En español | The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the U.S. job market and the way Americans look at work. In the first five weeks of this national emergency, more than 26 million people have filed new claims for unemployment benefits, and the nonessential workers who remain employed have mostly shifted to telecommuting due to states’ stay-at-home mandates. “It’s definitely changed how many people are looking for remote work,” says Brie Reynolds, career development manager for online job market FlexJobs, which specializes in flexible and remote work. “Lots more people are in search of that right now.”
Employers, too, are looking more favorably on the idea of a telecommuting workforce. “There often was a very big hurdle for some business owners to hire individuals who worked remotely, and that stigma has really been suppressed right now,” says Stacy Francis, president of Manhattan-based wealth-management firm Francis Financial. “It’s opening the eyes of business owners to a new possibility.”
Indeed, Reynolds notes that FlexJobs saw a 4 percent increase in remote job listings in March, compared with February. “It’s nothing huge, but a bit of positive news, a hopeful sign that the remote job market is holding pretty strong right now,” she says.
Even without a global pandemic, working remotely can be a great option for people who are looking to ease out of a traditional full-time job but aren’t ready to give up work altogether. “For individuals who are looking at retirement, it’s a great way to stay busy, to earn an income and still have that accountability in their life with some type of work,” says Francis, who has a number of clients who have recently retired from demanding full-time jobs but continue to work as part-time consultants. “They love it because they can do it anywhere in the world, and they’ve really meshed it into their retirement.”
How can you compete for in-demand remote work opportunities? Here are some tips to help you rise to the top of the applicant pool.
1. Know where to look.
First, tap your network. Having an insider’s support can boost your odds at winning the role, especially when you’re competing for more senior-level jobs.
Next, search online. Most major job-search sites give you the option to limit your options to remote jobs only. You can also try sites that specialize in remote work, such as FlexJobs and Remote.com. Note, though, that you must subscribe to FlexJobs for full access to the site. Subscription packages start at $14.95 for one month.
You might also try this website that links to dozens of job boards that specialize in remote jobs.”
Also, know which industries are most likely to have remote work opportunities. The medical and health category (which includes jobs in insurance, case management and social work, as well as care providers) leads in remote-job listings on FlexJobs. Other top job categories for remote work: computers and IT, customer service, education and training, sales, and accounting and finance. “And all of these areas are being called on more now because of what’s going on,” Reynolds says.
2. Highlight your remote work experience.
Working from home comes with a unique set of challenges that can take getting used to, and employers want to know you can hit the ground running. So be sure your résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile include your remote work experience. “And it doesn’t have to be a formalized program,” Reynolds says. “It can be really casual experiences, too.”
For example, you might note instances in which you brought work home to finish at night or over weekends or times when you’ve worked from home while waiting for the plumber or cable provider. Having taken classes online or completed other remote training can showcase your tech skills and ability to work independently. Even experience working from your office with colleagues and clients in different buildings, cities and time zones can prove your long-distance communication and collaboration skills.
3. Add a technology section to your résumé.
Unfortunately, ageism may lead some employers to assume that older job seekers may not have the technological capabilities to handle working from home, which includes not just the day-to-day use of digital tools, but also the ability to teach yourself new programs and troubleshoot any problems. “Being able to showcase your technology skills and your comfort with technology can be really helpful for that age group, and really for anybody applying for remote work,” Reynolds says.
One way to do that is to clearly list your tech skills on your résumé. That might include proficiency or familiarity with certain operating systems, software, databases, programming languages and even social media. “An actual technology section on your résumé can be a really good thing that can stop an employer from thinking the wrong thing,” she says.
4. Expand that tech section of your résumé.
If the pandemic hasn’t made you a Zoom expert already, you still have time. In fact, you can take this time to get familiar with any and all digital tools that might come in handy for remote work and add those skills to your résumé. In addition to Zoom, that might include other web conferencing software such as GoToMeeting and Skype, messaging programs like Slack and Google Hangouts and document sharing platforms such as Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox. “That’s one of the biggest things you can do pretty easily and quickly,” Reynolds says.
5. Be patient.
As an experienced professional, you might be hoping for a work-from-home job that’s relatively high up the ladder. The good news is you’ll find some opportunities. “Most of the remote jobs out there require at least some experience and oftentimes require managerial-level experience,” Reynolds says. “It’s kind of the flip of what most people assume.”
Just remember that it typically takes longer to fill those higher positions, regardless of whether it’s for a remote job. Employers tend to do more vetting and require a more extensive interview process to fill that level of employment. Be patient, and use the extra time to build your skills.
Editor’s note: This article, originally published on April 24, 2020, has been updated with a link to online job boards that offer remote jobs.