How to Look for a New Job While You Are Furloughed

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According to the Economic Policy Institute, the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could result in employers cutting nearly 20 million employees by July 2020. Some, like Uber and Boeing, have either terminated workers outright or offered buyout packages.  Others, like Walt Disney World and Marriott, have placed employees on furlough, with the intention of bringing them back when market conditions stabilize. 

However, according to one estimate, 42% of recent layoffs and furloughs could become permanent. And the longer the pandemic persists, the more likely it is that this situation will continue to occur. So, if you find yourself furloughed, it makes sense to start your job search sooner rather than later.

However, the possibility of a full-fledged layoff is not the only reason to start looking for a new job. A furlough can be an opportunity to reassess your career. And since many furloughed workers retain their employer-sponsored health insurance and qualify for unemployment compensation, job searching right now might offer a rare chance to do so without sneaking around or losing all financial stability.

Reexamine Your Job Role and Realize Your Potential

To prepare for a job search during a furlough, determine what you have to offer employers. Then, position your skills and qualifications in a way that will make the best possible impression on hiring managers.

Determine Your Skill Sets

If you had to list your skill sets, could you? If it’s been a while since you’ve looked for a job, you might have some trouble. You might also stumble on the term "skill set.” In short, a skill set is the knowledge, experience, and abilities needed to do a particular job.

When you’re looking for a new job, during a furlough or at any other time, it’s a good idea to list your applicable skills. Then, you can use your list to update your resume, write cover letters, and make the best impression during job interviews.

Start your brainstorming by reviewing lists of skills that are attractive to hiring managers in a general sense, and then consider job-specific skills that are important in your industry. After that, you might decode a few job advertisements for positions similar to your target role.

Finally, don’t forget about soft skills. Interpersonal skills like communication, teamwork, and flexibility are always in demand—and they’re tougher to teach than hard skills like coding or editing. Show employers that you have these hard-to-quantify soft skills, and you’ll stand out from the competition.

Know What You Have to Offer

When you’re preparing for job interviews, it sometimes helps to think about the problems the hiring manager is trying to solve. You can then show that you’re the person to solve them, given your skills, experience, and qualifications.  

For example, let’s say that you’re interviewing for a customer service role at a company that’s struggling to maintain market share. In your resume, cover letter, and job interviews, you would emphasize your customer retention rate and success with customer referrals.  

Position Yourself for Success

To maximize your chances of landing a new job, take a multi-pronged approach. While you refine your resume and fine-tune your interview skills, be alert for opportunities to grow as a candidate. What skills could you add to make yourself more competitive? Which connections should you establish to broaden your network and inform your search?

By remaining open to new information and experiences, you can turn a scary time in your career into an opportunity to expand into an entirely new professional phase.

Rework and Redefine Your Resume

Once you’ve identified the skills, qualifications, and experience that you’d like to emphasize to a hiring manager, it’s time to polish your resume. Focus first on what to add to your resume. Next, streamline your CV by eliminating the inessential.

 Include the following on your resume:

  • All relevant certifications, skill sets, and work experience, especially those that you’ve added or improved recently. Use numbers to quantify your accomplishments.
  • Updated formatting that highlights your achievements. For example, you might consider adding a skills section that puts your most important skills front and center, where hiring managers are bound to notice them.
  • Resume keywords that will make your resume attractive to both humans and algorithms. Many employers use applicant tracking systems to collect and sort applications, so it’s essential to use keywords that will help your resume reach a human’s eyes.

 Leave out or eliminate these:

  • Old positions, especially those with job titles that will date you. Remember that your resume is not your entire biography. It’s a one-sheet sales document intended to get your foot in the door.
  • The phrase “references available upon request.” In addition to wasting valuable real estate on your resume, this phrase can signal that you’re an older job seeker.
  • Any indication of your furloughed status. Although you should be truthful if asked about your current employment status, there’s no need to volunteer that you’re on furlough. You’re still on the company’s books, and although you’d be in good company if you were unemployed right now, there’s no need to complicate matters.

Best Job Resources

The best job search plan is one that doesn’t focus on one resource alone. You never know where you’ll find your next job—it could be through a job board, a networking connection, or a random social media post.

To increase your chances, combine resources. Cross-reference job ads with your LinkedIn network, looking for potential referrals. Use your professional network to identify opportunities and then listings on job search sites to help you determine which qualifications will make you stand out in your field.

 Here are a few resources to help you get started: 

  • Job search engines: These websites crawl employer sites as well as job boards, typically listing many more positions than job boards alone. Job search engines include Indeed, Job Search on Google, and SimplyHired.
  • Niche job search sites: Whether you’re a college student looking for a seasonal job or an experienced professional in tech, finance, or healthcare, niche job search sites can help you zero in on opportunities in your field. Often, these sites include openings that aren’t listed on job boards or search engines.
  • FlexJobs: Want to work remotely or on a flex schedule at your next job? FlexJobs offers vetted job listings for a monthly fee.
  • LinkedIn: With nearly 690 million members in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn offers professional networking, job searching, recruiting, and various resources for job seekers and other professionals. Use it to build your personal brand, connect with hiring managers, or meet others in your field.  
  • Employers’ careers pages and social media: Do you have a dream employer—one with a brand you admire, a company culture that seems like the perfect fit, and loads of opportunities that seem just right for you? If so, make a plan to get noticed by your ideal company. Follow them on social media, check their careers pages frequently, and strategize ways to connect.  
  • CareerOneStop: The U.S. Department of Labor’s resource for career training and job search help, CareerOneStop is the place to go for information on certifications, apprenticeships, and local resources. There’s also a drop-down list with unemployment benefits programs for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Sharpen Your Interview Skills

Especially if it’s been a while since you went on a job interview, now is a good time to sharpen your technique.
Remember that presentation is important. Whether you’re meeting in person or via video conferencing, you need to be sure to present yourself in a professional manner. That means paying attention to your grooming, interview attire, posture, and body language.

Come prepared with questions. In addition to preparing to answer the questions that hiring managers ask during the job interview, you should also come with your own questions. Remember that your goal is to determine if the role and the company will be a good fit for you. You are trying to figure out whether you’ll be happy and successful in this job, and whether it will fit in with your career plans.

 Ask job interview questions like:

  • How would you describe a typical day in this position?
  • What are the biggest challenges of this job?
  • What is the company's management style?
  • What type of background do you feel would be best suited for success in this position?
  •  How do people advance in the company?
  • How would you describe this company's values?

 Avoid the following:

  • Asking when you can expect a raise or time off.
  • Asking questions that indicate you haven’t done your research, e.g., “What does this company do?”
  • Any behaviors that might come across as rude or inconsiderate. For example, you should be on time for the interview and appear present and focused during the discussion. Do not check your phone, consume beverages or snacks, or chew gum during the conversation.
  • Any statements that may come across as negative or pessimistic. Even if you feel that your current employer has treated you poorly, don’t speak ill of the organization during the interview. The hiring manager may assume that you’ll do the same for their company.

Stay Positive

Even during economic downturns, companies hire new employees, even though the hiring process may be conducted remotely. During the coronavirus pandemic, large employers like Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, and FedEx have added hundreds of thousands of employees to their payrolls. So, as you continue to refine your job search, above all, be optimistic. 

Article Sources

  1. The Economic Policy Institute. “Nearly 20 million workers will likely be laid off or furloughed by July.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  2. Business Insider. “The Coronavirus Outbreak Has Triggered Unprecedented Mass Layoffs and Furloughs.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  3. Business Insider. “Uber is Cutting 3,700 Jobs, 14% Of Its Total Workforce, As the Coronavirus Ravages Ride-Hailing Revenue.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  4. USA Today. “These 21 Prominent US Businesses Are Among Those Temporarily Laying Off The Most People.” Accessed May 13, 2020.

  5. The New York Times. “Disney World Furloughing 43,000 Workers.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  6. Becker Friedman Institute, University of Chicago. “Working Paper: COVID-19 Is Also a Reallocation Shock.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  7. Quartz. “Some Furloughs Are Turning Into Layoffs, Tempering Coronavirus Recovery Hopes.” Accessed May 14, 2020.

  8. LinkedIn. "About LinkedIn." Accessed May 14, 2020

  9. LinkedIn. “Here’s Who’s Hiring Right Now.” Accessed May 14, 2020.