What do you do when a global health crisis, civil unrest, racism, abundant conspiracy theories, and distance learning just aren’t challenging enough for you? You start looking for a job!
The truth is, all of those things were plenty challenging. However, they were happening at a time when I just happened to have more time at home to think than I used to. One of the problems with having more time to think is that you start questioning parts of your life that you didn’t want to acknowledge before.
Like, for instance, whether you’re satisfied with where your career is and where it is going. It seemed like such a privileged position to be in when people all around me were losing their jobs, but after three months of trying to shove the thoughts away, I finally let myself think them.
“Where do I see myself 5 years from now? Not here.”
I had no major issues with my job, and if you had asked me two years ago, I would have said I could stay there another 10 years or so. But there is something about living in the midst of history-making times that brings things into sharp focus. And the picture I was getting was that I was wasting time. So I started sending out resumes and filling out applications.
“Did you get the invite?”
I figured if anyone called me for an interview, it wouldn’t be too hard to navigate since I was working from home anyway. What I didn’t take into account was how nerve-wracking a Zoom interview would be. Sound and connection issues are challenging enough for Zoom conferences or happy hours or helping a school-age child integrate into their online classrooms. Thanks to quarantining I had learned a lot about attending meetings virtually. A virtual interview was uncharted territory.
“Can everyone hear me?”
Establishing rapport with people you’ve never met through tiny windows on a screen is nearly impossible. How do you make eye contact when no one can tell who you’re looking at? Sure, they can’t see your pants, but they can see your house. (Unless you use a virtual background; and where do virtual backgrounds fall on interview etiquette?) Was that lag in response because of the connection or was it an actual awkward pause? Participating in a Zoom interview really drove home the importance of being able to observe body language and take advantage of the natural flow of conversation.
“I promise, I’m smiling.”
Another new experience was socially-distanced, masked in-person interviews. While it was much easier to make eye contact and detect nonverbal cues in person, there were still some awkward hurdles to get over. What do you do when you can’t shake your interviewer’s hand? Waving seems frivolous; bowing seems dramatic if neither you nor the interviewer is from a culture where bowing is common.
I eventually settled on being overly enthusiastic with verbal greetings (somewhat necessitated by having to project my voice across a room through a piece of fabric). Not being able to tell if someone was smiling, because not everyone smiles with their eyes, added an interesting element to one of my interviews. When trying to build rapport, it is helpful to know if the joke you just told landed, and masks aren’t really conducive to that.
“5 Things Your Mask Tells Your Interviewer About You”
The pandemic has forced people to draw on or learn skills they never knew they would have to use. Amazingly, there are quite a few guides for job hunting in a pandemic. I ultimately ended up securing a new job but I can’t say if it was because of, or in spite of, the adaptations I had to make in this new environment. It has certainly given me even more of an appreciation for everyone who has had to adjust their protocols and find a way that works while trying to stay safe.
What are some of your experiences with job-hunting during a pandemic?