Dear Sam: I have been at the same job for more than 20 years! Now, with the current global pandemic crisis, the business may have to let some of the employees go. I have moved through different roles throughout my 20 years, starting at the bottom and working my way to a department assistant position.
I am concerned about trying to get another job in this horrible economy when so many other candidates are trying to get jobs. Also, I do not have a network of people who can assist me in getting another job like so many people do these days. So are there places out there to help people like me? I am anxious about what the future holds. — Paula
Dear Paula: I am hearing that same concern from almost every other person I talk to these days. One caller explained our new ‘normal’ perfectly, stating that we are about to enter the most competitive job market we have seen in our lifetime. It’s true, with skyrocketing unemployment and uncertainty as to what percentage of jobs will be maintained as our employers adjust, you are doing precisely what you should be: proactively building your brand, developing your job search strategy, and preparing for the uncertainty ahead.
Given you have been with the same employer for more than 20 years, you are likely going to have to spend time pulling information together about your history from memory, or from any archives that exist. Start documenting your career by listing the titles you have held throughout the years. Next, think about the scope of each of those roles, in essence, summarizing your job description. Next, and the hardest part given I do not imagine you have maintained a resume throughout the past two decades, think beyond the job description to how you have added value.
I am sure you have heard that effective resumes are accomplishment-driven, meaning they do not merely tell the story of the roles you held, but rather of how you added value beyond the expectation. It can often be challenging to think of accomplishments especially after such a long time, so enlist the support of coworkers, friends, and family—and possibly even your supervisor if you have a transparent relationship at the moment—to have them remind you of ways they felt you went above and beyond. If you think about your career and the challenges you have faced, there are typically accomplishments found in those challenges, your actions, and the results you achieved.
Considering what types of opportunities you are going to position yourself for next is another crucial consideration in the development of your brand. As I imagine you have worn many hats with your current employer, you will want to be sure you are focusing your messaging, and the content of your resume and cover letter, in alignment with the qualifications and experience expected of a qualified candidate for the types of positions you are seeking. Review current job postings to get a sense of what those expectations will be, possibly even writing down common keywords and key phrases you come across to help inform the development of the language on your documents.
In terms of networking, I expect you have a much more extensive network than you anticipate as you have been employed for 20+ years. Reach out to past supervisors, peers, subordinates, and those beyond the four walls of your employer, to let them know of your possible upcoming job search. Perhaps craft an email to send to each of those individuals with an updated version of your resume, asking for them to keep an eye out for you for any open positions or emerging opportunities. Be sure to reach out to people who have moved on from your current employer as they will have connections to other organizations that have recruited team members from your current company. These will be great referral sources as you entertain next steps.
Lastly, there are many organizations that can support your transition. From your local government employment services agency, to nonprofit organizations that focus on helping candidates in specific demographic categories, to fantastic books at the library on personal branding and job searching, to companies like my own that partner with clients during these transitions. There are limitless resources that exist today, versus when you conducted your last search in the 1990s. I encourage you to see what is out there that may meet your needs and help to reduce the anxiety of these uncertain times. All the best.