How to look for a new job in an economy devastated by COVID-19

BOSTON — Roughly 26 million Americans have reported losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

The historic unemployment numbers are staggering, particularly if you’re looking for a new job. The entire process for finding work has changed substantially in just the last few years.

Frank Dooley, for example, has earned a living in kitchens around Massachusetts for 30 years.

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“I put all my schooling into cooking and that’s what I’ve made my career as, so at 52, to all of a sudden to have to change my career is extremely hard. Extremely hard,” he explained.

It's a tough dilemma for millions of workers who might find their industry -- like hospitality -- is decimated with few jobs to go back to.

“The most important thing they can do is take a very long look at their transferable skills,” human resources consultant Elaine Varelas said. “Because there are many industries that are not going to come back quickly and if they're in one of those industries, they need to take a look at what other industries can use those same skills.”

She says job seekers, especially those who haven't had to look in a while, need to re-think their resume. It's no longer just a chronological history of work experience.

“Current resumes need to show the value that they add, you need to show success, you need to show that you increased productivity, that you decreased costs, that you've enabled team members,” Varelas said.

Resumes also must be written so they get past automated screening systems. If your resume isn't formatted correctly it will get kicked out of the applicant tracking system. Technology plays a big role in getting that proverbial foot in the door today.

“Right now, the majority of business in the U.S. is happening online, if you don’t show yourself to be an individual who is competent and can easily navigate online platforms like social media platforms than you don’t have a shot,” public relations professional David Gerzof Richard explained.

He suggests a job hunter update their linked in profile after they've identified a job or career that interests them.

“Work backwards and start posting content that positions you as an expert as the type of individual who would be really good at filling a role in that career and that's the kind of content you should be posting,” Richard said.

Vareles thinks that strategy can be re-enforced with some networking.

“The first thing you do when you identify an opening that you're interested in is go to LinkedIn and see if you can find a contact to the organization listing those jobs,” Vareles said. “Networking continues to be, particularly now, networking is going to be how people find their jobs and that's really where you want to work with your contacts.”

As things like conventional face-to-face interviews get a tech make over, Varelas says to ask for help if you need it.

“If you're not technologically knowledgeable, now is the time to form a job search team and get, perhaps, Millennials to be able to help you out,” she said.

Despite the glut of bad economic news over the past few weeks, Varelas says a fair number of companies are interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new employees online even during the stay-at-home advisory.