The coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting nearly every aspect of the economy. Many experts agree that the United States is headed for a recession.

With much of the world effectively “closed for business,” organizations have been making drastic cuts to stay afloat. According to the U.S. Labor Department, 16 million Americans have lost their jobs and been suddenly plunged into an uncertain job market. What’s worse: most of them are unprepared.

HBS Online asked market research firm City Square Associates to poll 1,000 US adults to gauge recession-readiness. The study showed the majority were not prepared to ride out a recession. Not only did they not have adequate savings, the majority did not have an updated resume or active network.

If you are unemployed and unprepared, don’t despair. Here are steps you can take now to quickly get your career back on track during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tips for Finding a Job During the COVID-19 Pandemic

1. Apply for Your Old Job


If you’ve recently been laid off or furloughed, your employer may have hinted the layoff was temporary. If not, you can reach out and ask about the likelihood you’ll be asked back once business returns to normal. If they’re unsure, it’s reasonable to ask for updates as more information becomes available.

If there’s a chance they want you back, and you like what you were doing, you should make “applying” for your old job task number one. To ensure you remain top-of-mind in the interim, make an email pitch to your employer about the skills and traits you brought to your role that make you indispensable.

Whenever possible, cite statistics that demonstrate the contributions you made to your department or organization. It’s especially powerful if you can show the financial impact you made on the organization in terms of revenue or cost savings.

Related: 9 Tips for Mastering Your Next Virtual Interview

2. Get Noticed for Your Next Job


With so much uncertainty around how long people will be staying at home, you should prepare for the possibility you won’t get your old job back. To start the job search, here are some important first steps:

  • Update your profile and resume, and optimize them with keywords so search engines can find you
  • Post your resume on all job boards, including LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor
  • Customize your applications to show you’re serious about the role
  • Turn to your friends for help and tap their network

Turning to your friends for help is perhaps the most important. With millions of people being let go, there's no shame shouting from the rooftops that you're looking for a job. Start by posting a plea for help on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Then, reach out to individuals with large and potentially influential networks and ask them if they will share your update or, better yet, publish on your behalf. You can also ask former supervisors and co-workers to post recommendations for you.

Research shows that upwards of 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking so, by reaching out selectively to those you know and trust, you will get ideas, leads, introductions, and maybe even a job.

Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

3. Be Open to New Roles and Careers


Part of your job hunt should involve taking inventory of your skills and thinking through new roles or industries where there may be opportunities. To make a career shift, you may need to acquire new skills, which could be a good use of your downtime during this period of isolation.

One of the best things to do to keep your mind sharp is to learn new skills or enhance your existing talents. With several online courses available, you’re sure to find one that’s right for you. Some courses might even help recruiters find you.

According to a survey of HBS Online learners, online courses open doors. About half of those who have taken one or more HBS Online courses say that, just by listing it on their resume, they got more attention from recruiters. And nearly one-third were able to transition to a new field.

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Preparing for Your Next Step

Most important during this period of uncertainty is to keep the faith and persevere. The market will rebound in time and, if you put in some hard work now, you’ll be back to work before you know it.

Are you interested in taking an online course to gain a competitive edge? Explore HBS Online’s course catalog and discover how you can develop vital business skills.

Patrick Mullane

About the Author

Patrick Mullane is the Executive Director of Harvard Business School Online and is responsible for managing HBS Online’s growth and long-term success. A military veteran and alumnus of Harvard Business School, Patrick is passionate about finding ways to use technology to enhance the mission of the School—to educate leaders who make a difference in the world.