It’s no secret that the covid pandemic has made things a bit more difficult for job seekers. In the early stages of the pandemic, many companies stopped hiring due to the uncertainty around how the virus would spread, how people would react, and how governments would intervene. According to data gathered by Indeed, job postings in large European cities (Rome, Paris, Madrid or London) decreased by 35% to even 50%. The biggest blow was dealt to unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, but the decline in postings was present across the board.
Furthermore, due to a significant decrease in social events, networking has become much more difficult. Decades of psychological research indicate that real human connections are built face-to-face. Digital substitutes for traditional networking are available, but they are largely less effective and, let’s admit it, definitely less fun.
Additionally, companies that have continued hiring new candidates have often moved the entire application process online. This is unfamiliar for both the companies and the candidates, and therefore it can add a lot of stress and anxiety to a process that’s already quite stressful to start with.
Given all this, what should job seekers do? In this article I will explain why taking ownership of your success will set you apart from the rest. I will also present tools and tactics that you can implement today to further increase your odds for success.
The very first thing you should do is drop the negativity.
Yes, times are tough. I recognize that it can feel unfair that you are impacted by all these things that you can’t control: the number of job postings, the presence of networking events, the switch to online applications, and much more. However, I want to give you an essential piece of advice: stop thinking about it. In times like these, you must distinguish between what you can control and what you can not control. These external events impact everybody roughly the same. For the moment, they are here to stay. No amount of worrying or complaining will change that. All that does is drain you of your energy and motivation.
What if you would focus all your energy on the things you can control instead? How much further would that take you? How much more empowering would that feel? You might even find out that you can control much more things than you thought you could. In the end, it’s always the people who take ownership of their success who achieve the most. No excuses, no complaining. Instead, decide to focus your efforts on the levers you can still pull to increase your chances of success. This will immediately put you miles ahead of the people who choose to focus on external events that they cannot control anyway. In the job application process, success largely is a conscious choice, not something that happens by accident.
If you’ve decided to focus on what you can control, a valid follow-up question would be: what are the things that I can control? Let’s look at three parts of the job application process that you can influence: networking, sending out applications, and conducting job interviews.
With regards to networking, your options have become limited. In-person networking events and other social activities are probably unavailable to you, depending on where in the world you’re located. However, networking digitally can be a great substitute. Consider the fact that LinkedIn is one of the fastest-growing social networks in The Netherlands. During the pandemic, the amount of daily LinkedIn users has gone up by 39%. You can reach millions of users, just by sending them a simple message. Research by LinkedIn has discovered that 85% of LinkedIn messages receive a reply! Consider how you could use this to your advantage. First, think about people you would like to connect with. They could be people working for a company that you would want to work for. They could be people who have a position that you would like to have in the future. They could be people who went to the same school as you. Second, think about what you would like to gain from connecting with them. Is it information? Would you like them to introduce you to someone else? Perhaps you’re looking for advice? Third, think about what you can give to -them-. Although relationships shouldn’t be built on a transactional base (“if you do X for me, I will do Y for you”), a healthy amount of reciprocity is a good thing. Fourth – and most importantly – just reach out to them. Send them a message today. Worst case, your message will be ignored. But it’s much more likely that they will respond positively to your message. I have found that at least 8 out of 10 people love to give you some of their time, especially if you approach them in a positive way. Think about it. If someone reached out to you personally with a genuine request for help or advice, you would feel great about helping them, right? Other people feel like that too! You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain from actively connecting with people on LinkedIn.
When it comes to sending out applications, there are indeed fewer job postings than usual. As a result, competition has increased. I have found that many people use this as an excuse for not even trying. It’s too difficult! The odds for success are too low! Thinking like that will keep you stuck. While you might receive some sympathy, you will certainly not be successful like this. Instead, treat applying for jobs like a numbers game. In my experience, many (first-time) jobseekers allow themselves to be paralyzed by the possibility of being rejected. They subconsciously equate being rejected with not being good enough as a person. That’s a major insecurity that many people have. To break through that thought pattern, remember the difference between what you can and can’t control. Ultimately, whether you are accepted or rejected is not within your control. You could be rejected because of countless reasons, many of which are not under your direct influence. Sometimes you just have a stroke of bad luck. Instead, focus on what you -can- control. Increasing the number of applications you do dramatically increases your odds of success. How many job applications have you done this past month? If it’s two, ask yourselves why it’s not ten or twenty. In this case, failure is extremely cheap. What’s so bad about being rejected? A ‘failed’ job application only costs you some time. Although it’s become a bit of a cliché, it’s worthwhile to think of your ‘failures’ as stepping stones on the way to success. There are valuable lessons to be learned from being rejected. The only way to become better at applying for jobs is to apply to more jobs. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it. All you have to do is go out and try. The rest will fall into place eventually.
When it comes to job interviews, you’ll probably experience that most companies have moved their entire application process online, including interviews. Now, even normal job interviews cause anxiety for many people, so doing these unfamiliar online interviews might be even worse. However, there are also benefits to this. For one, you can do job interviews in the much more familiar and ‘safe’ environment of your own home. Additionally, there are fewer things to focus on sitting in front of a camera when compared to sitting across a real human being. Take body language. When doing an online interview, there’s less of an emphasis on body language, so you don’t have to focus on it as much. A great way to convey confident body language during an online interview is to stand up. You look taller, more energetic, and more confident when you stand. Just make sure not to wiggle around too much! Another thing you can do to make yourself look much better on camera is to use proper lighting. Ideally, you want the light to fall on your face from behind the camera. If there are no windows available to you, consider buying a cheap ring light. They only cost €20 and they greatly improve how professional you look on camera.