Job Searching During Uncertain Times – Ways to Stay Positive and Productive

COVID-19 has already had a large impact on the job market; the full extent of this impact will continue to unfold day by day and month by month; and it will likely be much more evident in certain sectors first and foremost. The hospitality, service, and food industries are currently taking a huge hit and the unemployment numbers are staggering. Within a month, the last decade of job gains has been wiped out.  These are not necessarily sectors where NIH trainees tend to land; however, a compressed job market tends to have a ripple effect making this very stressful for any job searcher. 

If you have been actively job searching, you might be feeling overwhelmed in this current moment. Remember that there are pockets of hope and it is important for you to try to continue searching. Some trainees have lamented that they have put their job search on hold because they have heard that nobody is hiring. 

Positive signs of note: within OITE, we have continued to work with trainees who are still being called for interviews and have even been extended job offers during the past month (with start dates to be determined). We have not received reports of hiring freezes in government or industry at this time. In some ways, the swift change in businesses’ daily operations has even created a boom for some employers. Pharmacies, grocery stores, technological support, and teleworking software companies are all ramping up hiring. Given the importance for trained biomedical researchers, there might even be more opportunities that open up for you during this time.  While not a perfect resource, some sites are even crowdsourcing data to get intel on which companies are still hiring. We encourage you to stay in close contact with your network to learn of opportunities.

Within academia, we have heard reports of hiring being paused and some offers even being rescinded.  If you were planning to do an academic job search, these articles are worth a read –  Chronicle for Higher Education and Science Careers. While colleges and universities might not be faring well in the moment; it is worth noting one observed trend from the 2008/09 economic downturn. Enrollment at universities tends to increase during bad job markets since people tend to use this as an opportunity to go back to school for further education and training.

Here are some general job search tips to keep in mind regarding career options in uncertain times:

  • For postdocs on the academic market – do what you can to stay close to science and research while developing transferable skills that will enable you to be a stronger applicant. For example, learning grant writing, on-line teaching platforms (Blackboard/Canvas), developing writing skills, and working on creating your strongest CV, teaching philosophy and research statement. Graduate students may want to consider looking at postdocs more closely than before.

  • When you were identifying colleges to attend, you likely had several list of colleges – “reach” schools where you met some of the criteria, “fit” schools where you met most of the criteria, and “safety” schools where you knew you could get in.  In this job market, a good job search strategy employs a similar way of thinking.  Identify companies and positions that are “reach”, “fit”, and “safety” and make applications to each of these types of roles/companies allocating your time and energy accordingly.

  • You may need to change your mindset and the types of positions that you pursue.  Be willing to expand your job paths – your dream job in your dream city may not be the most practical option now.  As noted above, some career options and companies will fare better during this time than others, so target your search accordingly.

  • Consider staying in your current role and using this as a time to continue to develop skillsets that will make you more marketable during your next job search. FAES just released new classes and many sites like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning can be great to explore at this time.  
  • Learn about video and web-based interviews and practice and prepare in advance. Remember that OITE Career Counselors are still available to talk with you in individual telephone or Zoom appointments . To schedule an appointment go to: https://www.training.nih.gov/career_services/appointments

One Comment

  • rentbocaoffices

    As a result, many professionals have begun to feel negative about reaching their career goals. Not viewing news constantly around the clock and reducing the amount of time on social media, are helpful ways to become more positive. Maintaining your support system and professional contacts can also allow you to stay focused on your goals.

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