Job Hunting During a Pandemic As an HR Pro

Adam Rosenfield Career Advice, COVID-19, Recruiting

Some people love job hunting.

I don’t recommend it, especially during a pandemic.

I was laid off from my HR job in late March, during the early days of COVID. It was frustrating, because I had a plan to stay there at least through my wedding in July, through the honeymoon, and then start job hunting after I hit 2 years in August. It was frustrating because no other company had started doing layoffs. It was frustrating because the company was a small family-owned company but they couldn’t bother to do human-centered layoffs for the people they laid off, and left the HR work to the Director of Marketing. It was frustrating because my rising HR career was suddenly on pause. 

Confidence still ran through my veins. I had already been interviewing, and thought with my aggressiveness and the HR network I had cobbled together in a short amount of time, there was no way I was going to be unemployed through April. 

Well, April turned into May. May turned into June. June turned into July. July turned into August. August turned into September. And now.. it’s October. 

My confidence has been absolutely wrecked and I struggle everyday with whether or not I should continue in HR. I’ve done close to 80 interviews, a few contract gigs, but no company has truly pulled the full-time trigger on me. There’s the little things that sting during a job hunt too like:

  • Companies not allowing you in webinars because you don’t have a work email
  • Trying to participate in conversations around office COVID protocols and racial injustice among HR pros, and having to speak in hypotheticals
  • Feeling left out of mundane HR conversations because you felt like you had nothing to offer
  • Participating in the goofy remote work selfies that dotted Linkedin and Instagram during the early days of the pandemic 

And then there are the big things. Contacts who say they’ll come through for a referral and don’t. The jobs you think you have 100% in the bag, then flop. Having to pay a fat COBRA bill at the beginning of every month, while your friends save money on healthcare. Not getting to buy a house. Bank account dropping. Getting rejected for VOLUNTEER assignments. HR people turning their nose at you for a job at their firm, when you’ve worked to help them in the past. Recruiters ending the call when they found out you got laid off (yep, that’s happened), or trying to dig further to see if you were ACTUALLY laid off. 

Then there are the times you question if what you’re doing is right, or if it’s costing you jobs. I will always speak out on issues of racial injustice (see literally everything I posted), I will criticize the HR establishment because I think there’s reasons why HR is looked down upon. I will criticize HR/Talent professionals for staying silent on issues of discrimination and injustice, or worse, who silence those speaking out (there are plenty of those). But I constantly wonder if that is a reason why I am in the situation I’m in: If my lack of experience in certain HR areas, coupled  with my propensity to speak out on what is right (and controversial to some) causes my application to be removed from contention earlier in the process than I should be. 

But then I realize that what I’m doing by using my voice is further connecting myself with good people in the HR community. What I realize is that I’m actually growing my career. That with every rejection in this pandemic came 2-3 new contacts, and I now have an international community to lean on. The roles I was interviewing for in October are 3-4 rungs above the ones I was interviewing for in April. Why? Because I’ve pushed myself. I know what I’m capable of, and I know where the opportunity is. 

If I could impart any advice on HR professionals in this tough job hunt, I would say confidently to get outside your comfort zone. I don’t know if many HR pros are known to network, or to collaborate (I still see many in their own bubble), but there are those willing to help, collaborate, and push this profession forward. Speak out. Create new ways to help HR professionals, or new ways for HR people to be looked at in high regard in their organizations. READ THE JOB DESCRIPTION; you can tell what companies think of HR by how they phrase certain descriptions.

I may not go full-time till 2021, which would really stink. I may not be able to advance my personal life until late 2021, which is tough when you see friends getting promoted, having kids, and buying houses. But I have furthered my career in some way. I’ve spoken on panels, been published in blogs, asked to consult, been selected to HR leadership groups- all while job hunting in a pandemic.

It may not be the way the recruiters like to see, but it will help me down the road.