“They canceled my interview when the COVID-19 lockdowns started to happen. Not only that, but they stopped hiring for the position entirely,” recalled James Meranus, a client at JVS Career Services, a local nonprofit offering hands-on, dedicated 1-to-1 career coaching. Meranus is not alone. According to the US Labor Department, before the coronavirus shutdowns began back in February, the US unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Now it is almost six times that high, hovering at 20 percent. To date, 41 million people in the US have filed for unemployment benefits, and that number may still rise with time.
With statistics like these, it’s safe to say that if you don’t yet know of someone who has been impacted by the global pandemic, you will. When that happens, the numbers won’t matter nearly as much as solving the stark, personal reality of unemployment.
The unease brought on by this disruption is unquestionably real. However, these feelings of uncertainty can also motivate people to evaluate their employment situations and seriously prepare for whatever the future job market may hold. The good news is that some of those solutions can be found right here in our community.
In the early days of the outbreak, various organizations in Jewish Cincinnati came together to create the COVID-19 Hotline. This hotline is administered by AgeWell Cincinnati and helps connect residents with much needed resources, including valuable career assistance through JVS Career Services.
JVS Career Services CEO Joni Burton shared how the organization is pivoting so it can continue to help those in need: “We are not only offering free webinar tutorials for job seekers, but for those who have experienced job loss due to the coronavirus, we are providing our career services at no cost.” The agency has also created an online resource page with detailed information about companies that are currently hiring, along with listings of work opportunities that can be handled remotely.
“We are not only offering free webinar tutorials for job seekers, but for those who have experienced job loss due to the coronavirus, we are providing our career services at no cost.”
— Joni Burton, CEO, JVS Career Services
This spring, JVS Career Services is celebrating 80 years of operation, and it is currently working with roughly 300 job seekers. This includes people who have been laid off as well as those who fear they might get laid off soon. Regarding the online webinars Burton referenced, they have seen a consistent increase in attendance. Staff members say this indicates a heavier, future client load.
Despite the lack of economic certainty, companies are continuing to hire. JVS Career Services has posted more than 500 jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, and they have been working closely with clients to help them get a sense of what can be expected in this new job search climate.
After Meranus’s interview was canceled, his career coach at JVS Career Services kept in touch with him regularly, via video calls, text messages, phone calls, and emails. It didn’t take long before he had another interview lined up.
Meranus said he noticed some key changes to application procedures post lockdown. The first few steps of the process were the same (i.e. online resume submission, a brief phone interview, etc.), but when he got to the in-person part of the interviewing process, the experience changed dramatically.
“Once I got to an interview with a hiring manager, the meeting took place over a video call. Normally that would have been in person, but my career coach at JVS Career Services provided me with specific techniques on how to conduct a successful interview over video. Through all my individualized sessions, my career coach helped me prepare my answers, dress appropriately, and consider video lighting and sound,” he added. “Thanks to all the work of my career coach and JVS Career Services, I was able to stand out and get the job offer.”
Meranus, who will begin his new job in June, said that the onboarding process also feels different in the COVID-19 era. “To get me set up, they are shipping me my computer and other gear I’ll need. They are being very careful to minimize contact,” he said.
While Burton knows the heavy workload for JVS Career Services won’t be abating any time soon, she is confident the organization will rise to the challenge as they did in the 2008 recession. “Our work is more important than ever during this crisis, as unemployment has risen above 14 percent—levels not seen since World War II,” she said. “So the need for our services will continue to grow. Even when the economy opens back up, some companies may not survive, and those that do reopen may be forced to reduce headcounts or salaries due to a loss of revenue.”
When asked about his thoughts about the job search during the time of COVID-19, Meranus said “You can’t give up. It’s harder right now, but there are companies still hiring,” he said. “Thanks to JVS Career Services I was able to persevere and find the right job for me.”
Meranus feels that—regardless of what the future holds—taking full advantage of JVS Career Services’ career expertise can only improve one’s situation. “I would say absolutely take the first step to get their help. You’ll have a helpful team to help you pursue your career goals, so you’re not doing it on your own. The entire experience was very positive. Better than I expected. There is no downside. Without them, I may have missed out.”
For access to the free career services currently being offered in Cincinnati, the COVID-19 Hotline is a great place to start: 513-766-3333