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Unemployment: Pandemic Style - Part 1

I've read that when unemployed or underemployed, the job hunt should become your full time gig. While that might have been true 20-25 years ago - when job hunting involved hitting the streets with a couple dozen resumes or pouring over want ads in the paper consumed much of your time - the information age certainly has changed this. With sites and services such as LinkedIn, Indeed, GlassDoor, and ZipRecruiter, the search for opportunities only takes a few minutes. Applying could be just as simple as a few clicks - done in seconds! The ease, however, warrants some changes in how we search, and what we do with the abundance of time.

I recently wrote about how the CoViD-19 pandemic has lead companies to make the hard decisions in cutting budgets - one even cut a job that I was waiting for the formal offer letter. I mention this because cutting IT and Security budgets appears to be the easy way out of a bind, just like clicking "1 Click Apply" or equivalent shortcuts on job boards. See, I'll admit to taking the easy road at times - given the history of negative unemployment in the IT Security field. The longest I have faced unemployment or under employment until now has only been 6 weeks - and 2 was simply waiting for the start date to arrive. The easy way was productive and profitable for me. The economic environment that is the United States today is very different for me. June 2020 was time I decided to heed the advice I'm about to give - make your job search a half-time job at least.

You may say, "But Mike, you just spelled out how it doesn't take that long to search for and apply to jobs" and you are right. So how do you fill in 4 hours a day doing something that only takes maybe 30 minutes? It's easy to say - a pain to do. If you're like me before June 2020, you may have one or 2 versions of your resume, and you simply use them for every job you feel qualified to do, and will likely pay what you need/want. That's where you begin. Take those two resumes and use them to build a complete Curriculum Vitae(CV) instead of a resume. A resume is typically a 2 page document that lists relevant work history, education, notable achievements, and a skills showcase to market yourself as competent at the job your desire. A CV is that and more as it spells out everything that makes you more than competent, it makes you credentialed as well. In your CV, put it everything - every job even if its unrelated, every academic achievement, professional groups, publications, the whole works. Basically if you completely filled out your LinkedIn profile - listing all your skills, academics, published works, blog links, etc - then you've actually made it most of the way there. Once you've finished your CV, contact any recruiters you have worked with before. You should notify them you are on the market, provide this complete CV, and explain why you're providing this lengthy document - to help them find the right fit and improve the resume they'll ultimately send. See, with the full CV, you now have a source-file to base a customized and targeted resume that hits all the key points on a job description - the reason why I'm advising to take the time to create a CV in the first place.

With a complete CV, you're now ready to search for jobs. Spend your 15 minutes looking at various job boards, flagging your best opportunities where you want to actually apply. Once you have 4-5 viable opportunities selected (or as many as are new to you), time to create your job specific resumes. Take your time and review the job descriptions, selecting a relevant work history, and all the appropriate skills and accomplishments to check off all the boxes. When selecting a details for your work history, do make sure to cover gaps as best as possible. Also, when creating these resumes, think about the role you are apply to - is it something where technical competency is advised or is it more important to focus of projects and achievements? Also watch your length - you don't want a 5 page resume, ideally you can keep it to 1-3 pages. Lastly, based on the job description, decide the best way to organize it. If it appears to focus on prior work experience, put your history front and center on page 1. If the description focuses more on education and/or certification, that information should be first. Done? Great, apply for those jobs. After a week or two, you will have enough resume variations where you can likely reuse them accordingly. Now you need to continue to be productive with your free time - especially now where extended unemployment is likely.

One thing that stands out on a resume is gaps in time. If you get past the initial screening and a HR person or recruiter reaches out, they will ask about it. This is where the time you've saved works for you. If you're like me, you now only spend a couple hours a day hunting and applying. This gives you time to fill the new gap on your resume. This time is for self improvement, volunteering, or other low cost activities. If you're still reading this, then you are aware I'm a techie and a cybersecurity expert. It's fairly easy to identify things that show a drive for self-betterment or outreach. There's dozens of certification I could pursue, or general training videos to watch. (4th wall break: I could also start a blog and build my own personal website!) The important thing is you need to show you are growing in your career and motivated to self-improve.

This has already been an longer essay than I originally intended. I hope you find this helpful and can make it work for you job search and career - either now or in the future. Next entry will be me showing how I am practicing the ideas I've advised today. Stay Safe, healthy, and secure!

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