More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, and even with slow re-openings of local and state economies, the job security of many more hangs in the balance.
If you’ve lost work due to the pandemic, you’re likely wading into a new world of navigating unemployment and wondering what the future of your job prospects may look like, whether that means earning an income now or charting out your career down the road.
Many people are familiar with online job boards, but they’re not always the most helpful for specific situations. CNBC Make It spoke with career-services professionals about their best tips for finding work, growing your career and answering any number of questions you may have about living and working under the new realities of the pandemic.
1. Research hiring trends by ZIP code
National and even state employment numbers paint a broad stroke of what jobs might look like in your immediate community. That’s why Jane Oates, president of employment education campaign WorkingNation, suggests people who are out of work get familiar with their local labor market information.
By looking at hiring trends by ZIP code, Oates says you can better understand what sectors might grow or shrink in your local economy in the future. This can guide how you approach your next job or overall career plans.
For example, while jobs in data analytics may be particularly visible at the national level, Oates says these roles are harder to aspire to in the short-term because of the training they require. That said, if you see your city is projected to continue ramping up data analytics jobs beyond the time it’ll take you to train in the subject, it may be a path worth pursuing.
2. Complete a skills assessment
Oates, who was a Department of Labor official under the Obama administration, also recommends using the My Next Move skills assessment site, which was launched in 2009 following the Great Recession.
Think of it like those career aptitude tests you took in grade school, but with practical steps for how to actually pursue the jobs you’re interested in.
“My Next Move gives you very specific job titles aligned with what you’d like to do,” Oates says. Browse careers by keywords describing your “dream job,” by industry groupings, or by answering a series of questions about your skills and interests.
Oates says the results of these skills assessments, paired with information about your local job market, can give you a good place to start thinking about your next career moves. She recommends job seekers work with a career coach for further guidance.
3. Partner with organizations that can help you change careers
The Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop is a good place to visit for questions related to every aspect of employment, including receiving unemployment benefits, refreshing your resume, preparing for interviews and job training and placement.
When looking into job training, consider organizations that have a clear talent pipeline that can connect you directly with employers for open roles, says Bridget Altenburg, president and CEO of National Able Network in Chicago.
Job seekers with National Able Network, for example, have access to on-the-job training and paid work experience with local employers, who often hire trainees once they’ve completed the program.
This path can be especially helpful for people to transition from a volatile industry into a more secure one, Altenburg adds. For example, many restaurant and hospitality workers have completed National Able Network’s IT program to move into technology jobs.
“Employers love that experience,” Altenberg says. These individuals “know how to work with people, and you combine that with a technology credential, and now they’re a fantastic help-desk technician. Those roles aren’t going away soon.”
“There are ways to effectively change into more high-growth careers, ones with more sustainable wages and benefits, and the federal government has provided dollars to to that training.”
For more information about federally funded training programs in your area, search CareerOneStop by your ZIP code to connect with one of 2,400 job centers in the U.S. You may also research whether your state, industry association or a specific employer will provide grant money for your training to level up your career.
4. Find local job boards
If you’re looking for more immediate income, Oates says you might find on-demand jobs through Craigslist or Snagajob. These will likely involve in-person, hourly work for the essential positions of today, including warehouse stockers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and more.
Craigslist could also be an option to see if any of your neighbors need help with a specific service or skill you can provide from home, such as tutoring kids for a few hours a day, helping someone code their online portfolio or other freelance projects.
But be sure to carefully vet the employer posting the job before sharing any personal or financial information with them. Fraudulent offers may ask for your bank account information, Social Security number or that you pay a one-time fee to apply for the job, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau told CNBC.
Research the employer using sites like the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to confirm its services or products, its executives and contact information. You can also drop the business name into a search engine plus the word “scam” to see what comes up.
5. Connect with employers directly
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell who’s in charge of a listing on a major job board: an internal or external recruiter, the hiring manager, the company or another party altogether. Because of this, Oates also recommends looking for openings on sites like the Direct Employers Association, a nonprofit and member-owned job site where businesses are directly posting openings and reviewing applications through an independently operated website.
“Employers have more skin in the game to connect with and hire with these applicants directly,” Oates says, “rather than through a traditional job search engine.”
6. Get a pulse on company reviews and pay data
Other major job boards, such as Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor and LinkedIn can also be a good first step to get an idea of who’s hiring in your area on a broader level. However, Oates says these sites may include job postings that are out of date or posted in duplicate.
Use these aggregates for details beyond the job listings, such as employee reviews of the company or pay data for a certain title or employer.
7. Check your local public library for even more resources
Marzena Ermler is the manager of career services for the New York Public Library system. Since the pandemic, the library has increased its offerings to help people search and apply for a new role in today’s virtual job market. That includes one-on-one coaching to practice video and phone interviews; providing templates for resumes, cover letters and email correspondences; access to free online training courses; and career and resiliency coaching.
While Ermler stresses the library isn’t a job bank that can place workers with an employer, “we’re guiding people through their own process and providing them with the tools they can use over and over again.” Not to mention, libraries may have access to databases not usually open to the public (at least, not without a fee) that can connect job seekers with additional resources to aid in the job search.
In addition to career coaching, Ermler says the New York Public Library system offers consultations for small business owners, as well as patrons who may need help getting their personal finances in order.
Check with your own local public library to see what’s available in your community.
8. Revisit your college career center
College students around the country are having to figure out their next moves with internships or post-grad jobs that have been postponed or completely canceled due to the pandemic.
This has kept college career counselors busy at the University of Florida Career Connections Center. Senior director Ja’Net Glover says they’ve moved all of their services online, including one-on-one training, professional development webinars and hiring updates from over 500 employers in their student recruitment network.
Glover recommends current students, recent grads and even alumni consider revisiting their college career center as a networking resource. Job seekers can get in front of recruiters, and even those spread out across the country can connect with other alumni about job prospects in their shared field.
“Career services is an alumni association benefit,” Glover says. “I would encourage people in the community to reach out to their institution as part of their network. That community can be a wonderful gateway to find or rekindle connections for employment.”