As the job market opens up, the competition for jobs is going to be pretty tough. Those who are unemployed or underemployed are going to be vying for positions with millions of others.
So how can you stand out to employers and beat the competition? It's not difficult -- but it will take some preparation and effort. Here are some ideas:
1. Clean up your social media. Do a search on yourself. What turns up? Working at a local soup kitchen, posting industry think pieces or drinking games with your friends and curse-word laden posts on favorite movies or celebrities? Employers will conduct due diligence on employees before they hire them because it can save them a lot of headaches down the road. Your profile needs to be squeaky clean.
2. Update your resume. You may feel that you don't have anything new to add to your resume if you've been unemployed during the pandemic. But if you've volunteered at a local food bank, gotten a relevant online certification or even launched a new blog on industry trends, then that's worth mentioning.
3. Make a good first impression. After being in lockdown, you may need to dust off some of your professional skills. Whether you're interviewed via Zoom or in person once vaccines are widely available, you've only got seconds to make a good impression. First, you need to smile. Put your shoulders back, hold your head up and look the employer in the eye (or camera). It may sound simple, but be nice. Remember your manners and say please and thank you. Surveys show that the most desirable traits in a candidate are sincerity, kindness and patience. So, no peeking at your phone, letting your eyes and mind wander during the interview and sighing because you're bored.
4. Know your skill set. While you'll be asked about specific skills depending on your industry, employers are going to zero in on certain abilities no matter what your job. They include being detail-oriented, being a fast learner, being a self starter, being a team player, having initiative and being dependable. Try to think of specific instances where you've displayed such abilities -- these are the examples you can work into your interview.
Predictions are that the job market will start to really heat up in late spring or early summer, but don't wait until then to prepare for interviewing. Look for gaps in your resume or skills set and seek to fill them with online training or education. Record yourself on a Zoom interview with a friend to see how you can improve your video presence and background and start keeping a list of ways you've shown teamwork, initiative and dependability in past jobs.