As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, millions of jobs are expected to disappear as companies shift from temporary furloughs to permanent layoffs. Not only is that bad news for the economy, but it’s also putting unemployed workers in a precarious position. Out of work and low on prospects, workers need to quickly reskill for a new career in order to avoid the pitfalls of long-term unemployment.
That’s easier said than done when workers have already been laid off for months and industries continue to struggle under the weight of the pandemic. Without time or money to spare, how can the unemployed prepare to change careers? While there’s no easy solution, this advice will help workers find a way forward.
Flexible Education for Career Changers
Going back to school is a natural choice when planning a career change. Unfortunately, this sudden shift wasn’t planned. As a result, many lack the money or time to commit to a traditional degree program. However, that doesn’t mean schooling is out of the question. These flexible learning options put education back on the table for career changers.
- Online degree programs: Many universities have shifted online in response to COVID-19, but for career changers, fully-online schools are a better fit. That’s because online universities are designed for flexibility, with accelerated degree programs and no rigid class schedule. Some, like WGU’s computer science degree, let students earn industry certifications at no extra cost, making it possible to build a resume even before completing a degree.
- Boot camps: Don’t have time to commit to a degree? While coding schools are the most well-known boot camp, career changers can also enroll in business accelerators and professional prep programs. These short-format courses immerse learners in the skills they need to launch a new career. Some job prep programs may also connect students with hiring companies.
- Free online courses: For small skill gaps, free online courses, also known as open courseware or massive online open courses (MOOCs), are a budget-friendly solution. Coursera, edX, Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseWare are among the leading options for free online courses.
How to Pay for College as an Adult
One big question for workers continuing their education is how to pay for it. While online degree programs offer education at a lower cost than many brick-and-mortar universities, affording tuition remains a struggle for the unemployed. Before taking on student loans, adult learners should apply for financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and non-governmental scholarships and grants.
Resume Tips for Career Changers
Education gives workers the skills needed for a new career, but there’s still another hurdle to overcome: getting hired. Employers tend to gravitate towards candidates with experience, making it difficult for outsiders to break into a new career. Overcoming this bias isn’t impossible, but it does require the right presentation. These tips help career changers write a resume that will land the job.
- Pay attention to formatting: Hybrid resumes emphasize skills over experience, making this format ideal for changing careers. Candidates should also research what a typical resume looks like in their field of interest. A resume for a conservative industry like law, for example, looks different than a creative’s resume.
- Emphasize transferable skills: Even without direct experience in the field, most candidates can draw upon transferable skills in a new career. These include skills like communication, teamwork, and attention to detail.
- Adjust the language: Industry-specific jargon makes a career changer’s resume confusing. Instead, job seekers should use industry news and job postings to mimic the keywords and communication styles used in their chosen field.
For workers in industries with poor long-term outlooks, changing careers may be the only solution to COVID-19 unemployment. However, getting hired in today’s competitive economy isn’t a given. As unemployed workers gear up for a career change, they need to take the right steps to ensure they’re the best candidate for the job.