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Finding work in a pandemic

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Roslyn Kunin: Yes, there's less security in contract work. But the pandemic makes long-term commitment a challenge for employers.

Summer ends, September approaches. Schools may be opening or closing or something in between – even though the ads for back-to-school sales have been conspicuously fewer than usual.

As the days shorten, our thoughts reluctantly turn from beaches, picnics and holidays to getting back to work.

Perhaps you, like so many others, are out of work. Looking for work is always daunting, especially now, when the pandemic has caused the unemployment rate, in matter weeks, to go from its lowest level in 50 years to its highest level in half a century.

The economy and the job market are improving, but only at a snail’s pace compared to the dramatic drop-off we saw in the spring.

Estimates on how long it will be until job numbers reach their pre-pandemic level hover around 10 years. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to find work now.

Countering COVID-19 with contracts

Jobs are few and far between, with job-seekers greatly outnumbering vacancies. But there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done. And you can be doing and getting paid for that work. But don’t expect it to be in the form of traditional employment.

Plagued with the economic uncertainty generated by COVID-19, employers big and small are hesitant to commit to new employees, and the growing payroll and other related costs that go with new hires. If you ask for a job, however nicely and however well qualified and prepared you are, the answer will likely be no.

But companies still need workers if their businesses are to reopen or continue operating – and you can get that work.

Don’t ask for a job. Instead, offer to do what needs to be done on a contract basis. Since there’s no long-term commitment, it’s easier for the employer to agree and get a needed task done. Many people who have unsuccessfully sought jobs for months found themselves working and earning in days or weeks after they started asking for contract work.

If you really want a regular job with the security and benefits it provides, take the contract work anyway. One contract often leads to another, providing ongoing income. And when companies are ready to take on regular employees, they’re most likely to give the positions to people they know and trust because they’ve worked with them on a contract basis.

Getting selected for adding value

Here’s what you can do to make any firm do everything they can to get you working for them.

You’ve already moved ahead of the crowd by asking for a contract rather than a job.

To make yourself really irresistible, touch the company on its very sensitive spot – the bottom line. Show how you can add value by bringing more revenue into the firm than they’re going to pay you.

  • Can you add value directly by demonstrating how to attract or up-sell more customers?
  • Can you build a social media presence and website to tap into growing online sales?
  • Can you offer leadership a continuously updated dashboard of their financials to allow faster decision-making and reactions to changes?
  • Can you bring peace and productivity into an office through better human resource practices?
  • Can you help a firm keep customers and employees by keeping the workplace safe and clean?

There are endless ways to add value but most are specific to businesses. Research must be done for every company to which you’re applying to determine their needs. Then demonstrate how you can meet them.

This takes time and effort on your part, but this homework makes you stand out from all the other applicants. It makes people eager to have you on their team and pay for your efforts.

If you can walk into a firm, show how you can increase their revenue and say you’re willing to do it on a cost-effective contract, you’ll likely be working for them the next morning.

Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.

© Troy Media

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