Reentering the Workforce Post Your COVID-19 Absence

by | Aug 10, 2021 | Job Seeker Strategies

For many who are currently unemployed, the passing of summer will force an inevitable decision to reenter the job market. It looks like children will likely be back to school this September and enhanced unemployment benefits will be ending at that time too. Since most jobs don’t hire on the spot, you will want to be seriously looking for work now to avoid the increased competition from other job applicants. If you are one of these individuals in need of a job, then the following are some items for you to consider as you begin your new job search.

  • Try to Start Early – Most people will not start their job search until their enhanced unemployment benefits officially end. It would make sense to begin your job search now, so that you have completed the interview and testing process and can immediately begin upon benefit expiration. This will also allow you to get in front of the immediate surge of new job seekers that should hit the market come late September. Getting in early should give you the pick of the best jobs at the highest pay rate.
  • Be Ready to Respond – This will probably be the toughest aspect of your return to the workforce job search. Hiring Managers will be asking you about your gap in employment during COVID and your decision to stay out. While “honesty is the best policy”, it is probably not in your best interest to tell the person that you stayed out to maximize your government benefits. You also probably can’t state to the Hiring Manager that you have been job searching the entire time, since most employers have been desperate to hire during COVID. Quite honestly, there probably is not a great answer since most likely the Hiring Manager worked during COVID-19 while you were out. I would suggest you keep your answer very general and short, and just reference needing to personally be out during this time period.
  • Make Sure You Are Ready to Work – Most employers have had a tough 2021 trying to navigate COVID-19 restrictions and labor shortages. The expectation of the Hiring Manager is whomever will be hired will be ready to work. If you are not sure you want to go back to work due to COVID-19 (or any other reason), then don’t waste the time of the Interviewer and potentially burn a bridge by acting otherwise. Similarly, attempt to work out any other schedule or transportation challenges you may have prior to diving back in.
  • Determine What Your Requirements Are – While job seekers still want to be reasonable, the current labor shortage still makes this a good time for a person to maximize their offer. Now, you don’t want to be so difficult that the Hiring Manager turns to other candidates who are less demanding. Do your research and have a good idea what should be your compensation range in Western New York. You can also attempt to negotiate other items, such as PTO (Paid Time Off) or your work schedule.
  • Review Everything – If you lost your position at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 spread, then you could have been out of work for 12-18 months at this time. This, under any circumstances, is a sizable absence and the time period probably justifies you taking another look at your Cover Letter template and your Resume to make sure they are formatted and contain the information that you want. Although you do not want to dwell, you may want to add a brief description in your Cover Letter that you lost your position in widespread COVID-19 downsizing (if this is true), and you can’t wait to reenter the workforce and add value again to an employer. If you used your time off to pick up a new skill, then be sure to add this to your Resume. Even something small, such as proficiency in collaboration software (such as MS Teams or Zoom), may be worth noting on your Resume.

While reentering the workforce after an absence is never easy, doing so after a COVID-19 related work gap may be the most challenging. You have the unique situation of unprecedented government benefits that many feel may have incentivized people not to be in the workforce, combined with the concerns that people have over working while COVID-19 (and its variants) still exist. The recipe to success in this situation is not groundbreakingly new. The key is to get ahead of the competition and be fully prepared for every step in the process. As always, the best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: Joe Stein

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