This post includes contributions from Daniel Wilkinson.
The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the way we live and work. During this time, many service providers are working remotely to provide clients with job readiness training and helping some clients apply for unemployment insurance and other benefits. But what about job development? Should you be helping clients obtain employment during this time, and if so, what does job development look like right now?
Should We Be Connecting Clients to Employment Right Now?
In light of the ongoing workplace risks during this time, you may feel concerned and conflicted about advising clients weighing employment options.
- The wellbeing of clients is paramount. Acting in the best interest of the client is always the right thing to do. However, since clients’ wellbeing includes both physical health and economic stability, decisions will often be complicated. Switchboard’s blog post Helping Clients Navigate Economic Hardship During the COVID-19 Crisis, last updated May 7, 2020, shares information on relief legislation and other supports for those unable to work.
- The decision about where to work always belongs to the client. You should never pressure a client to work at a site where they feel unsafe or prevent your client from working if they are determined to do so. Instead, you can play a critical role by providing accurate information and helping clients make decisions based on facts. By helping clients navigate this difficult situation, you will empower them to make informed decisions.
- For clients who would like to pursue employment, prioritize safety. Ask employers what precautions have been added to minimize COVID-19 risks in the workplace and what protocols they plan to follow if employees become ill. Discuss COVID-19-related workplace safety with clients (for resources, see Switchboard’s blog post Workplace Safety for Essential Workers). Be realistic about limitations of safety precautions and about the fact that there may not be a clear solution or easy decision to make.
What Does Job Development Look Like in These Unique Circumstances?
For situations where you do need to help clients obtain employment, here are some tips and strategies to keep in mind:
- Research employers that are hiring now. While many businesses are still on pause, others are experiencing rapid hiring. Check out Kiplinger’s list of 37 companies hiring now or explore the U.S. Department of Labor’s COVID-19 Employment Recovery section of CareerOneStop.org. Fields that have expanded during the pandemic include:
- Online retail and distribution services, such as Amazon and UPS;
- Grocery and convenience stores, such as CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven and local grocery chains;
- Food and drink delivery services;
- Software and cybersecurity companies, including e-learning and remote meeting business applications; and
- Healthcare and remote medical services.
- Focus on the hidden job market. While researching growing industries may provide some new leads, keep in mind that a very high percentage of jobs (some say up to 80%) are in the “hidden” job market – in other words, they are available jobs that have not yet been posted. These openings are often due to changes in life circumstances (retirement, employees who move on, are fired, etc.). Even during economic recessions, these kinds of job opportunities are available. Focusing on the “hidden job market” is a good strategy during times when there is high competition for jobs because if you’re able to discover jobs that have not yet been posted, there will be a lot less competition! The best way to find these jobs is to increase the number of contacts you are reaching out to. The more employers and professional contacts you talk to, the more chance you have of uncovering “hidden jobs.” For more on capitalizing on the “hidden job market,” see Job Development During a Recession by Allen Anderson.
- Be thoughtful in your approach. Consider how you are reaching out to current and potential employer partners in these unique circumstances. Check in with current employer partners to get a sense of how they are doing, both personally and professionally. Ask how their business needs have changed over the past few months and what they anticipate for the future. Many employers are seeking creative options and forging new alliances to weather the current economic conditions, so it may also be the perfect time to talk to with new potential employer partners. For some simple strategies for conversations with prospective employer partners, check out the Switchboard video 4 Tips for Effective Employer Conversations.
- Leverage technology. Even if your area is re-opening, some employers may still prefer virtual meeting options. Offering to schedule a video meeting via Zoom or Google Meet is more personal than a phone call or email – in fact, it’s the next best thing to being face-to-face with an employer. You may also consider increasing your social media presence by making more frequent posts on LinkedIn or Facebook to stay at the forefront of employers’ minds and offer alternative points of contact.
- Consider stop-gap strategies. Does your client have skills that might help them find remote work, or access to a car that makes shorter-term gig work possible? Consider checking out Guru.com, TaskRabbit.com, or food delivery services, while reminding clients to follow the public health authorities’ guidelines on providing essential services outside of the home. For clients with entrepreneurial aspirations, perhaps this is a good time to further investigate microenterprise options (check here to see if there is an ORR Microenterprise program in your area; if not, research other local programs serving entrepreneurs in your area). As a last resort, you may want to consider public benefits that your clients may be eligible for.
- Explore career stepping stones. This may be a good time to help clients with credential evaluation or online vocational training programs, if funds are available. Check CareerOneStop.org or your local American Job Center for vocational training program ideas and information.
With a bit of creative thinking and willingness to try different approaches, you can find ways to continue moving your job development efforts forward despite the current challenges. Your thoughtful support to both employers and clients during this challenging time will go a long way in continuing to build trust and confidence in those relationships!
We’d love to hear what strategies are working for you–if you have a success story to share, please email Saba Imran or leave a comment below.