A job search amidst a pandemic is no easy feat. Here's a look at my journey joining the Moncur team.
I recently started a new job. Yes, in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. For posterity, I’ve decided to write a brief synopsis of my experience, along with some specific pointers that will, hopefully, help someone else navigate the process. Be forewarned, however, you will be subjected to some anecdotal information.
To simply say that searching for a job during normal times is difficult would be a disservice to everyone fervently looking to advance their station in the professional world. It is a taxing, trying, frustrating experience.
Couple that with a job search during a worldwide pandemic-the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over 100 years-and it is invariably worse. Words like disappointing, deflating, entirely exhausting, (insert your preferred phrase), would fall utterly short when describing the emotional toll that it takes on a person.
Let me back up a moment; I can’t speak for everyone. I mean, I’m sure a Harvard Law graduate would have no trouble finding work even in the most difficult times. A skilled journeyman in the trades may always be able to find something. I can’t speak to the employability of lawyers or electricians. I can only speak for myself. I can, however, assume that there are many people with similar stories, albeit with vastly dissimilar professional experiences and qualifications.
For background; I was in television news for over 15 years. I started in “the business” doing a job barely above the level of an intern. I worked and moved, worked and moved, worked and moved; state to state, station to station, job to job. During my 15 years, I learned to direct newscasts, became an excellent videographer, started reporting, worked extremely hard at my writing craft, and eventually became an anchor. After all that work, and all that moving, I decided that the news business and I just didn’t have the positive relationship I looked for in a work partner. It certainly wasn’t the kind of relationship that promotes a positive outlook on life. So, after finally becoming a “big anchor,” I decided to leave the business.
A very knowledgeable man once told me that if you choose to leave a career that you’ve spent years to build, do not entirely abandon the knowledge you gained from the work. In other words; if you were a computer programmer, don’t just quit with the intention of being a lumberjack. You can, mind you, if that’s what your heart truly desires, just understand that the learning curve will be that much greater. Instead, maybe go into animation or design. Do something that is different, but where you are still able to use your talents.
For me; I wanted out of local news. Now, I still loved shooting video, creating stories, writing, doing voice-over work, etc., but just not for that medium. I also felt like I needed some time to decompress from the fast pace and hollow nature of television news. I had several offers to continue at other TV stations when my last contract ended, but chose to accept an offer in state government in South Carolina (the same location where I had been working as an anchor). It was everything I always assumed it would be. Highly detailed, extremely structured, and completely safe. Everything moved at a much steadier pace as well. It was a breath of fresh air. It was a job where someone could stay for 20 or 30 years, retire modestly but comfortably, and be “just fine.” However, after a year and a half of relatively good experiences and solid professional growth, I knew that this could not be my course, mainly because the position offered very little creative expression, and a generally limited pay-scale.
As a family, the decision was made to move back to Michigan (where we are originally from), so I began to look for positions where my skillset would benefit the most. My strongest areas of expertise included videography, editing, writing (storytelling), and now, thanks to my government experience, effective communication and media relations (which included extensive public relations initiatives and crisis management).
So, I began the job search, online, of course. I set up pre-fill data, established accounts with the larger companies which had profile data collections, and used all the available resources (LinkedIn and Indeed turned out to be the most comprehensive (for me)). I used all the right keywords: communications; media relations; writing; you name it, I searched it.
And then… COVID-19!
Prior to COVID, I had a few phone interviews, and one in-person interview. I received a couple of offers but accepted none. I applied to many jobs that were above my station (though not above my ability), and likewise many that were below. I accepted many interviews, regardless of whether or not I actually wanted that particular job. I figured that the more I practiced, the better I would be when the right one came along.
There are a few things that you have to reconcile before your job hunting begins.
You must decide:
- What is the lowest pay you are willing to accept?
- What do you need in term of benefits?
- What is your desired location (in terms of commute time)?
There are more decisions during the course of a job search, but much of that relies on personal experience and, in my opinion, intuition.
Suffice it to say that when COVID arrived, everything dried up. Several job prospects, from which I had hoped to get a call, simply sent emails stating that the position was “not being filled,” or “has been canceled.” Mind you, I was attempting to change my career trajectory during a time when getting any job was tough. And while I didn’t think that many of the jobs where I had applied for were a far departure from what I knew, I can only imagine what people outside of the television news world thought of my somewhat eclectic resume. Bouncing from state to state and job to job, never staying for longer than a few years. By the way, that is very typical of people in the news business and no cause for alarm.
After it became obvious that COVID-19 wasn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, my job search slowed. In truth, I stopped applying almost entirely. Luckily, I was still working full time, and now I was apprehensive to change jobs during a time when so many people were losing theirs.
As the weeks turned to months, and as we learned more and more about the virus, life began to move a little more (albeit at a snail’s pace), and I started to look for work again. I had never spent so much time looking for a new job in my entire life. Employers were poking their heads out, adjusting to telecommuting, and, for the first time in history, coming to the realization that work can be just as effective when being done from home.
I started to get calls/emails again. I took several interviews-now through Zoom-and even turned down a few offers (if you can believe that). People wanted to hire again, and I was determined to make the right decision for my future. There was also a new benefit: prospective employers were no longer afraid to hire someone from another state! The new environment of remote work had broadened their options and eased the restrictive nature of location dependence.
After five months of “COVID living,” and more than seven months of job searching, I got the offer I had been waiting for. The position was for Moncur, and it seemed to suit my talents, while offering great potential for advancement, including the possibility of incorporating my television expertise in the future. What excited me about the job was that it was a relatively small agency with massive potential. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a place where I could directly contribute to the growth. I knew the curve of learning a new job would be much greater than in the past, but I was confident I could do it well, and excited to make a positive change.
This story, like many, ended up being something very different than what I thought it would be. In writing this, a total of nine tips emerged and, whether you’re searching for a job during a pandemic, or during “normal” times, here they are:
- Decide what type of career path you are on. Are you going to be searching in your current field, or changing course?
- Determine what you need from a job. Do you need full-time or part-time? Does it need to offer insurance? Do you need a short commute? Do you want fully remote?
- Stay in your lane (or going in a similar direction at least). If you are staying in your lane, things should be a little easier. If you are changing direction, be sure to use the experience you’ve already gained as a baseline for your next move.
- Don’t get discouraged. Although you may have extensive qualifications for a certain position, remember that employers are often getting dozens (if not hundreds) of applications for a single position. So, your “perfect resume” may never even get seen. Just chalk it up as something that wasn’t meant to be, but…
- Follow up. If you find a job that seems too perfect to leave to chance, send a follow-up email. If you don’t have a contact, I find that LinkedIn is a simple way to find out who’s in charge. Send a quick message about your interest; you never know what could happen.
- Be honest! But don’t get too personal. People always say, “fake it until you make it.” I don’t like liars, and I expect an employer would not either. I think you should be honest about your ability and deliberate with your intent. E.g. Don’t say you can do something that you can’t. Instead, express your interest to learn. If the ability is necessary to begin the job in any capacity, it’s probably not the right job for you at that time.
- Be honest with yourself. This is more reflective, but without being realistic about your current ability, you run the risk of building up your hopes for something that you are woefully unqualified for. Then, even if you get an interview (or actually get the job), your confidence will greatly be diminished by your lack of ability to accomplish tasks.
- Always seek more. Whether your next position is simply a job or a long-term career, always give yourself opportunity for advancement. And I don’t mean just in that position. I think personal growth is every bit as important as professional growth (but that’s an entirely different blog). This might be reading a book, taking an online course, or learning a new program.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new. Change can be difficult, but if you are doing it with a positive intention toward your future (and life in general for that matter), even failing at something new can prove to be an extraordinary learning experience.
As they say (whoever “they” is): everything happens for a reason. Moncur appealed to me because I am able to use many of my previously acquired talents, as well as take on challenging new projects. Though starting a new position right now is a bit strange, literally everything in the world is strange right now, so why should a new job be any different? I am a firm believer that we should always seek progress, no matter the form. And Moncur’s ability to adapt certainly shows a level of progress that would excite anyone starting a new job, pandemic or not.
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