The numbers are stark: After weeks of “sheltering in place,” U.S. unemployment has soared. A mid-March survey by HolonIQ, an education market research firm, of the impact of COVID-19 on organizations suggests that educational institutions will be hit hard: 91 percent of respondents indicated they expect to be moderately or substantially worse off in the short term.
But there is a twinkle of good news for those working in education. In a post-COVID world, education technology is here to stay. “Respondents from all sectors with the exception of PreK identified technology as a key growth strategy, with 30 percent of those in the life-long learning and vocational sectors and one quarter of those in higher education selecting technology as their top strategy for growth,” noted the HolonIQ report.
And that means, says Mark Philips, who founded and runs HireEducation, a leading edtech recruiting firm, that there are four things job seekers should do right now to put themselves in a position to take advantage of future changes in the job market.
Plug into your network
“In other circumstances, there’s never enough time to have all those informal conversations that you’d like to have,” Phillips reflects. “Now there’s no excuse.”
A thorough search begins, he says, by reaching out to people you already know and by getting involved in issues that matter. “Everyone’s taking informational calls now even though they might have been too busy before,” he says. Try setting up weekly call with different groups—from volunteer boards that you serve on to former mentors and colleagues.
Extend your network
Yes, everyone is at home. And everyone is producing content. That makes this a great moment to read and write. You can get your name associated with issues you understand and care about by creating content—either that post the jumpstarts a conversation or a thoughtful response that keeps an engaging dialogue going. Follow people whom you admire. Treating others’ essays with care is a great way to begin to engage with new people.
Being generous with your knowledge is another great way to extend your network, Phillips says. “You could possess some piece of information that is gold for someone else,” he says. Listen, respond and share. And repeat.
Polish your profile
Yes, recruiters actively use LinkedIn. Many will ask you for a resume, too. Time to polish! Is your LinkedIn profile current? How’s that photo look? Have you checked the box on your LinkedIn profile to signal that you are “Open to Job Opportunities?” (Hint: Yes, checking that box helps nudge you higher on recruiters’ search results.) Or if you want to do more public speaking, have you listed some of the standout talks you’ve given in the past?
Letting people know you are open to new possibilities cracks open the door, but it’s no guarantee that the right job will simply roll around. “I could literally spend four hours a day going through the ‘inbound’ profiles that LinkedIn surfaces,” Phillips says. That list is a starting point, after which he scrutinizes LinkedIn entries and other available materials such as resumes to find the candidates that he wants to pursue.
Look over your shoulder
What do other people see behind you when you’re on a video call? Are there pictures on the walls? Could you add a dash of color with an accent wall? Is there looming pile of papers that makes you seem disheveled?
Everyone realizes that children may make cameo appearances as family members share close quarters as they shelter at home. But anything that’s easily within your control—say, yesterday's leftover toast—should be cleared out. “I’ve been shocked to see piles of garbage behind people during some video calls,” Phillips says. “I can’t stress enough: Video is going to be a big part of the search process from now on. You should get good at it.”
Customized backgrounds are getting better, too. Just remember if the palm trees and ocean waves look too inviting, your video interviewers may forget to listen as they get distracted by the backdrop.
Even though many employers are pausing their hiring, Phillips says, few are cancelling plans outright. “I’m certain that the big picture looks great for education technology,” Phillips declares. And that’s all the more reason that job seekers should prepare today for the opportunities down the road, he adds.