How to Enhance Your Career During a COVID-19 Lockdown

Social distancing–and even a lockdown–doesn’t have to set back your career networking or job search. As the Founder and Head Career Coach of NextStep Careers, I work with clients all over the globe who are using this unexpected time to connect and develop internal contacts as well as brush up their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and interview skills. Both career switchers and career enhancers are leaning in virtually, and you can too.

Set up at least one informational a week

Don’t let the cancelled conferences and meetups derail your networking. With so many people working from home, this is a great time to reach out for a quick 15-minute phone or virtual call, also known as an informational interview. These conversations will help you gain insight into the organization, gain internal advocates, and customize cover letters or business proposals.

First, build out your network tracking sheet and prioritize the companies by your level of interest. Next, reach out to the warm leads, particularly those who are alums of your college or grad school, or who previously worked at the same company as you. You don’t need to have overlapped, been in the same graduating class or even worked at the same office location. You are just looking for commonality and you can find these individuals using LinkedIn or your school’s alumni database. In addition, NextStep career coaches can help you grow your network further and help with introductions.

Typically, you will get a response from about a third to a half of the warm leads, so send targeted outreach to at least double the number of contacts you want to speak with in a given week. This will secure a strong pipeline.

Brush up your resume

The best practice is to add your recent accomplishments on your resume at the end of every month, but most busy professionals rarely take the time and are left scrambling to prep for a performance review or when the perfect new job (internally or externally) gets posted. Take this time to list out your big wins and quantify the impact of each project. Recruiters and hiring managers love to see that you can drive change and have quantitative proficiency.

Can’t share the numbers? Then I like to use percentage change in resume bullets, such as:

  • …increasing revenue YOY by x% 
  • …improving efficiency by x%
  • …enhancing client retention by x%

Still having writer’s block when it comes to your resume? You can set up a session and we will work real-time via GoogleDocs. By asking the right questions, your career coach will draw out your best accomplishments, match the qualifications to a job description, and help you pass a company’s applicant tracking system.

Optimize your LinkedIn

This is a perfect time to for a LinkedIn refresh, and not just for the job seekers looking to attract attention from recruiters and executive search firms. I also work with senior execs, entrepreneurs and investors on polishing their personal brand on LinkedIn because it drives business development and helps land more investor meetings. Also, for all of you hiring managers, job applicants will view your LinkedIn profile, so make sure you are depicting the company culture and your own career progression to attract the best talent. 

In your profile, make sure you have:

  • Written an About section, often a variation on your elevator/30-second pitch
  • Constructed role descriptions written like how you would speak to another human being. AKA don’t paste your resume bullets.
  • Selected and embedded the right media with customized titles and descriptions (see image)
Embed media–images, links, and PDFs–for each role on LinkedIn
  • Uploaded a background image rather than the default, blue constellation/network image. You’re not basic, so your profile should not be either.
  • Add a featured section to your profile and pin posts and pictures that visually highlight your accomplishments.
The new featured section

If you hate writing about yourself, NextStep career coaches can help you transform your LinkedIn page. It’s actually my favorite part of the career management process because LinkedIn allows you to be so creative with marketing your own expertise and impact.

Polish your stories through interview prep

So far, we are seeing that companies are continuing to interview, although many are switching to virtual. Make you are interview ready with strong answers for the most common questions:

  • Walk me through your resume/Tell me about yourself
  • Why this company?
  • Why this role?
  • Behavioral-fit: What is your greatest strength? Weakness? Etc.
  • Give me an example of a time that you….

We offer virtual small group and 1:1 coaching sessions to help you select and deliver the best answers. We also do customized mock interviews specific to the role. This is particularly helpful when you are heading into final round interviews.

Best of luck staying sanitized, sane, and safe. If you would like to do a virtual complimentary consult so you can utilize this time effectively, contact us here. We are here to help.

Emily Taylor is the founder and head coach of NextStep Careers. She previously taught career management to 2,500 MBAs at UCLA Anderson and was the VP of Talent Development at a high-growth, edtech startup. Emily has a BA and MA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA Anderson