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How to find a job in a pandemic

Losing your job can be devastating. But mix in the greater economic uncertainty and a pandemic, and the search for a new job can seem overwhelming.

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The collapse of the job market came fast and furious.

It wasn't long ago when job seekers were in the driver's seat and enjoying multiple job offers. The labor market was so strong that some candidates weren't even showing up on their first day of work.

Times sure have changed. More than 33 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment benefits since mid-March. And a White House economic adviser recently warned that the jobless rate could spike to between 16% and 20% by June.

The whiplash we're all feeling is real.

Losing your job can be devastating. But mix in the greater economic uncertainty and a pandemic, and the search for a new job can seem overwhelming.

Here's some tips to get started:

Update your resume. Be clear about what you can do for a company, and detail your accomplishments. Be specific about your past roles and responsibilities.

You also want to highlight your soft skills — such as communication and leadership experience — as well as transferable skills if you are looking to get hired in a new industry.

Pay attention to the words and phrases used in the hiring company's job description and use them in your resume. Tailoring it for each job you apply for helps get you past resume filters.

Create a spreadsheet to track the jobs you've applied for along with the description. That way when a recruiter calls, you can easily reference how your skills apply to the job opening.

Enhance your repertoire. Take this time to learn new skills, take an online class or volunteer. Those experiences will not only help fill in any gaps on your resume, but they can also be good talking points during an interview to highlight your ambition and willingness to continue to grow professionally.

Learn to sell yourself. With so much in flux right now, employers want to see confidence and adaptability, one expert told me. Be prepared to share real-life examples that prove you are a team player ready to jump in and help navigate your organization through these uncertain times.

Ask for help. You never know where your next job lead will come from. It's difficult to network without face-to-face interactions. But you can call or email people and tell them you are looking for a job, provide details about your experience and what you are looking for to help hone in on worthwhile opportunities.

Former engineers get back to nature

Some job seekers are reinventing themselves during the pandemic. Unemployed workers in Britain, for example, are taking on a new role: farming.

British farmers are facing a shortage of workers to help with this season's harvest, so recently laid-off and furloughed locals are heading to the fields to help.

"I just wanted to be active, to get involved. Keep me fit, get me out of the house, otherwise we're locked down at home. I enjoy being outside," said a furloughed civil engineer.

The recovery's X factor: Child care

In addition to getting the unemployed working again, another big step for the economic recovery will be to get people back into their offices.

But here's the reality: Working parents can't go back if they don't have child care.

Many parents have been juggling (some days it feels more like drowning in) professional and child care responsibilities. If daycare centers remain closed and summer camps don't happen, they are going to be left in the lurch if they get called back to work.

That means we could see parents making some tough decisions: Continue to work from home if they can, quit or decide not to get a new job if they were let go. All of these choices have an impact on the economy.

How data collectors are still doing their jobs from home

It's always fun to get an inside look at how people are making their jobs work when they can't be in the office.

Every month we get an important economic indicator: the jobs report. It calculates how many jobs were gained or lost in the previous month, as well as the unemployment rate. It can move stock markets and sway policy. And it takes thousands of government workers to produce.

So when the pandemic took hold in the U.S., the effort to transition these statisticians and data collectors to work remotely was a big undertaking.

Closets were raided to find equipment and there was a scramble to update software and find cell phones so people could continue to do their jobs during a time when reliable data is vital.