First, it’s okay to take some time to have a good cry. When you’re ready to take action, these small steps can have a big impact.
The ongoing pandemic has brought parents all kinds of uncertainty. But for those who have been laid off or furloughed during the crisis, the stress of not getting a paycheck brings another layer of anxiety to this whole situation.
While it’s easy (and completely justified!) to feel deflated when you’ve just lost your job, this emotion can be amplified when you feel like don’t have time to look for a new one.
When you’re doing all the childcare, staying productive and relevant in your career can be a huge challenge.
However, experts agree that by completing tasks in bite-sized, 15-minute chunks, you can stay on top of your professional game and even land your next gig while also taking care of your kids. Here are their tips for getting your career back on track.
Set up a dedicated email account and stay on top of it
First, if you don’t already have one, create an email account that’s just for job hunting and any gig work you might take on, suggests relationship and etiquette expert April Masini, founder of the American Initiative for Film Industry.
“It’s very easy to miss an email and to miss work deadlines because your personal and professional emails are commingled,” she explains. “Having a separate work email account allows you to be organized and to prioritize your work.”
To stay on top of things, executive career and success mindset coach Heather Moulder suggests scheduling a specific time of day to check and follow up with emails.
“This activity can be a big time waster, so set a timer to help you stay focused,” she advises.
When it comes to your job search to-do list, it’s important to separate what you must do right now from the less critical tasks. Take 15 minutes at the start of the week to do this.
“It’s easy to think that you have a bunch of priorities,” Moulder says. “But prioritization is about picking 3 things — maximum — that you need to get done and then setting aside time to do them without multitasking.”
She also suggests keeping a running “Not Now, Later” list of all the nonessential tasks you want to complete.
“Check in with this list on a weekly basis so that you can stay up to date on what needs to be moved into your weekly priorities,” she says.
Rally your tribe
Make a list of everyone you know in your circle of friends and from past jobs so you can reach out to them.
“Commit to then setting aside time to let others know about your job search,” suggests certified corporate trainer and career coach, Julieanne O’Connor. “Most breakthroughs require the help of others. Even a little bit of this each day can completely change your life.”
When you reach out to people, offer your services or expertise in return to fill the gap in your work.
“Start planting seeds to solicit sales from friends, family, or social network connections and build a portfolio,” advises Matthew Warzel, CPRW, president of resume writing firm MJW Careers, LLC. “This also becomes [a] wonderful way to answer the whole ‘what have you been doing since…’ question from recruiters or hiring managers.”
Stay relevant online
Use your LinkedIn and Twitter platforms to show you’re still a player in your industry.
“Share valid articles in your field and comment on them thoughtfully to show that you are an active observer of the news and issues you care about,” says Fraser Traverse, who runs a job board for people looking for work in politics and policy in the Washington, DC area.
As Traverse notes, “This takes very little time, and potential employers will most certainly be reviewing your accounts, so it’s critical to show your engagement.”
As others comment on your posts, you’ll feel like you’re still part of the action, and you’ll be contributing thoughtful content, too.
Traverse also suggests making sure that you turn on the “open to work” setting on LinkedIn so recruiters can find you.
“You can fill in the types of jobs you would prefer and then you’ll show up in recruiter searches,” she says. “As a colleague once said about this feature, your next employer can find you even as you sleep.”
Keep up your confidence
Set a short block of time each day to move your body so you can stay active physically, which will help your overall mental outlook.
“Staying fit and building strength are two huge confidence boosts that can indirectly help you land a job where it counts the most, the interview,” says Brendan Heffernan, a former career trainer and coach who experienced staying home with his kids after getting laid off.
Heffernan notes, “If you go into an interview feeling like a burnt-out, anxious parent, it may show in your answers and delivery.” By staying strong physically, you’ll carry yourself with more confidence and knock that first impression out of the park.
Learn a new skill
Keeping up with new technologies and continuing your professional education are critical for staying ahead of the competition, Warzel says. But when you’re taking care of the kids all day, who has time to take a class — even online?
Luckily, technology has caught up to parents’ overstretched schedules.
One in-demand skill is coding and you can learn various computer programming languages via e-platform SoloLearn in under 10 minutes a day. (A full course takes 2–8 hours total.)
Some high-demand jobs that require computer programming skills include web developer, information security analyst, software developer, and statistician. Once you’ve completed a class, add your certification to your LinkedIn profile and resume to help you stand out from other applicants.
Track your progress
As career coach Jenny Logullo says, it’s critical to stay on top of everything when you’re applying to jobs and landing interviews.
Track your progress with an Excel document or Google Sheet that lists out each job, the status of your application, and who you have followed up with to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
“First, follow-up and alert the hiring manager or recruiter that you applied to an open position,” she says. “Applicant tracking systems can sometimes reduce your application visibility, so this increases your chances of being taken as a credible, interested prospect.”
You should also circle back a second time to confirm that the role is still open and that you’re highly interested.
After an interview, always send a thank you email within 24 hours. “Highlight one or two things discussed in the interview and exude more enthusiasm for this role,” Logullo says.
Finally, take a tip from Allison Cooper, blogger and business coach at Project Motherhood, to prepare these emails in advance.
“Have canned messages ready to go — no need to reinvent the wheel,” she says. “Think about the things that you find yourself saying over and over again and start saving them as email drafts. Copy and paste when needed and you will save so much time.”
Alright. So, job searching during a pandemic — and while also taking care of your kids, no less — definitely isn’t what you had in mind for 2020. But by taking advantage of small blocks of time, you can be productive and professional even on those days when you might feel anything but.
You’ve got this.