As the number of COVID-19 cases rises and the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits approaches a shocking one million, experts agree the U.S. economy will continue to hemorrhage jobs in 2021. Yet despite this bleak outlook, there are uplifting stories of unemployed Americans who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to not just find a new job but to reinvent themselves for a new career. A software engineer who was just hired by Amazon hopes his story and his job hunting tips help others find their dream job in 2021.
Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 18th, 2021 - In early 2020, 29-year old Anthony Johnson had no college degree, no high school diploma and no idea about how he would find his next job. "I worked as a dishwasher, a solar panel salesman, and a real estate agent," said Johnson. "With the jobs I held disappearing along with thousands more thousands more across the U.S. in virtually every industry I decided to reinvent myself as a software engineer!"
While Johnson's friends were surprised by what appeared to be his sudden, rash decision to pursue a career in tech - especially with no STEM education or IT experience - John son did his homework. First, he learned that computer coding would remain one of the 10 hottest, most in-demand jobs in 2020 and 2021, despite the pandemic. He also learned that unlike other careers he did not have to spend years on a college campus earning a computer science (CS) degree. An aspiring tech worker willing to commit to an intensive computer science training program known as a "Coding Bootcamp" could - within less than three months - graduate with all the skills they need to get a full-time, high-paying job. While the industry has not been immune to layoffs most IT companies have weathered the storm and some have even seen a surge in new business, particularly in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and firms that make software tools to help people work remotely. When Johnson researched the tech sector in early 2020, discovering that he could get into the industry quickly and prosper despite the pandemic, he made the decision to launch a new career in tech. A decision that was easier to make because of his Post 9-11 GI Bill, a bill that helped him finance his professional transformation.
But Johnson did not win his dream job in a vacuum; he had friends. From learning about the original job opportunity at Amazon, to applying for it with a keyword-loaded resume and preparing for his interview with Amazon HR managers - a call that sealed the deal - Johnson relied on the job hunting and coding expertise of his friends at Sabio, a software training and job placement company based in Los Angeles, CA.
Written by Johnson and endorsed by the experts at Sabio, here are Johnson's top ten tips for finding work in the middle of a pandemic; tips Johnson took to heart in 2020 to help him win the job of his dreams in 2021.
1 - Be Bold! Reinvent Yourself for a Pandemic-Resistant Career: When the coronavirus began tearing through the country early last year, Americans lost as many jobs as they did during the Great Depression and the Great Recession combined — 22 million jobs were there one minute and gone the next. Because dozens of industries and hundreds of jobs within each industry suffered massive layoffs, now may be the right time to launch a new career in a pandemic-resistant industry like tech. Other thriving sectors of the U.S. economy include construction, manufacturing, nursing, healthcare and pharmaceutical, food/delivery and green technology. When Anthony Johnson reinvented himself for a new career in tech he did so with no regrets because of the research he carried out himself and the mentoring he received before making his big decision; a decision he called "empowering".
2 - Clean Up Your Digital Profile; Boost Your Personal Brand: If there's something on your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter that you wouldn't want your future boss to see, now is the time to delete it. For example, jokes about the pandemic, social distancing or masking rules meant to add levity in these trying times could be misconstrued as a failure to take the pandemic seriously. Also, you should check for inconsistencies between your resume, job history and LinkedIn profile. Inconsistencies may appear dishonest to HR managers and recruiters. Because 2020 was a year of divisive politics, Johnson also made sure his digital profiles were free of political opinions.
3 -Where to Look for Jobs - Job boards: Johnson suggests — and job hunting experts agree — you should begin your search with online job boards. But while sites like LinkedIn.com, Jobscan.co, Indeed, Dice.com and FlexJobs.com have real-time lists of employers currently hiring, the vast majority of job openings are found through networking and referrals, not online postings.
4 - How to Look for Jobs - Networking: While COVID-19 has impacted in-person networking, face-to-face meetings will surely resume once things return to normal. In the meantime, there's greater emphasis than ever on virtual networking. As you pick up your 2021 job search, consider joining a professional group whose members work in your industry. Your membership is likely to give you early access to jobs that may not be widely available on industry job boards. You can also sign up with an agency or recruiter who will, for a fee, maximize your search potential by actively looking for work for you. You can find lists of recruiters and agencies by industry on JobStars. Other websites where you can find recruiters include SearchFirm, Online Recruiters Directory and Recruiterly. For creative jobs, a great place to look is Aquent.
5 - Soft Skills: While Johnson's coding skills are impressive (he knows 6 computer programming languages), he is 100% certain that his non-technical "soft skills" - skills revealing how he works, solves problems and interacts with colleagues - played an even greater role in winning his job with Amazon, especially because he was able to tell relevant stories about each skill during his job interview. The most in-demand soft skills in 2021 are time management, teamwork, conflict resolution, written communication, and emotional intelligence (do you have empathy for co-workers and clients?). Because Johnson had anecdotes about his life and work experience that revealed each of his soft skills and because he rehearsed his answers before his interview, his stories about his own perseverance and grit were the most persuasive factors in in convincing Amazon HR managers to hire him.
6 - Pursue Non-Degree Credentials: A traditional baccalaureate degree — typically preceded by a 4 year college education —isn't for everyone. 65% of Americans don't hold college degrees and only about half see them as very important. Anthony Johnson believes anyone with drive can succeed in any field without a degree and he should know. He has no college or high school degree. His coding skills were acquired in the spring of 2020 through one of the popular non-degree credential programs called a "Coding Bootcamp" with instruction, job placement support and mentoring provided by his instructors and friends at Sabio. The bootcamp Johnson attended was an intensive full-time, vocation-focused training program, typically lasting from one to four months. After completing 600 hours of instruction, Johnson had the credentials, skillset and confidence he needed to begin applying for software engineering jobs. Despite the pandemic, hundreds of companies were looking for workers with Johnson's coding expertise, including Amazon, which recruited more than 100,000 new workers in 2020 with plans to hire even more workers in 2021. Johnson's dream job was just one Zoom interview away from becoming a reality.
Johnson's recommendation to 2021 job seekers: identify the credentials you need to advance your career in an industry that has not been decimated by the pandemic and find a non-degree program that will help you quickly earn credentials you need in months, not years.
7 - Pre-Job Interview Tip #1: Once you land an interview with your ideal company, just as Johnson did with Amazon, you first and most important step in preparing for your interview is to learn more about the company through online research. While this may be obvious, the type of research you carry out will give you a huge advantage if your research helps you confidently tell employers during your interview that you're a "perfect fit for the company's culture." A Millennial Branding study found that 43 percent of HR professionals believe cultural fit is the most important quality job seekers can have during the hiring process. You can learn more about a company's culture by reviewing their Website's mission statement, follow the organization on its social media networks, identify senior managers and review their latest posts and tweets on Twitter and LinkedIn, visit Websites such as Glassdoor.com to discover insider details and company reviews and, finally, use LinkedIn to research the name of the HR manager (or managers) who will interviewing you. Johnson's research about Amazon gave him more than talking points for his interview; it gave him confidence as well.
8 - Pre-Job Interview Tip #2: Prepare and rehearse answers to questions about COVID-19 and any remote work you may have managed since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic is part of every conversation in HR these days so you will be asked about it during your interview. Regardless of your answer, a logical follow up question you should be prepared to answer: "if we hire you, are you willing to work at either our headquarters or remotely at some point in the next year?"
You may also be asked to describe whether stay-at-home restrictions during the pandemic gave you an opportunity to broaden your knowledge base (do not sound lazy, in answering this question you absolutely must say "yes" and be prepared to describe the nature of your "upskilling."
9 - Pre-Job Interview Tip #3: Besides questions about the pandemic, you must be prepared to tell stories about your hopes and dreams. Interviewers like to hear about challenges you've faced and overcome in your personal and professional life, so have a few of those relevant narratives ready. They'll want to get a sense of your grit and perseverance (and hopefully they won't ask you any "gotcha" questions). Johnson believes his ability to speak passionately about his soft skills (see #5 above) and the lessons he learned from his previous jobs were more valuable in convincing Amazon HR managers to hire him than his long list of impressive technical ("hard") skills.
10 - Post-Job Interview Tip: If you had a great Zoom call, consider sending a handwritten "Thank You" letter by U.S. mail to the HR team that interviewed you. Handwritten thank you notes are more formal, take more time and energy, and generally show more commitment to the position and the company. It's a fact: the pandemic has reduced the number of opportunities we have to make a personal connection during the job hunting process. A handwritten "Thank You" letter - short, sweet and heartfelt - is one of the few tools we can still use to ensure in the job hunting process to stand out from the competition by making a personal connection with a prospective employer.
Anthony Johnson followed these steps in 2020 and today, at the beginning of a new year, he finds himself beginning a new job in a new career he would have never dreamed possible before COVID-19. With luck, tenacity, and extensive Zoom job interview preparation, Johnson believes other jobless Americans who adhere to these top ten tips will succeed in finding steady work and a reliable paycheck in 2021. He also believes that for the lucky, bold few willing to reinvent themselves, their search for work in 2021 may end with an even greater reward - the job of their dreams.
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