Rebounding from a COVID-19 layoff: What are your options?

Along with COVID-19, layoffs are a global phenomenon during this time of change and disruption. Millions have lost their jobs in the past two months with unemployment rates going as high as 28 percent in some U.S. states. During this time, many are out looking for a job, and in these uncertain times, that can be very confusing. If you’re not free to meet anyone at their office or even drop in on friends, it may feel like all your options to find a job are off the table. However, with some planning and awareness, you can make much progress in finding an IT job even during this time.

I’d like to talk about two options for finding employment: Full-time work and contract work. By being clear about what you’d like to pursue, you can make a lot of headway.

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1. Full-time work

The first option for most people after suffering a layoff because of COVID-19 would be to find a full-time job to replace the one they’d lost. The challenge with this is that the job openings are dwindling and the competition is intense. To be successful, you need to be able to find the right companies and apply for the role in the right way.

Companies going up during this time

The first thing to know when looking for a full-time job is to identify the right companies. During this time of economic slowdown, most companies are not hiring, or even if they’re hiring now, they may not be in a position to weather the storm for too long. What you need to look for is companies that are growing even during this slowdown, or at least, are strong enough to wade it out and grow later.

It may seem like it’s all doom and gloom, but some companies and segments are showing growth because of COVID-19. Retail companies like Walmart, pharmaceutical companies like Moderna, video conferencing companies like Zoom, and VPN and cybersecurity companies like NordVPN. A quick Google search about which sectors and companies are benefiting from COVID-19 is all it takes to come up with a decent list of target companies.

Also, give thought to the larger trends during these times. Traditional companies will give way to modern ones. For example, entertainment in the form of movies, sports, and live music events are unlikely to happen until much after a vaccine is released. However, other forms of online entertainment like Netflix and mobile gaming will see an uptick. Keep an eye out for these trends and spot companies that you find interesting and would like to work with.

Getting the word out

As you follow sectors and companies that interest you, you’ll need to get the word out to attract opportunities your way. The first place to start is your network of friends & family. You could reach out to many and connect with them, along the way mentioning your job hunt.

The next thing to do is to update your LinkedIn profile. This is the No. 1 place recruiters and managers will check when considering you for a job. You should also post your profile on traditional job boards like Monster and Indeed, but LinkedIn has, for the most part, replaced these as THE online job board, especially for IT workers caught up in the wave of COVID-19 layoffs.

Most people think once they’ve done these activities, they’ve done it all and can now sit back and wait for the job offers to roll in. This is wrong. You’ll still need to proactively hunt for openings in non-traditional ways.

When you apply for a job via LinkedIn, you’re one among hundreds or thousands of applicants. A recruiter would spend about 30 seconds to scan your resume and decide if you really stand out from the sea of applicants. In most cases, they’d skip your resume simply because they’ve got too many other applicants. To counter this, you need to apply for jobs the non-traditional way, which is also aggressive. You’ll need to resort to cold calling and cold emailing.

There are paid services like RocketReach that help you easily find the phone and email ID of any professional for a small fee. There are also free services like Name2email (email only) that surface data for free. Once you’ve found their contact information, creating a script, and contacting them is just a step away. This method is aggressive, but in times like this, it’s what’s needed.

2. Contract work

The next option if not for full-time work is to look for contract work. In today’s completely remote workplace, this is no longer a fringe option but is the new normal for finding an IT job. Even companies that have laid off full-time employees may consider remote workers as a cost-effective option to augment their lean workforce.

There are many things to consider when looking for contract work, especially if it’s your first time. The biggest obstacle is the lack of a steady paycheck and having to work your way up from scratch. These are real questions that need to be considered when thinking about contract work. However, there is a huge upside to being a successful contractor.

The global context of services

A recent article on Toptal talks about the globalization of services and how the cost of services is hugely dependent on geographic location. For example, a developer in San Francisco would cost four times as much as a developer in Bulgaria simply because of the high cost of living in Silicon Valley. Depending on where you live, you should consider what kind of services you can offer, and what would be a competitive fee for those services.

If you live in a highly competitive region like New York, you’ll need to consider services that are more high-end and at the top of the food chain. It’s a great opportunity to upskill and take your career to new heights.

Freelance services

The most common type of IT work that gets contracted out is software development, website design, creative design, copy and content writing, finance and accounting, and project management. For a full list, just head over to Fiverr or UpWork and browse through the categories of work they cater to.

When looking for contract work, you may have to be flexible in the kind of work that you’re open to. You may even have to make a complete change of industries and do something that has always been your passion though it’s not in line with your past work experience.

Learning online

When it comes time to make a pivot in your career, you’ll need to learn new skills to gain expertise in the new area and prove to clients that you’re capable of doing the job they need to be done. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information available online for free or for cheap if you want to upskill.

There are numerous websites like FreeCodeCamp that teach coding for free, and options like Udemy that have paid courses for really cheap, or even a monthly unlimited subscription such as Lynda or Treehouse. Whichever your option, keep your goal in mind, and have a path to go from “grossly incompetent” to “reasonably good” in 20 hours as you can see in this “How to Learn Anything Fast” video below. You can always build expertise in the long run.

[tg_youtube video_id=”EtJy69cEOtQ”]

Finding contract work

Once you’ve matched your skills with interesting sectors and companies out there, it’s time to reach out. The first step is to create a profile on top freelance websites like Freelancer.com, UpWork, Fiverr, Toptal, and more. Check out other peoples’ profiles and model them to build out your perfect profile.

Apart from these job boards, you’ll need to employ the aggressive outreach method mentioned earlier, especially because so many other people have suffered a COVID-19 layoff. Here, the same methods as hunting for a full-time position apply — cold calling and cold emailing. Numerous tools specialize in prospecting and sales outreach and you’ll need to graduate to them at a later point, but these should be more than enough for a start.

Rebounding from a COVID-19 layoff

I’ve worked as a full-time employee in the past, and today, I run a thriving business as a contractor. I was pushed to start contracting after being laid off from my last company. It’s desperate times like this that bring out the best in us – the stuff we didn’t know was inside, even after suffering a layoff because of COVID-19. If you ask which of the above options I’d recommend for finding an IT job — contract work all the way. It’s the way of the future, and all it takes is to step out of your comfort zone to get started.

Featured image: Pixabay

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