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Making the decision to apply for a job, pandemic edition

Man looking at this laptop from home

It’s a familiar scene: A friend or colleague sends you a job posting or you see a new position listing pop up on LinkedIn. It’s an intriguing opportunity, and the wheels in your brain start turning. Is this the right position for you? Will it help you meet your career goals? Should you apply?

Today, on top of the usual questions you ask yourself, you also need to consider the risks and rewards of starting a new job during a global pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on the decision to apply for a job cannot be ignored, but the central question about whether to apply remains the same: What’s most important to you at this moment?

Indeed, many of the factors for applying for a job in 2020 are the same as they were before. Below are some best practices to consider when you apply for a job, with some special considerations for this unique time.

Research the organization

headshot of Moira Kelley
Kelley recommends researching a potential employer’s organizational values — especially during a pandemic.

A little online sleuthing can help give you an idea of whether your personality and values align with that of the organization. (Organizational values may be especially important to consider in a time of pandemic.) How does the company treat its employees? Do workers have a high level of satisfaction or is turnover particularly high?

Refer to the organization’s website and social media accounts for its mission and values, and try to talk with someone who works there to get their take on worker satisfaction. Conduct an informational interview or ask someone in your network to connect you with a current employee. Look at sites like Glassdoor for company data and employee reviews.

Evaluate personal priorities

Getting back to that question of what’s most important to you at this moment, think about what’s leading you to consider a new position. Is it more money or better health insurance? Maybe you’re looking for more responsibility or management experience. Depending on your particular priorities, you’ll want to evaluate benefits and job perks, how performance is evaluated, whether professional development is encouraged and/or the path for advancement.

Consider COVID response

Talking to someone who works at the company can give you insight into how the organization has supported employees during the pandemic. Do workers feel safe and are they working remotely? When would you be expected to return to the physical location and with what precautions in place? How likely is it that your position will be eliminated if the pandemic drags on? Consider the growth of the particular industry or company. A move into health care is probably a good bet right now, but hospitality could be more risky.

Like everything else, the decision to apply for a job has been complicated by the pandemic — but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. Keep your priorities for this moment at top of mind, do your research and ask questions. If all checks out, throw your hat in the ring. Don’t allow COVID to keep you from a great opportunity.

Career Corner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Moira Kelley, a career counselor, can be reached at moira.kelley@wisc.edu. This article was originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal.