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Historically, some years have been harder than others to find a job. For example, the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 wreaked havoc on job seekers for a time. In 2020, COVID-19 has changed everything, including the industries that are hiring and the ways in which people find and acquire jobs.


Most people are fairly aware of the industries that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 as a result of physical distancing restrictions: restaurants, hotel management, resorts and travel, event planning, and the performing arts. But there is another hidden part of the economy that has also been impacted. “Industries that cater to those [industries] — their distributors and suppliers, the whole supply chain — [has been] hit as well,” says University of Louisville Associate Professor of Economics Joshua Pinkston, Ph.D. While it is clear that bands and musicians have been impacted by COVID-19, the individuals and businesses that support bands and musicians, such as stagehands, merchandise vendors, and stadium custodial staff, have also been negatively impacted by the lack of live shows. Tammy Meredith, an executive career coach based in Louisville, says despite the hard-hit industries, there are some sectors of the economy that are doing well and hiring. “It’s not all doom-and-gloom. Anything cloud-based technology is number one. Even market research is big,” she says.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, says Kentuckiana’s strong base of legacy industries, such as health care, logistics, and business services, is holding its own even in the pandemic.

Of course, rates of COVID-19 can and will continue to impact businesses, including the ones that are doing well now. “The disease is driving the bus when it comes to long-term impact at this point. One of my concerns is that the U.S. has wasted its lockdown. We opened up in ways that we knew were bad ideas,” Joshua says. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m not hugely optimistic going into the fall or winter.”


As everything has moved online in the wake of physical distancing, the key to finding a job lies a great deal in the skills job seekers bring to the business. “The key is you’ve got to have your technology skills, [but] it doesn’t mean you have to be a programmer or developer,” Tammy says. For the past several years, there have been a number of groups and businesses focused on helping individuals get the credentials and badges they need in order to find and retain technology jobs. Code Louisville is one such training program. Another is Louisville Work Initiative, which in partnership with Microsoft, offers information to interested job seekers and career changers. At futurelou.com, individuals can find free online training for data analysis, digital marketing, software engineering, and user experience design. “I am so thrilled how far ahead we have been as a city,” Mary Ellen says.


Now job hunters utilize CareerBuilder, Indeed, and Glassdoor. And just having a LinkedIn profile might not be good enough. “Especially for management level and above, you’ve got to be really active on LinkedIn,” Tammy says. KentuckianaWorks.org is a great resource for anything job-related in seven Kentucky counties, including Jefferson. For residents on the sunny side of Louisville, One Southern Indiana and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development can be helpful for those looking to network and find employment information. Tammy also says job boards need to be used as research tools. Reading job descriptions can help those seeking employment to figure out what specific skills they need to acquire or improve. “[You might see a business that says] they’re looking for someone with Advanced Powerpoint or Amazon Web Services (AWS),” she says. It is an employer market right now, Tammy says, so if a job description includes a requirement for certain skills, a job applicant isn’t going to get very far without them.

In addition to having certain skills, applications and resumes need to specifically state those skills. “Most companies scan resumes into an applicant tracking database. If you don’t have key words, even if you may have that skill, your resume won’t go to the top,” Tammy says. Job hunters who have researched job descriptions, acquired the needed skills, and use those keywords (like skilled in Powerpoint or AWS) on their resumes are more likely to get a call from a potential employer. Being strategic about job hunting is also essential. “The worst thing you can do — and what a lot of people do — is sit in front of job boards and do what we call the ‘spray and pray.’ They spray their resume out to 100 people and they pray somebody is gonna call, and that’s the least effective way to job search,” Tammy says.


It isn’t just what a job seeker knows or the transferable skills he or she has. It is also who that job seeker knows, and Mary Ellen notes that this is problematic because who we know can be fairly limited and even exclusive. Tech employees have historically been predominantly white and male, so a woman or minority may have trouble networking in these fields if they are just starting out. While networking will continue to be important in job hunting, “we have to figure out how to make that more inclusive,” she says.


If any word sums up 2020, it is unpredictable, which means job seekers need to be as flexible as possible. This might mean relocating for a job if you are able. It might mean taking a short-term contract or consultant position to build experience and network with people. It might mean taking a different shift than you’d prefer in order to get your foot in the door. It might mean changing your expectations at least temporarily. The most important thing job seekers can do, though, is keep themselves and their loved ones healthy, because ultimately this is what is needed to get and keep a job. “The thing that can’t be said enough is that the best thing for the economy is controlling the spread of the virus. Ultimately, our economy is built on human capital. To have human capital, we need healthy and productive people,” Joshua says. “The virus is the key economic issue to focus on.”

P.S. Looking for a job? Try these tips for job searching during the pandemic.

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