How to Move Forward After a COVID-19 Job Loss

The economic fallout of the pandemic has forced many associations to lay off employees. Career experts recommend grieving the loss, being honest, and building your brand while seeking a new professional home.

As attendees streamed into the Career Center during the ASAE Virtual Annual Meeting earlier this week, one of the hotter topics of online conversation focused on the impacts of a COVID-19 layoff. Two of the career experts that took part in that discussion offered up some advice that can assist people affected by pandemic job losses.

Dany Bourjolly Smith, SHRM-SCP, founder of DB Smith Consulting and an Association CareerHQ lead consultant, said it’s important to first acknowledge that losing a job is hard.

“Take some time to grieve,” she said. “Even if it’s not COVID-related, any time you lose a job that you wanted, needed, or enjoyed, it’s hard.”

After grieving the loss, candidates can get back on the horse again. While traditionally a layoff or release has looked bad on the resume, COVID-19 has changed perceptions.

“So many talented people have had to be laid off because of COVID that people have a different view,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean you were a poor performer. You’re in a position some of the people who are hiring could be in themselves.”

Cynthia Mills, CMC, CPC, CCRC, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of The Leaders Haven and an Association CareerHQ coach, agreed. “There is no shame in a COVID layoff,” she said. “Just acknowledge it right up front and address it in your cover letter. What you’re doing is removing the question from the table.”

After updating the resume, job seekers should hone their personal online brand. “The very first place I would start is making sure your LinkedIn [profile] is current, and there aren’t conflicts between LinkedIn and your resume,” Mills said. “Audit your presence online and make sure things are consistent. Ask yourself, ‘If somebody saw you online first, is the way you have framed it and your story the way that would attract them to you?’”

While job seeking, continue to develop yourself as well. “Take the time to learn new skills,” Smith said. “Write that article, start that blog, look for speaking opportunities. There is work that you can naturally do that adds to your resume, profile, and accomplishments.”

While it can be tempting to apply for everything when out of work, Smith encourages reflecting on what you want for your career. “What is your heart work? What is important to you?” Smith said. “Can you create or look for in your next opportunity work that speaks true to your experience but also connects to what you want, personally, in this next stage in your career?”

If people begin feeling burned out with applying, Smith said volunteering can help. “When you are experiencing transition, dedicating and sharing some of your time in a positive way can be very beneficial,” she said.

When job seekers do score an interview, they need to be honest and frame the layoff in the best way possible. “Say something like, ‘I loved my position, I loved my former organization, and unfortunately, I find myself as one of those who was part of a layoff process. Now I can’t wait to find my next professional home,’” Mills said.

Mindset also matters during this time. While getting laid off can leave people feeling dejected, they need to mentally move forward. “Your job is to spend your days seeking your next professional home,” Mills said. “Project where you want to be, not the circumstances you’ve been in. Get out of your COVID head and get into your next position.”

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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