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Don’t start over, evolve current job

Dear J.T. & Dale: I got laid off in March due to COVID-19. I didn’t look for work because I was collecting unemployment, and honestly I was scared of getting sick. But now that my money has run out, I desperately need a job. How should I explain the past several months? – Curt

J.T.: In these situations, it is best to create an honest yet balanced explanation of what happened. That means you should take some accountability for the fact that you chose not to look for work. It is absolutely OK to explain that you were concerned for your health, but you should also acknowledge that you felt blessed to receive unemployment so that you could put your health first. I would also be very clear about how much you want to get back to work, then focus on the kind of worker you will be. You probably realize some business owners, ones who have been working very hard through this entire pandemic, may not appreciate the fact that you’ve been home. So, to offset this, you have to focus in on how grateful you are to get back to work and just how much you will work to exceed their expectations.

DALE: Well, that’s a start, but I just don’t see that conversation leading to a job offer, at least not for the kind of coveted job where management has plenty of options. Managers want to hire people who love to work, the sort who say they would go crazy just sitting around. So, you have to improve the story or the odds. As for the story, did you do anything else while unemployed? Did you help a relative with an illness, or maybe take some online classes? These are the sort of things that allow you to state, “I took the time as an opportunity to do – and – ; now I’m yearning to get back to work.” That would suggest that despite having been out of the workforce for a while, you’re still the sort of high-energy person bosses love to hire. As for working on the odds, you need to network into job openings where you are the sole applicant, like when a friend says they need help at their company. Take those two together – working on the odds and the story – and you’ll end up with a great new job.

Dear J.T. & Dale: Is now a good time to change careers? I hated my job as an office manager, and I have loved being home due to COVID-19. I think I would like to get into recruiting. Advice? – Melly

J.T.: I think that anytime you are unhappy you should build a strategy to change careers – life is too short to stay in a career you hate. That said, recruiting is not a booming industry right now, and it could be a couple of years before recruiters are in high demand. In fact, a lot of recruiters are going to be looking to change careers themselves due to the lack of need for their services. My advice would be to do more career exploration and see if you can find a different type of job that leverages the aspects of recruiting that you were most interested in. And lastly, I would keep your current job until you find a new one. In times like these, where we are lucky to be employed, hiring managers will question your dedication to working if you quit.

DALE: So, the timing is awful, but then again, changing careers is rarely simple. There are two ways to go about it: start over or evolve. Starting over stinks – you take a big pay cut to be a rookie again. That’s why you want to evolve, which means figuring out the career arabesques between here and there. You might, for instance, shift from office manager into HR, maybe just changing your title/focus where you are now. Then you learn and grow and evolve your skills, and soon you are ready to slide into recruiting.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

 

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