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Adapting, marketing your personal brand among keys for job seekers in time of coronavirus

Rising unemployment, a shift toward teleworking and creation of new industries in the past few months have changed the landscape for job seekers, especially for recent college graduates.

Changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic mean they’re facing a much different job market than what was anticipated only a year ago.

“These are tough times. It’s incredibly tough, and there’s probably not enough jobs out there for everyone that wants one,” said Jeffrey Stafford, professor of organizational communication and leadership studies at Eastern Washington University. “But there’s more than enough jobs out there for people who want one, are willing to work hard, prepare and know how to go about doing it.”

When embarking on a job search, it’s important for people to know their value, what they have to offer employers and to learn how to market their skills in a way that will be effective, Stafford said Thursday morning at The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Virtual Forum.

That includes preparing a great resume and LinkedIn profile based on accomplishments and projects as well as perfecting interview skills and creating a personal brand, Stafford said.

“Create who you are, envision who you are, know who you want to be, and then project it out there and manage that brand,” he said.

It’s helpful to use the stay-home order to learn new skills so employees are ready for their next job, whether it be with the same company or another employer. As new industries open because of the pandemic, it could provide the opportunity to shift careers, Stafford said.

“Absolutely, a person can change (careers) now, and the most important thing to do, I think right now, is taking account – assessing yourself, your skills and your abilities, knowledge and experiences, and then saying ‘What does the job market need? How do I make that better?’” he said. “This is a great time to learn.”

Eastern Washington University’s career services website offers various events, tools and advice for job seekers.

Stafford advises job seekers to expect rejection but to remain optimistic that the right job offer will come along.

“Don’t get discouraged,” he said. “You may get rejected many times but could wake up one morning and have three offers to decide upon that week.”

Stafford said finding a mentor is also helpful.

“I’ve had great mentors in my life that have helped to shape where I’m going, and that’s something that I think is important to do and to be a mentor to others because you will learn from that, too,” he said.

As more employers shift to virtual interviews during COVID-19, it’s imperative for job seekers to become comfortable with Zoom or other similar online platforms.

Job seekers should create a functional or combination resume, as opposed to the widely used chronological resume, that includes a summary of what they can offer employers with several accomplishment statements instead of listing job duties, Stafford said.

A positive attitude, values and vision along with an ability to adapt to a changing workplace will go a long way with potential employers, he said.

“We can teach people skills, but it’s harder to teach them how to be visionary and to think creatively,” Stafford said. “That’s a future of the workplace, I think.”