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Finding a job during COVID-19 series: Christian Ostler, Financial Analyst, FP&A, Clearlink

With COVID-19, MBA students may be wondering how realistic their goals are? Is it still possible to change careers? How long will it take me to find a job after my MBA?

Here, recent MBA graduate Christian Ostler shares his experience of finding a job during COVID-19.

Name: Christian Ostler

School: Warwick Business School

Graduated: September 2020

Role: Financial Analyst

Company: Clearlink

Getting a job is hard. Getting a job in the middle of a pandemic is even harder. Jobseekers need to consistently and intelligently place their efforts - but where should they use their time? Some surveys estimate that up to 80% of applicants find jobs through networking and up to 70% of jobs are never even posted to popular job boards. I’m doubtful of some of these survey results, but it’s clear to me that professional networks are a candidate’s most powerful tool.

One of my favorite podcasters often says, “you need to dig the well before you’re thirsty”, meaning that we can’t expect to draw on the resources of a dormant, distant professional network into which we’ve put no time and effort. After all, who wants to get a message from friends and acquaintances only when they want something from you? That’s exhausting. You can’t reap what you don’t sow.

However, building an active network requires prolonged and diligent cultivation. I’ve written previously on some techniques I find helpful for maintaining an active network that you can find here. But sometimes the companies you’ve been networking with don’t have an open position in your specialty or moving industries means your network isn’t as complete as you might like. Labor markets can tighten, and opportunities diminish. Timings mismatch and balancing your family’s needs requires finding a job yesterday. In short, sometimes you’re thirsty and the well you’ve dug has gone dry. The purpose of this article is to walk you through some things I found helpful for finding a job during a pandemic when my networking efforts became unfruitful. I’m not an expert, these recommendations are just what helped me.

Searching for a Job Is a Job

The first piece of advice that helped me find a job is to treat the job hunt as if I were employed, only not for a company, but in my future. Each day, I would go into a different room from my family, open my laptop, and work on finding a job for several hours. Connecting with potential employers, seeking out interesting roles, and finding smart matches requires time and diligence. It is not enough to reach out to a few people on LinkedIn each day. It’s not enough to post your resume on job sites in hopes that a potential employer will find your resume irresistible. Minimal effort will likely produce minimal results.

More practically, however, we need to treat our environment like a work environment. Due to global circumstances, many have now become accustomed to working from home. A quick Google search of work from home recommendations almost universally shows that you should find a separate working space in your home or apartment. This creates a barrier between home life and work life. I like this article from the Muse that gives a few other recommendations.

When employers aren’t chomping at the bit to hire, we need to ensure we’re in the door early, making connections quickly, and applying soon after a job is posted. In order to promote yourself properly and quickly, you need to set aside time and treat finding a job like a job.

Use Systems

Going along with the previous point, many of us are too lax in our job searches. Lackadaisical presentation can sway employers from hiring an otherwise excellent candidate. So, I created several systems to help me track my progress and put my best foot forward on each individual application. For me, this was a spreadsheet so I could keep track of the company, position, when the job was posted, if I had contacted the recruiter, if I had connections (or if I needed to create connections), and whether I was able to apply with a referral. I then tracked the progress of my application, in addition to setting follow-up dates to check in on my application. Don’t set these too soon after applying, many hiring managers are getting swamped with resumes.

When I found a job I was interested in, I immediately input the company’s name, the position, and when the job was posted. I’d then start reaching out to the recruiter who posted the job and people in the department I hoped to join. Usually, I’d reach out to about 4-5 people per posting. I’d ask for informational interviews and, if the job seemed like a fit, I would ask the connection to refer me for the job using their internal systems. Finally, after submission, I would check up with the recruiter to see if there was any additional information I could offer about my history or employment. I would take that time to list my references and comment on the company’s recent happenings.

Casting a wide net necessitates keeping track of your efforts and applications. Building systems and habits helps keep the project bite-sized.

Talk to People

As you saw above, I tracked everything with the over 50 applications I completed during my job hunt, which lasted a little over a month. Perhaps the most valuable piece of data this provided was how central employee referrals were for success. Of the 16 applications submitted with an employee referral, I got 7 interviews. Of the other 34 applications submitted without an employee referral, I got one interview. Pretty interesting, eh?

Employers are risk-averse and want employees they can trust will do a good job and stick around. Having a current employee refer you for a position de-risks the process for the employer, which plays in your favor. Creating connections within the departments you hope to work also de-risks the opportunity for you. You learn what to expect, how managers are, and what the company culture is like. As is often the case, your most valuable asset can be who you know and how well you know them.

As stated previously, I am in no way an expert on finding a job. But I have listened to advice from well-studied and well-known individuals about finding a job. This article laid out a few things that I found useful, but I’d encourage anybody that finds themselves search for a job to learn all you can and act diligently and quickly. Good luck!

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