01/12/2021 Jeni Kramer

New year, new career: tips for job hunting in 2021

Now that the haze of holiday cocktails and too much cheese has worn off, it’s time to get back to business! With the chaos of the pandemic driving uncertainty in the labor market, many people simply put off job searching in 2020. But whether you’re currently employed and considering a career change, or you have downtime due to the pandemic, 2021 is the perfect time to get started. If you’ve been thinking about starting off the new year with a new job, we have some helpful tips to set your search off in the right direction.

Decide what you want

With the large scale adoption of remote work in early 2020, the options for how we work have never been more open and varied. With this new and changing landscape, it is valuable to devote some time to considering your ideal situation before beginning your job search. Do you prefer remote work, in-person or a combination of the two?

Consider the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each option as you make your choice. Remote work allows you to widen your search beyond the bounds of geography. When you don’t have to report to a physical office, you can go for positions outside of your immediate area. Your options are far more open when you don’t have to consider the commute! On the other hand, willingness to report to a physical office could be seen as an advantage by some employers, and may just give you an edge over job seekers who aren’t willing or able to take an in-person job. Many employers are clearly laying out their expectations on in-office vs. remote work in their job postings; so whichever way you’re leaning, you can hone in your search by focusing on jobs that align with your preference.  

Keep your options open

While having a solid idea of what your ideal situation looks like is helpful, it is important to think outside of the usual parameters. The job losses witnessed in 2020, combined with employers taking a more conservative approach to hiring, mean that there is plenty of competition for desirable positions. Remaining flexible and open to new ideas will put you in a better position as you approach your search.

With the future feeling uncertain, many employers are relying more heavily than ever on temporary or project workers.This means you’ll likely encounter more job postings that fall under the temporary, temp-to-hire, contract, or freelance categories. If you haven’t considered temporary work before, now may be an ideal time. 

The freedom and variety that comes with temp work may be exciting for some job seekers, but the lack of stability and certainty may be problematic for others. Jobs that don’t offer a guarantee of work beyond a certain date, or important benefits like health insurance, may not be a viable option for everyone. But temporary or project-based work can be a great way to strengthen your skill set, build your resume, or break into a new industry. And there’s always a chance that a temporary contract could turn into something more permanent in the future.

 Another consideration for your job search is whether or not your industry is expected to grow in 2021. Many industries, like hospitality and travel, were hit hard by the pandemic and have fewer jobs available. If your experience lies in one of the industries that has struggled, it may serve you well to consider whether your skills could translate to a new area. Keep an eye on trends to see which industries are currently hiring, or which ones expect to grow in the immediate future. Then take stock of your skills to determine which ones might be relevant and transferable, or which ones you may need to build or enhance, so you can expand your search.

Mind the gap

In a competitive job market, a compelling, professional resume that’s impeccably tailored to the job for which you’re applying is simply table stakes. As you set about shining up your resume, make sure it’s AI friendly. Most large companies utilize an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to act as a filter for incoming resumes, and common features like unusual fonts, photos or columns can drastically decrease readability. 

While updating your resume (along with your cover letter and LinkedIn profile), you may now be dealing with some gaps in employment that were not there before. (Hey – thanks for nothing, 2020!) Overall, employers understand that gaps happen – layoffs, leaves of absence and other unforeseen circumstances are more common now than ever. Most employers have shifted their attitudes on gaps in employment. They do, however, want to know that you’ve made the most of your downtime. ‘Upskilling’ is an increasingly ubiquitous term in today’s job market, and it’s something you’ll want to be able to speak to in interactions with a potential employer. Did you learn a new skill, pursue ongoing education or additional certifications? Make sure your resume reflects what you’ve been doing to fill your downtime. If you’ve prioritized caring for children or other family members during the pandemic, know that those skills are valuable as well. And it’s a great lead-in for a conversation about how you’ve emerged from challenging times as a more flexible and resourceful person – a desirable quality for an employee in any career!

Network! (yes, it’s still a thing)

The old adage “it’s all about who you know” still applies, even in 2021. The good news is that you don’t have to meet in IRL to network with people who might be helpful in your search. With so many working from home, people are more accessible and available – so there’s no time like the present to reconnect with your existing professional contacts and reach out to new people who might have valuable information.

When you do reach out, it’s important to let the conversation flow naturally, rather than leading with the fact that you’re on the hunt. Fortunately, this post-New Year period gives you a natural segway for a breezy “hey-hi-how-are-you” check-in, so start messaging now. Make sure to level-set expectations going in though: a casual email exchange may be the extent of the conversation, for now. The main goal is to keep your most valuable relationships strong, and whatever else flows from the conversation is a bonus!

Beyond your existing contacts, you can research professional organizations in your field to see if there are any upcoming virtual networking events. These events are often free to attend and can offer a fantastic opportunity to expand your network. Any chance you might have to virtually mingle with individuals in your industry or learn something new is sure to bolster your profile and help you in your job search.

Get camera ready

Love it or hate it, virtual interviews may be here to stay. Video platforms have helped hiring professionals tremendously in expediting their interview processes, which is an efficiency we don’t expect them to walk away from, even post-pandemic. Many experts expect that 1st and even 2nd round interviews will remain virtual for the foreseeable future. Brushing up on your video interview skills is a vital component of job searching in 2021. 

Though video interviews are, in essence, just standard interviews in a different format, there are some unique advantages and challenges to consider while you prepare. From internet speeds to eye contact, there’s a lot to keep in mind. If you do have an interview scheduled, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure all goes smoothly – whether it’s your 1st video interview or your 50th. 

Patience is key

Of all the advice for job hunting in 2021, the most difficult to follow may be keeping your spirits up. In the best of times, a job search takes a lot of time and energy. This year, with more people competing for fewer jobs, for many it can feel downright discouraging. 

The current job market is so vastly different from anything we’ve experienced before. All the usual bets are off, with hiring trends not fitting neatly into traditional patterns of seasonality. Hiring trends by industry have been shaken up as well, dependent upon how individual industries have fared amid the pandemic. Overall though, as greater numbers of people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many employers will regain the confidence to proceed with their proceeding hiring plans. There IS a job out there for you, even if it is taking a bit longer to find it. Patience and persistence are key here – so keep the faith!

With all these tips in mind, you’ll be poised and ready to make your next career move in 2021. Knowing how to navigate the unique challenges the pandemic has posed will position you well to land the job of your dreams this year. Here’s to 2021!

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