, connect to others by posting, tweeting, and communicating with others. Networking is still used during the job hunt and you can use online networking to your advantage.

Just as our lives have shifted but continue to thrive, so must our careers. Searching for a job is an adaptable process, but we must adapt with it if we want to reach our career goals.

IAAP works with the best trainers in the industry to ensure you have relevant, engaging, practical content at your fingertips. This blog is written by a speaker with a program in the IAAP Approved Programs database. Search by name or keyword to find their contact information and book them for your Branch or Region event. 

If you’d like to attend one of these events, you can find one in your area here.

Penny Johnson, Ph.D., is a Faculty member in the Administrative Professional and the Office Management programs at Madison College.

Dr. Johnson earned her doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over her career Penny has taught subjects such as Microsoft Office, Information Technology, Business Writing, and Administrative Office Management. Today, Dr. Johnson specializes in teaching students how to be the business professionals of the future. Dr. Johnson believes in taking a collaborative approach to managing, decision making, and learning. Throughout her career Dr. Johnson has endeavored to be a positive force by getting involved and helping both students and colleagues reach their full potential.

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