By Barbara Pierce
Millions of Americans are out of work, businesses have been shut for months, many will never reopen—the coronavirus has cratered the job market.
Job seeking can feel like a tough road. Your emotions probably range from denial to anger and frustration to sadness and depression. Sometimes you may feel all of these things at the same time.
These emotions are real, and they are normal. They come with loss. You’ve lost a job, probably due to no fault of your own. You’ve lost co-workers. You’ve lost routine and stability and financial security. You’ve lost a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
To energize your job search, try these strategies suggested by Kathy Peters, Employment Training Coordinator, Empowered Pathways in Utica. Empowered Pathways helps people create self-directed solutions and move forward with their lives through education, advocacy, and empowerment. One of their programs is the Women’s Employment & Resource Center (WERC).
“Treat your job search as if it is your job,” advised Peters. “Take it seriously.” A job search requires nearly the same time commitment as a full-time job. Those who spend only a few minutes a day applying to a handful of ads could be unemployed for a long time.
The first thing job seekers should do is update your resume. You can find samples online.
Your resume should be customized for each position you’ll apply for, by summarizing your job qualifications for that job, and highlighting work experience and strengths that lend themselves to that job. Develop a template to customize for each position.
If a cover letter is included, it too should be tailored to that particular employer and position.
A successful job search requires planning, Peters continued. “Be strategic in creating your plan.”
“It’s important to be organized in your search,” she said. “Keep a notebook or electronic document with a record of all of your applications with a few notes about each. Have that document handy so you can quickly refer to it when an employer calls to schedule an interview.”
Have your resume template, cover letter template, reference list and reference letters all current and available in one place, she added.
“Take some time to prepare for an interview in advance,” she suggested. “Many employers ask very similar questions and it’s in your best interest to give them some thoughtful consideration and prepare answers in advance.”
Prepare your answers to the tough questions. Do you have a gap in your work experience? Were you fired? Are your skills a match for this position? What are your flaws? Prepare so you’ll know how to answer these challenging questions.
Research to understand the job you’re applying for and how it’s a good match for your skills. Gather as much information as you can about the company and the person interviewing you.
Prepare some questions to ask, as that shows you are interested in both the company and the position.
Appearance matters. Wear something that makes you feel good, fits well, is clean. Dress like the people working in that position, but at least one level above that. If you can, invest in a quality outfit for interviews that can give you something to wear to work when you get the job. If you’re financially strapped, borrow from a friend or hit the thrift or consignment stores.
Looking for a job while you’re out of work can feel isolating and lonely; it can be easy to get discouraged. It’s important to stay in the loop on hiring trends, current openings, and search strategies.
At WERC, we help women actively prepare themselves for employment, said Peters. The women we serve come to us of their own accord, and participate fully in our programs and trainings. They’re eager to work and support themselves.
“The women in our classes bond almost immediately,” she added. “They support each other, help each other, cheer each other on, and build each other up. And it doesn’t stop at the end of the training. They often exchange phone numbers and stay in touch long after. I love that meaningful connections happen at Empowered Pathways and friendships blossom.”
“We don’t currently have our next in-person training scheduled due to the pandemic,” said Peters. “We’re providing virtual and on-demand training during these uncertain times. We’re offering individual sessions via phone and Zoom, as well as resume and cover letter writing services, interview coaching, and employer referrals.”
Any unemployed woman over age 18 from Herkimer, Oneida, or Madison Counties is eligible for WERC. “We’ll meet you where they are and support you in your search,” Peters said.
There is no charge for the services of WERC; funding comes from the NYS Department of Labor, the United Way, and other sources.
To register for the program, contact Kathy Peters at 315-793-9700, ext. 204, or email
Kathy@empoweredpathwayscny.org. “We’ll work together to develop a plan of action to provide you with whatever tools you need.”