10 Return to Work Tips for Relaunchers During the COVID-19 Health Crisis
While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, here’s how relaunchers can use extended time at home to be best positioned for success when this crisis is behind us.
1. Focus on maintaining your mental health
Forced “social distancing,” especially during a job search, can be challenging to mental health.¹ Listen to our podcasts on “Maintaining mental health during a prolonged job search” and on “Negative self-talk and the job search” and our team member Shannon Amspacher’s personal post on her mental health journey while her father faced hiring challenges. Reduce isolation by participating in relauncher social media groups and using Facetime or Zoom when having calls in order to have face to face contact with fellow relaunchers, former colleagues and classmates, friends and family, and others critical to your job search.
2. Identify a "relaunch buddy" or "relaunch circle" and set up a regular check-in schedule
With virtual meetups replacing in-person gatherings, it's more important than ever to relaunch with a like-minded buddy or group. Providing support for each other through the ups and downs of the job search, having a built-in mock interview partner and sounding board, and most importantly, someone you are checking in with regularly, will keep you accountable and moving forward so you don't lose momentum during this challenging time.
3. Sign up for a course and a remote volunteer project
Didn’t have time to do this before? You may have time now. Check out edX and Coursera for high quality, free courses from top universities. Apply for a remote volunteer project through catchafire.org. Then write to recruiters and LinkedIn contacts from companies to which you have applied for a job, or others you are continually updating, and let them know how you are making the most of your time during the social distancing mandate. You also may want to include a link to your new bio (see #7).
4. Research and apply to roles at companies likely to thrive in a downturn
Which employers are experiencing increased demand for their products and services? What businesses supply to these employers? Push yourself to think creatively to identify these employers and apply for open roles there; for example, check out virtual course provider Udemy's 150 openings ranging from finance to content strategy, or Northshore University Healthsystem's 565 roles ranging from assistant general counsel to medical and pharmacy professionals of every kind, to grocery chain Wegman's corporate roles ranging from software engineer to tax analyst.
Note: When you apply for roles, print out the job description or save it in your own e-file, including the job number. Sometimes companies remove the job description when they close applications, and if you are in the running, you no longer have it to reference. If it’s too late and the job description is already taken down from the company’s careers page, then do a google search for the company name, the job title and job number. You will sometimes find it on a job board the company is using to publicize the opening before it gets taken down (sometimes these stay up for weeks after the role is removed from the company’s careers page).
5. Apply for remote, contract roles
Peruse the opportunities on Flexjobs to find part time, remote, flex, and freelance roles. Taking on a contract role is an effective intermediate step to a full-time relaunch, or maybe a series of contract roles is the way you want to relaunch longer term. We recommend relaunchers suggest contract work or a special project to a hiring manager if the relauncher is applying for a full-time role and detects hesitation on the part of the employer because of the career break. See my 12-minute TED talk where I suggest this at the end.
6. But don’t only apply online
You must take the next step of identifying someone who knows someone who works at the employer where you are applying. This and our advice “go public with your job search” is more important than ever now. Listen to Episode 98: “You Never Know Who Your Friends Know” with Sharon Gala and Episode 74: "Networks & Networking – More Than a Cocktail Party” with J. Kelly Hoey on our "3, 2, 1, iRelaunch" podcast and read our blog, "Get Out, Talk and Tell the World" for more on this all-important step.
7. Write a bio about yourself, including a photo and narrative emphasizing core competencies and accomplishments
Recruiters tell us this summary makes it much easier for them to capture a snapshot of your interests, skills and background than taking in an entire resume. Plus, they are a boon to relaunchers, because they typically dispense with dates and any mention of the career break, unless an experience during that time enhances your candidacy. Note the bio is created in addition to the resume, not instead of. When you are writing it, pretend you are speaking at an event or already on a work team and they need a bio about you for their event or company website. If you are applying for a director or VP level role, make sure you include something about managing people, even if you only managed a few people; “managed small, high performing teams.” Same with emphasizing any budgeting or P&L experience.
The bio is a gift to former colleagues or others whom you want to recommend you to someone else. They will recommend you to their contact faster if you give them the language to cut and paste. See examples at the end of this post.²
8. Remember not to get hung up on what "level" you return to
Read this article I wrote for HBR which looks at relaunchers who came back to work years ago at lower levels than where they left, and where they are today. The message is not to get too hung up on the level at which you first come back in, even if it is somewhat or a lot lower than where you were pre-career break. Focus on getting in the door, and the raises and promotions will follow over time.
9. Pursue remote networking and update your Contact Pools
Although complying with COVID-19 public health recommendations means we have to curtail our in-person interactions, you can still accomplish a lot through remote networking. At iRelaunch, we look at networking in terms of Contact Pools - identifying key “people from the past," “people from the present” and “people from the future.” This concept was introduced in the original Back on the Career Track, the book I co-authored with Vivian Steir Rabin released in 2007. We discuss this in more detail in Phase 4, Step 16 of the iRelaunch Return to Work Roadmap, the multi-media, updated version of the book. Reaching out to your contacts in each category with your new bio, a summary of what roles you are pursuing and a general check in to find out how they are doing in these unprecedented times, is a productive way to use time at home when in an active job search. People are much more likely to be available to respond now while on travel moratoriums. Make sure to volunteer any virtual assistance you can provide to them while having this exchange.
10. Utilize our (virtual) iRelaunch tools and resources
- Join our iRelaunch mailing list to get our weekly media roundup, monthly newsletters and other communications about return to work jobs and employer hiring programs.
- Sign up for our private Facebook group the “iRelaunch Return to Work Forum.” You will have to answer questions to be accepted into the group, which we require in order to make sure we admit only relaunchers and not those who are trying to sell to relaunchers.
- Listen to our popular "3,2,1 iRelaunch podcast." We can’t think of a better time to take in the best strategies, advice and success stories from relaunchers, employers, experts, recruiters and academics. We will keep releasing them every week – podcasts won’t get cancelled!
- Take this opportunity to go through the iRelaunch Return to Work Roadmap and get thoroughly prepared to apply for your next job.
¹We are not medical professionals and our comments should not be construed as medical advice.
²Below are two bio examples adopted from Back on the Career Track that are still relevant today.
Bio example 1:
Susan Smith is vice president for U.S operations for XYZ company. Susan has over 12 years of diverse business experience, including increasing leadership roles in finance and human resources in the media, financial services and consulting industries. Prior to joining XYZ company, Susan was director of recruitment and personnel for ABC company, a publishing and consulting concern in Washington, D.C. where she initiated an MBA recruitment program, established an HR infrastructure and provided senior management training. Susan holds a BA and an MBA from DEF University.
Bio example 2:
Kid’s marketer Diane Door brings over 15 years of creative strategic experience to any kids’ marketing challenge. As a board member for JKL Art Org, a nonprofit organization that provides dynamic, content rich art programs for kids, Diane provides guidance on programming, marketing and organizational development. An X university MBA graduate, Diane helped launch Mattel Toys’ Becky, the first ever fashion doll in a wheelchair. The doll, a close friend of Barbie, was cited as garnering the most press of any product Mattel had ever launched, as well as accolades from affiliated organizations and kids around the world. Diane’s experience with international brands with kid appeal includes the initial development of the Eveready Battery Company’s Energizer Bunny sales promotion materials leveraging the ad campaign’s widespread success. Always up for an adventure, Diane and her husband lived in Bangkok, Thailand for more than four years with their three children. While in Thailand, she initiated and structured the Pizza Company (formerly Pizza Hut, Thailand’s largest fast food pizza company) Birthday Party Program. Currently, Diane is based in greater Boston and is engaged in a variety of projects, including a new business concept that would support kids’ exploration of future careers. Diane is available to consult on kids’ marketing issues and new products and services.