My job search during the pandemic

I was on an auto walkway minding my own business when out of the blue my mind sort of went on a throwback of how my job search journey was at the height of the pandemic. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park but it sure was an unforgettable misadventure. February 2020 would have been the usual love month celebration but turned out to be a prelude to the scariest months of quarantine and lockdown. I recall people already wearing face masks that at the time were already becoming scarce and expensive coming from January that saw the Taal Volcano eruption lasting several days, with the ashfall even reaching cities in Metro Manila including Caloocan where we live. I was already rendering my final weeks at my former job of almost 15 years, both excited and apprehensive. Back then I thought I was ready, thankful for the many years of professional experience, curious and hopeful that I was seasoned enough to move to a new and relevant role. Like me and so many others praying for better days, nothing could have prepared us for COVID-19 finally being declared a global pandemic and changing our career prospects forever.

I was actually lucky enough to land a job when the lockdown started in March, a short work from home stint, then my wife and I decided to start our own food bar and micro-grocery at an extra front space in our house which we aptly named Camia Eats. While I decided to go full time with our small business, I sneaked a few hours on my MacBook whenever I can to update my LinkedIn profile and my other job portal accounts to promote I was open for work.

It was already mid-year of 2020 and I was excited to be still getting interview invites despite the pandemic! A welcome mix of phone calls, Viber chats, and Zoom/Skype interviews. It would usually start with a headhunter initiating the convo, you then undergo a battery of online assessments or tests, then a series of interviews before getting endorsed to the higher-ups as the last step. This was kind of new to me, as the process is now done by phone and online, though there were a few that asked me to go to the office for a face-to-face interview. For weeks, I was juggling my time between baking in the early morning and dressing up for interviews in the afternoon. I thought I did well in all my interviews that it seems it’s just a matter of choosing which company will have the best job offer.

But then I was mostly ghosted. What’s worst than being rejected is not getting any word about what happened to your job application.

The headhunter invites became lesser or even hard to come by as weeks pass. That’s when it really sank in that my long years of hard work in various roles and important industries is no match to the worsening situation of companies closing down or letting go of people just to survive. That my being a seasoned manager and what I believe to be an impressive CV is no guarantee that companies would instantly want me onboard. That sort of hurt my confidence and made me think about what could have possibly gone wrong in my interviews. Perhaps in the new normal, companies might go for younger workers that fit their salary budgets, even fresh graduates who can better withstand the now tougher remote or on-premise setup.

It would have been easy to quit than keep trying. We have a home business that needs tending and can substantially sustain my family’s needs. But the pandemic brought uncertainties and is not going away soon. At the time LinkedIn was becoming toxic with rants about losing long-held jobs without due notice, unjustified salary cuts and reduced paid work hours, or being terribly ghosted. Weird that it was this vicious cycle of job hunting and job ghosting that kept me going. I thought that rejection, which often hides in the veil of job ghosting, is actually a redirection.

You are ghosted or turned down not because you failed but because you are not a fit – it’s just what it is. So I treated each rejection as being pointed in the right direction, to a better opportunity, a better fit.

So I went on to rework my CV. You would normally highlight what you do with each position you held, nothing wrong with that, but you can enhance it with a list of accomplishments. Quantifying these accomplishments is even better. Companies aren’t just looking for matching skills, they’re also looking for outstanding contributors and collaborators.

I also wrote down questions that are commonly asked, including those that are unique to a role, and came up with better ways of addressing such questions. While most would sugarcoat their answers, I went with straightforward answers with positive reinforcement. Negative and problematic situations will have positive outcomes, learnings that you pick up as you strive to be better with what you do. Companies are looking for problem solvers, not fault finders.

It took me over 4 months before I finally found my next company and I must say it was worth the long wait. I know it’s not easy, not in this pandemic, but don’t stop now. Keep at it and your next career move might just be a phone or video call away.

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