Looking for a job is already hard enough. But during a coronavirus pandemic, the job search comes with new challenges.
Deciding to move for a job now means weighing the risk of catching an infectious disease in your new hometown, or unknowingly carrying it with you. For those who lost jobs before the spread of COVID-19, job hunting now means competing with millions of other Americans who just lost their jobs, too. For professionals in industries that have been decimated by the coronavirus, the search may mean switching out of your industry forever.
“The new interest has felt like it slowed down to a halt,” said Kelly Zerbe, a San Francisco-based freelance designer who has been job hunting since February. “One company I was scheduled to have an on-site [interview] for had to halt hiring completely because they were a startup in the restaurant industry, which has obviously been impacted greatly.”
And all the while, bills pile up.
Professionals told HuffPost how their job hunts have changed because of the coronavirus. These are their stories:
“The seven-year long college education we have all sunk every cent we have into means nothing if it is not completed.”
– Ohio University student Hannah Reckman
Obtaining professional licensing to work has become an impossible hurdle.
Hannah Reckman, a third-year master’s student in speech language pathology at Ohio University, was four months away from graduating when the coronavirus pandemic impacted her career. Now, her graduation has been postponed indefinitely and she is worried about her eligibility to receive the speech language pathologist license she needs to work. The local elementary school where she was completing her off-campus internship shut down indefinitely.
“I am also now stuck in my tiny one-bedroom apartment, [having] lost my externship, and will no longer be receiving the clinical hours necessary to graduate and earn my license,” she said. Opportunities to earn the necessary clinical hours for the license in hospitals have also dried up, she said.
“We are scared,” the 24-year-old said of her school cohort. “The seven-year-long college education we have all sunk every cent we have into means nothing if it is not completed.”
Payton Arnold, a nurse based in Las Vegas, Nevada, said she’s applied for 50 jobs since she graduated in early March. “Most positions are ones that require ‘solid clinical experience,’ meaning about a year or more. Obviously new grads do not have that, so lots of us are hoping to get into new grad programs,” the 23-year old said.
Getting her nursing license is necessary for these kind of jobs, but Arnold is in limbo. She was supposed to take her National Council Licensure Examination at the end of March, but the computer-based testing company Pearson VUE, which facilitates these exams, temporarily closed their test centers in the United States, causing Arnold to reschedule.
“This keeps us from getting our license to be able to start working in hospitals or other clinics, as it’s typically a requirement to be hired,” Arnold said.
The job market just got shockingly flooded.
When sales and marketing specialist Christina Laskorunsky found out she was getting laid off from her job working for a California hotel group about a month ago, it wasn’t because of the coronavirus. But the pandemic is still affecting her job search.
“Standard joblessness anxieties aside ― what happens if I can’t pay my rent, my student loans, etc. ― these uncertain times are compounding my fears. Who on earth is hiring a hotel sales manager right now?” she said. “There are fewer positions available in my industry, with more unemployed or underemployed candidates to fight over them. There will be a sharp increase in demand for unemployment benefits. If I do get sick, I won’t have health insurance to cover professional care.“
Laskorunsky said the monthly cost of COBRA, which continues health benefits after involuntary job loss, means such insurance is not an option for her.
Despite these worries, Laskorunsky, 26, considers herself luckier than most. “I have at least three months of savings before my finances start to get dicey. I am young and therefore in a lower risk bracket for the virus, and I can use my free time to help my elderly neighbors get groceries and medication,” she said. (The CDC now warns that younger adults are susceptible to serious coronavirus symptoms, with adults ages 20-54 accounting for 38% of known hospitalizations.) “Since the whole nation is or ought to be spending more time at home, there will be a decline in [fear of missing out]-inducing social media posts that would otherwise make me feel like … an unemployed loser? Gotta look on the bright side of things.”
Laskorunsky said tourism and hospitality is her passion, but she is prepared to pivot her skills to a new industry. “The tank in demand for travel may alter my career path,” she said. “Experience in sales and marketing can be applicable for many companies, so I must begin to broaden my search.”
Laskorunsky said she’s preparing to apply for unemployment insurance after her last day at her job this Friday.
“If I’m left out to dry by hiring freezes after all these rounds of interviews, then I will have to start living off savings ― not the worst thing in the world, but as the sole provider for a family, that well isn’t bottomless.”
– Job-seeker Benjamin Koga-Winn
Sometimes available jobs are in a coronavirus hot zone.
When Benjamin Koga-Winn found out in January that he would be laid off from his technology company at the end of March, he was open to moving from his home in Vancouver, Washington, to the Seattle area, where there were more career opportunities for his AR/VR headset programming skills. Then Seattle became one of the nation’s first epicenters for the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, he has done rounds of interviews. A job interview for which he was supposed to fly into Seattle went remote, and he did the five-hour interview from a relative’s office space. A different promising remote consulting position fell through. He had another five-hour interview scheduled on Thursday.
“I will have to move for my next position if it is in Seattle. Unfortunately, this is going to be very challenging to do given the pandemic,” he said. “I’m almost assuming that some of these might fall through as companies realize the challenges with relocation during this time. We will have to see.”
Koga-Winn is most worried about last-minute hiring freezes. “If I’m left out to dry by hiring freezes after all these rounds of interviews, then I will have to start living off savings ― not the worst thing in the world, but as the sole provider for a family, that well isn’t bottomless,” he said. “Likewise, should I be given an offer, I will have to jump immediately into looking for a home and relocation. Will that even be possible in this climate?”
He is prepared to file for unemployment after his job ends.
“I am fearful of what the hospitality industry will look like on the other side of this pandemic.”
– Hospitality administration operations manager Angela Bukowski
“This virus is changing the course of our future indefinitely.”
For hospitality administration operations manager Angela Bukowski, the job offer she and her husband Dustin Mooney, an engineer, received at the beginning of March was going to be their family’s fresh start. Mooney and Bukowski, who are based in Oregon, both accepted offers to work at an inn in Washington state. “Exciting business model, excellent pay and a beautiful setting” is how Bukowski described the job. Then the coronavirus cases in America accelerated.
Bukowski noted that moving to a new area at the end of the school year with three children is already no joke.
“Now we have no idea what to do. Do we continue with our plan? Do we stay where we are? This virus is changing the course of our future indefinitely,” she told HuffPost last week. “The struggle is real. Like, really real. We haven’t given up hope that our fresh start may still come through, but unfortunately, it may look completely different than we had imagined.“
Ultimately, moving for the job in a pandemic became a moot point when the inn temporarily closed operations and told the couple that their jobs are waiting for them when they reopen. Bukowkski said she was relieved to hear that she didn’t need to tell her new employers she and her husband needed to “wait this out.” Until then, she and her family are staying with her mom “to save money and to look out for her and my stepdad until the dust settles,” she said. “I’m thankful for that. All of that being said, I am fearful of what the hospitality industry will look like on the other side of this pandemic.”
“No matter what, our world has changed, and although I trust that we will persevere, there is still so much uncertainty about what that will look like,” Bukowski said.
She said her family still intend to move once the inn reopens ― whenever that might be.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus