Top 6 ways for job seekers to use pandemic downtime productively

Layoff or furlough due to COVID-19 provides opportunities to enhance, expand skill sets

August 13, 2020

By Pat Harriman

Cynthia Rude
“This is a disruptive and transformational moment for all of us, especially if you’re looking for a new job. You may find yourself needing to expand the types of opportunities you’re open to. Career exploration, networking and understanding how your transferable skills can benefit multiple industries is time well spent,” says Cynthia Rude, executive director of UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business Career Center. Photo by
Jeanine Hill / Jeanine Hill Photography

Getting laid off or furloughed is always tough, but as with every other aspect of our lives these days, finding a new job is even more challenging in a pandemic. The absence of live networking events, job fairs or even coffee with friends means finding new ways to use your downtime productively that will help you secure a new position.

“Though it’s difficult and will take more time, it’s important in any hiring downturn to maintain an upbeat outlook and to continue developing skill sets,” says Cynthia Rude, executive director of UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business Career Center. “It’s important to think about how you can ‘upskill’ with certain certificates, trainings or networking conversations – all within the context of a fully virtual process during the pandemic. The biggest advantage you can give yourself is to approach the situation with a growth mindset and curiosity for learning in order to take the appropriate actions to move forward.”

She shares some of her expert insights into making the most of the extra time you have on your hands:

  • Evaluate your existing skill set and determine what others are essential to your career and will increase your chances of getting a job. Learning new skills not only enhances your expertise but boosts your self-confidence and expands your job prospects. There are free resources, such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning.
  • Understand how your transferable skills can benefit multiple industries. Have more than one plan of action to address various possibilities. What is your ideal job? What is a position closely related to your most recent function or industry? What opportunities are available that will get your foot in the door and act as steppingstones to getting your ideal job?
  • Work on enhancing your online visibility through platforms such as LinkedIn. Stay as connected and visible as possible through posts and articles. Reach out to professionals to set up informational interviews to help establish new contacts and extend your network. With everyone in front of computer screens, people are more receptive to virtual networking.
  • Make sure your resume and cover letter are tailored to the position(s) for which you are applying.
  • Write and practice your personal statement. This is your response to the “tell me about yourself” part of an interview. Know your accomplishments and describe how you’ll make valuable contributions to the organization. Don’t forget to showcase resiliency by telling interviewers how you used this time during the pandemic to build your skills and remain marketable.
  • Plan and prepare for a fully virtual process. Video interviews are the new normal, so it’s critical that you have adequate equipment (a webcam, for instance) and internet speeds. Make sure you’re familiar with the hiring company’s technology platforms – such as Zoom or Skype – ahead of time. Think about your professional appearance, the background environment (clean walls and minimal distractions) and having the camera at eye level so you’re engaged with the interviewer. Practice by recording yourself answering questions and reviewing the result.

“Above all, have patience and a positive outlook,” Rude says. “Get organized, use your resources, stay focused, have a plan and be prepared. And don’t forget to pay it forward.”

Share this post: