Sept. 6, 2021, marked the largest cutoff of unemployment benefits in U.S. history, leaving more than 7.5 million Americans without the extra $300 in federal assistance as the pandemic continues.
If you’re one of the many who face unemployment due to COVID-19, this is an extremely stressful time. Not knowing how you’re going to pay bills and put food on the table while unemployed is frightening, especially if you’re unsure where to begin. However, there are ways you can put yourself ahead of the game, even with a gap in your resume.
Although traditional unemployment benefits are still accessible for some, pandemic unemployment benefits are not likely to be extended any time soon. However, the good news for those hoping to start a new job immediately is that 86.2% of U.S. employers are hiring (according to our 2021 State of Online Recruiting Report).
You’ve likely already been looking for a job while unemployed since every state requires proof of your efforts to find a new position in order to collect unemployment insurance. But if you weren’t treating your search as a full-time job of its own before, you should be doing so now. The following seven tips will increase your chances of finding a new position as soon as possible.
Begin your job search by making a list of companies and career titles that interest you, and start searching online for related openings. Check company websites, social media groups, and alumni associations, as well as job boards. If you’re using job boards, trying an industry-focused approach can reduce the noise from irrelevant job postings and help you find a better match quickly.
If you don’t have the exact requirements for a particular position, highlight transferrable skills and relevant experience when applying. Plenty of employers are in a pinch to hire due to an ongoing talent shortage and may be more likely to consider candidates they can train on the job.
Setting goals and sticking to a schedule are beneficial when searching for jobs. Doing so will keep you on track throughout your search and ensure success. Once you’ve completed your research and know what you’re looking for, make a long-term schedule, including items like: Submit [#] applications by [DATE] and Apply to [#] jobs per day. Then, create daily to-do lists to meet those goals.
Always apply to jobs with your most up-to-date resume, and spend time customizing it to fit each new position. Don’t worry too much about employment gaps in your resume due to COVID-19; many companies laid off staff and restructured teams throughout the past year and a half, so they understand. Just be honest about your situation if employers ask about the gap during your interview (more on employment gaps in the next tip).
Especially if you’ve been jobless for several months, you’ll want to show employers you’ve taken initiatives to make the most of your downtime. When you’re inevitably asked in your interview, “What have you been doing with your time off?”, talk about online courses, volunteerism, freelance work, and other extracurricular activities.
If you’ve been pursuing a career change, discuss how you’ve spent your time on unemployment researching how to break into a new industry, networking with people in that sector, determining which credentials and skills you’ll need, and working toward obtaining those skills.
Unemployment isn’t ideal, but it does give you the unique opportunity to fill in gaps in your resume, particularly if you’re making a jump to a new career path. It’s a great time to seek certifications or training that make you more marketable when a recruiter looks at your resume, and furthering your education will also open up more opportunities for positions in the future.
Part-time jobs and gig work are good options to temporarily increase your income while you look for a more permanent job. You’ll be able to stay afloat while filling in gaps on your resume. In addition, many part-time or gig jobs hire much quicker than full-time jobs, meaning you can pay your bills sooner. Part-time and gig work can also serve as stepping stones when changing careers. You’ll learn new skills on the job, and gain valuable experience needed for higher-ranking positions.
Networking is a great way to find job opportunities, especially when you’re unemployed and have extra time. Start by making a list of previous coworkers, bosses, professors, and people you know who work in your target industry. Then, reach out to your contacts and ask if they know of a position you might be a good fit for, or even check to see if your old job is now available (if applicable). If a company you’re interested in isn’t currently hiring, consider setting up informational interviews to learn more about them and get your name out there.
Always follow up with employers if you haven’t heard from them after applying; never submit your resume and wait. Showing that you care about your application can increase your chances of being noticed, move you to the top of the list, and even land you an interview. One week after applying is an appropriate amount of time to wait before following up, and don’t inquire more than twice in one week.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed now that COVID unemployment benefits have ended, but you must remain proactive when searching for a job. Unfortunately, some common unemployment “don’ts” can derail your efforts if you’re not careful. Here are three pitfalls to avoid:
If you’re still eligible for your state’s unemployment insurance, it may be tempting to fake your job search in order to continue receiving benefits. However, this is considered unemployment fraud, and can lead to negative consequences.
Finding that perfect job is a great goal, but at this point, time is of the essence. Even if the eventual job you find isn’t perfect, it’s at least a source of income and might lead to a more attractive opportunity down the line.
Chances are that you’ve applied to a job before, only never to hear back from the employer. It’s frustrating and might turn you off from applying there again. Well, the reverse is also true. So, if an employer reaches out to you, respond quickly and professionally – ghosting them might lower your chances of getting hired by that company in the future.
Remember, if you do experience ghosting from the employer, don’t be afraid to follow up on the status of your application. Showing passion for your job search efforts is always a good move.
While pandemic unemployment benefits have officially ended, these supplemental unemployment benefits and resources are still available to help you in times of need:
Losing additional federal unemployment benefits is nerve-wracking, but following the steps above will jump-start your job search and turn your situation around quickly. For more timely job search tips, check out our Resource Center for job seekers.