With unemployment rates at record highs, finding a job right now seems impossible — but we have a few tips to help you out.

In February of this year, 6.2 million Americans were unemployed, according to the Pew Research Center. In May, only three months later, that number rose to 20.5 million Americans unemployed.

What complicates things even more is the fact that three out of 10 jobs have been wiped out since March, according to data from the job-search site Glassdoor.

So what does this mean? Simply, job competition is steep — but that doesn't mean finding a new job right now is impossible.

6 ways to stand out in a competitive job market

If you're searching for a job during this time, don't let those numbers hold you back. Here's a pocket of hope: 14 percent of employers have actually increased job openings since March, according to Glassdoor.

While it's not a large percentage, there are still companies hiring; people are still getting new jobs each day. The key? You need to stand out from the competition. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on your job search during this time:

1. Practice 

When it comes to searching for a job, being patient is difficult — especially if you're unemployed. But patience is especially important right now. 

Here's the thing: Even if the labor market sees a rapid recovery in the coming months, it still needs time to return to pre-pandemic numbers, reports Glassdoor. Chances are, it's going to take longer than normal to get hired right now, so set your expectations accordingly and do what you can to not burn yourself out while searching for a job.

2. Polish your personal presentation

Now, perhaps more than ever, presenting yourself in a positive manner to potential employers is essential. No, that doesn't only mean dressing appropriately for a video interview (though that is important). You also need to make sure your resume is in tip-top shape.

One of the most common resume mistakes is spelling and grammatical errors, which can be an immediate deal-breaker no matter how qualified you are for a job. Remember to give your resume a close edit, and have someone else review it. You can even take it to the next level and get a professional resume writer to take the reins.

Additionally, don't let your communication skills slip when connecting with companies. For instance, your emails should be professional and free of typos. What may seem like a small error could turn a company away during this time of high competition.

3. Impress in an interview

These days many companies are holding video job interviews. In these interviews, it can be difficult to show off your personality, enthusiasm, and potential. Here are a few tips to help you sell yourself:

  • Scout out the perfect location: Find a quiet and bright place you can set up, turn off all distractions, and use your video preview to test the lighting.

  • Dress for success: While you don't have to wear a full-on pantsuit for a video interview, it is important to look polished. Dress like yourself, but opt for attire that's clean, simple, and distraction-free.

  • Show your energy — but be authentic: Don't go overboard with your eagerness; instead, be yourself and find opportunities to show your enthusiasm. For instance, give a warm welcome and show your gratitude at the beginning of the call.

  • Consider your nonverbal responses: Yes, the way you answer the interview questions is important, but when you're interviewing virtually, eye contact is key. Smile and project your voice confidently.

Once your interview is over, don't forget to send a follow-up thank you; a simple email could help you secure the job.

4. Touch up your online presence

Since an employer may not be able to meet you in real life, they may be more prone to turn to Google to fill in any blanks. That's why it's so important to always keep an eye on your online self.

Start by doing a self-audit, which includes a quick Google search of your name to see what comes up.

LinkedIn will likely be one of the first Google results, so start there. Ensure your LinkedIn profile stands out with a professional photo, a catchy headline, and a powerful profile summary. You can also beef up your profile by asking connections to leave you a recommendation. Reach out to those you've worked closely with and offer to leave them a recommendation in exchange.

After you've tackled LinkedIn, take a look at your social media accounts, your personal blog, and any other profiles or websites that may pop up with your name.

5. Boost your network

Even though coffee shops and co-working spaces are still closed in many places around the country, you can still network — you'll just have to do so virtually. No, virtual networking isn't ideal, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so during this time (and this is a perfect way for introverts to dip their toes in the networking waters).

You can search for virtual networking events occurring within your industry and find online forums, free digital meetups (“Blockchain & Booze,” anyone?), and even virtual job fairs. Just search “virtual networking” and your industry and/or location, and see what's going on.

You can also make new connections through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other forms of social media. Or, if you want to meet up with an existing connection, get creative, and propose a virtual coffee date. Schedule a Zoom call, pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee, and catch up!

6. Reassess your skills and be flexible

Many professionals spend years mapping out their careers, but during times like these, it's imperative to be flexible. That doesn't mean you have to change your entire career path, but take some time to assess your skills and think about other plans — even if just temporarily.

“Inventory your top skills, and then search for opportunities to leverage these in a different capacity,” writes Jeff Berger, CEO of TopResume's parent company, Talent Inc. “Leverage what you have been doing and pivot to where the current job openings are.”

According to data from the job-search site Indeed, jobs in management, nursing, software development, and personal care and home health have seen a lower than average decline. Additionally, Glassdoor reported in May 2020 an increase of job openings in private security, consumer services, travel and tourism, restaurants and bars, and beauty and fitness.

You may not find your dream job right now, but it's important to exercise patience, be flexible, and do what you can to stand out amid the competition during these times. As they say, “This too shall pass.”

Putting your best foot forward with a strong, polished resume is more important now than ever. Make sure your resume is ready for the job search with a free resume critique.

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