Coping with redundancy and job hunting

Career coach Alexa Shoen shares her advice about coping with redundancy and job searching in a coronavirus context

Alexa Shoen is the author of #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: A 9-step guide to finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it), and has successfully guided thousands of jobseekers through the process of securing their next role.


If you’re one of the one million people who have been made redundant or are now looking for work during the coronavirus era, here are a few things to remember.

It’s normal to feel unemployable, and it’s not your fault

Even before this crisis began, the job search was a nightmare of a process. I’ve spoken to so many people, even those who seem to be at the ‘top’ of their career, who felt like they were the most unemployable person on the planet.

Readers of mine constantly tell me how everyone else is succeeding and that they’re lagging behind. I ask them about their work history and they dive into a monologue about why their career is a lost cause, rattling off all the reasons why they’re the wrong candidate for whichever role they just told me they wanted. It seems to be a universal human instinct to confess our sins rather than put our best foot forward.

You’re not alone. Everyone feels this way.

Don’t launch into an application frenzy–get curious instead

I frequently tell job seekers about something I’ve lovingly dubbed the ‘Job Search Junk Food Diet’. It’s that panic you experience when you frantically apply for three dozen roles a day online, hoping that the numbers game will do the trick. I’m sure you’ve done it. I’ve done it. It never ends well.

Pause first. Start your job search with curiosity, rather than frenzy

Even before the pandemic, businesses received north of 250 applications for a single role and had to wade through page after page of CVs attempting to find the perfect candidate. As unemployment numbers continue to rise and more people compete for the same jobs, the hiring process will continue to show its age even more than before.

Pause first. Start your job search with curiosity, rather than frenzy. Consider which kinds of companies need help right now and how your skills may be useful in this new context. Do the deep thinking work first, and then make a list.

Make connections, not applications.

Once you have a good idea of where your skills may be useful, it’s time to put yourself out there and talk to people. Studies show that 70-80% of open roles never even make it online and are filled through personal connections.

I know that can seem daunting – do you know the right people? – but there’s magic in the process of reaching out to talk to friends and strangers when you tackle it the right way.

“How can I help?” is a magical phrase right now and will open up doors in ways that you never could have expected. You have all kinds of contacts in your own life who are dealing with unprecedented situations at the moment – and your skillset could be exactly what they need.

A story: last week, I came across a video producer who just landed a new role as an Associate Lecturer at a university. Her task? Developing unique ways for students to deliver their assignments through video and adjust to this new future. While it might be a career move she didn’t see coming, the story boils down to the power of proactively creating serendipity in your own life.

By going through her own network and setting up phone calls with friends she hadn’t spoken to in a while, she was able to ask people directly about which challenges they were facing and whether or not she could help. This role was the outcome of her second phone call.

You could repeat the same process with strangers – everybody is just a metaphorical phone call away these days. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new professional friends virtually in the absence of real-world networking.

Stay kind to yourself and manage your expectations.

One of the most frustrating things about a job search is that it’s so outcomes-based. It can feel like you’re failing every single hour up until you get the offer itself. It gets overwhelming and unmotivating when you aren’t sure if you’re headed in the right direction.

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a step back. Be kind

Measure your progress based on the connections you’re making, rather than the applications you’re filling out. Make little lists. Finish off one thing at a time–sending a single email to a single contact you’ve been meaning to reach out to will be so much more effective than spending another three hours scrolling through job postings that you don’t even want.

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a step back. Be kind. You’re not going to solve this in a day. Keeping your energy up – as imperfectly and inelegantly as you can – will help.

I promise, you’re going to come out the other side.


Alexa Shoen is the CEO of #EntryLevelBoss. Her book #EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) is out now. Find out more and follow Alexa on Twitter