Columns July/Aug 2020

Job Search During a Pandemic, Fake Job Ads, and Transitioning Back to the Office

By Kit Brown-Hoekstra | STC Fellow and Cindy Currie | STC Fellow

I lost my job during the pandemic crisis, and I haven’t had to job search in years. How do I find a job when it’s difficult to meet in person?

The current health and economic crisis makes job hunting especially challenging. The good news is that there are a lot of communication jobs out there. You just need to be creative to find them and to stand out from the crowd.

In addition, most people are working from home right now, so think about how you can set up your space to optimize working virtually. FlexJobs and VirtualVocations list jobs that are all, or mostly, remote. If you aren’t used to working remotely, the most important things are to be proactive in your communication and to do what you say you will when you say you will.

  • Schedule your time. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re stuck at home and have fewer social cues. Set a schedule for yourself to work on finding work. Do the job-hunting tasks first thing and work in focused time blocks. Job hunting is emotionally and mentally challenging, especially when there is so much angst in the larger world, so if you spend a few hours early in the day working on the job hunt, you can reward yourself with something fun or relaxing afterward. Take time to rest and reflect.
  • Use your network. Update your LinkedIn profile, and reconnect with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. Do some virtual networking to find out what people are doing and schedule coffee chats with them. Many people are feeling starved for connection right now, so this is a good time to reach out.
  • Research companies and industries you want to work in. As at any other time, research the companies you’re interested in working for. Think about what you’re actually interested in. The great thing about technical communication is that every product, process, and service uses it. Try to find out how the company has supported its employees during this time, because that will give you an idea of what the culture is like and whether you want to work with them. Glassdoor and PayScale can provide insight into how the company compares to others in its industry. If possible, identify someone you know who works there and talk to them about their job.
  • Think about what you want in a job and in a company. Transition times like this are an opportunity to really think about what you want in a job and whether your past goals and wishes still serve you. If not, spend some time thinking about what you want in an ideal job, then focus your search on companies that have those qualities. Maybe you want to start your own consulting company, or maybe you want to shift to a different area of focus. Whatever it is, focus your activities around building connection and skills in those areas.
  • Teach a webinar, start a blog, or guest lecture for a class. Use your skills to share your knowledge. It’s a great way to showcase your skills, and helping others has the benefit of helping you forget your own troubles for a bit.

 

I’ve been hearing about a lot of fake job ads out there. How do I tell if it’s real or fake?

Unfortunately, in any crisis, there are scammers out there who want to take advantage of others’ situation. If someone approaches you out of the blue with an interview for a job you have never applied for or a company you’ve never heard of, it might be a scam. Here are some things to investigate:

  • Check out the website. Fake websites often will look very slick. Telltale signs that they’re fake include, but are not limited to, the following:

– A physical address that doesn’t show up in Google Maps (or looks like it isn’t in a commercial or industrial part of town)

– No people listed in the About section

– Generic, fluffy text that is largely information-free or sounds like it was copied and pasted from somewhere else

– An email address that doesn’t match what’s in the source-code view

– Spelling and typographical errors

  • Do an image search. Save the logo image and then do a Google search. Fake companies sometimes use close approximations of other companies’ logos or names.
  • Ask your friends and colleagues. It’s possible that a friend or colleague might have passed on your résumé and forgot to tell you, so ask around. Find out if anyone else has heard of the company.
  • Check with the local Chamber of Commerce. Companies often join the local Chamber in the cities where they have headquarters or a significant presence. Sometimes, the Chamber is aware of these scams and can confirm your suspicions.
  • Trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful about giving out your personal information. Legitimate companies should not be asking for driver’s license, passport, tax, or other government ID numbers until they have given you a written offer.
I’ve been working from home since the pandemic started, and I’ve grown to like it. Now my company wants us to go back to the office. How do I transition back?

It’s anyone’s guess when things will return to normal (whatever that will look like). With some cities and states reopening, companies are beginning to transition back to the office (whether or not they should be is another conversation). If you have been lucky enough to work from home, it can be a big mental shift back to the office.

Hopefully, your employer has communicated well with employees about COVID-19 throughout this period. This level of communication needs to continue. Employers need to put in place new health and safety protocols, then communicate and train employees in aspects of the “new normal”:

  • Phased back-to-the-office plans (perhaps even staggered scheduling to reduce the number of employees in the office at any one time)
  • Social distancing requirements and office reconfiguration, including improved guidelines for work areas, reception areas, common collaboration areas, training areas, and more
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines
  • Food service areas, housekeeping, and cleaning
  • Any operational changes (for example, using VoIP instead of telephones with handsets) that will be put in place to support the new health and safety protocols

The exact details of how this will play out in your company and office space depend largely on the guidelines in your state and on your employer’s commitment to a safe and healthy environment.

You need to be fully informed and comfortable with your company’s approach, so read every communication your company sends out about how they’re handling things, attend all virtual town halls, and participate in all employee surveys to make sure that your voice is heard. If you are high-risk in any way (or frankly, just plain scared), or if you have child care issues due to school closures, talk to your manager about it and ask for what you need to be able to go back to the office.

Now is a good time to discuss future work-from-home arrangements with your company, too. Successful companies will operate on three key principles:

  • Employee perception is key.
  • Honesty and transparency are critical to building employee trust that the company is doing all it can.
  • Good common sense is a must.

If you’re not getting what you need from your company, let them know ASAP, and ask for better. If your company isn’t receptive to your needs, work out why, and try to address it—or plan to move on if they won’t meet your needs. And if working from home now suits you better than going to the office, check out FlexJobs and VirtualVocations for positions that are all or partly remote.

 

Ask a Tech Comm Manager is an advice column geared toward answering all those questions you have, but might be uncomfortable asking. We glean the questions from social media, forums, and most importantly, from you, dear reader. If we don’t know an answer, we will interview experts and get information for you. Send us your questions to kitbh.stc@gmail.com or tweet them to @kitcomgenesis or the hashtag #askTCmgr.

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