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Months into the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of COVID-19 continue to ripple through communities and economies around the globe. Millions of people are unemployed and many others fear losing their jobs due to economic uncertainty. Filing for unemployment benefits, filling out job applications, and sifting through a seemingly never-ending inbox of automated rejection letters can be exhausting. To assist, we’ve gathered career advice from experts in the industry to help those who are unemployed people navigate this difficult time. From filing for unemployment to innovative approaches to networking, we’ve curated a list of seven tips to empower individuals to make the most of this time.

First things first: Filing for unemployment

In the overarching hierarchy of situational needs, one of the most pressing stressors during unemployment centers on disrupted finances. That said, filing for unemployment benefits is one of the most important initial steps for anyone who has lost their job. The CARES Act allows states to offer unemployment benefits to individuals previously not eligible for this assistance such as independent contractors. Unemployment benefits programs vary from state to state, so individuals will need to curate their approach based on the benefits programs provided in their area. The US Department of Labor has created a site explaining many of the more frequently asked questions related to unemployment benefits.

SEE: The new normal: What work will look like post-pandemic (TechRepublic Premium)

Polish up the resume

After a layoff, job seekers should set aside some time to update their existing resume or build a new document from scratch. It’s been estimated that hiring managers spend approximately seven seconds looking over a candidate’s resume, according to a 2018 report. With such a small window of opportunity to make an impression, it’s important to concisely pack as much relevant information into a resume as possible.

Individuals should spend less time meticulously detailing every single detail or every single position and instead provide a brief overview of the job description. It’s also crucial to ensure that the resume is up-to-date, accurate, and free of grammatical errors. A basic typo in a resume could easily eliminate a candidate from consideration.

Leverage artificial intelligence

Currently, there are many online tools to help candidates build a better resume. Some of these tools leverage artificial intelligence to efficiently create quality resumes for prospective job seekers. CareerBuilder’s resume builder specifically targets specific keywords listed in job descriptions to increase hiring odds. With such a competitive job market, candidates should take advantage of all of the tools at their disposal.

Attend a virtual career fair

Organizations are utilizing virtual career fairs to engage with top tier talent across industries. These platforms offer text chat, and, at times, video functionality to accommodate virtual job interviews during events. It’s important to attend knowing an interview could be one interaction away. While virtual interviews can feel a bit awkward without typical in-personal formalities, there are basic steps people can take to make sure their message and skills aren’t lost in translation.

“If you’re interviewing for a people-facing role, you need to make sure you behave in a way that demonstrates your people skills. Don’t forget the usual niceties such as greeting people properly and smiling, and make sure the way you are conversing is human, approachable and kind. What you say, and how you say it, are even more important in a virtual setting where it’s not possible to shake hands with your interviewer or chat with other people you might bump into around the building,” said Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight.

Some companies are looking to hire prospective employees on the day of the virtual career fair. For this reasoning, it’s important to do a little homework in advance to gain a better understanding of organizations ahead of time. This will let potential employees know if this partnership could be a good fit for both parties.

SEE: Unemployed? 9 virtual career fair tips to help you land your dream job (TechRepublic)

If a virtual career attendee doesn’t land a position that day it’s important to remain optimistic. Not all employers are looking to hire on the spot. Many recruiters will use the time after the virtual career fair to further vet a candidate’s credentials and online social media presence.

“The main point of call for anyone who wants to find out more about you will be social media, especially LinkedIn. Consider your LinkedIn profile as a digital business card and make sure it is both up to date and consistent with everything else you are sharing via your social media channels. People will look you up online after a virtual chat, so it’s vital to get this part right,” said Jackson.

Build your brand

Updating your LinkedIn account is just one part of a much larger and necessary part of the job search. In the digital era, virtual brand building is imperative. A candidate’s online presence will give prospective employers a better understanding of the person beyond the specifications outlined in a resume or cover letter.

If a hiring manager is on a candidate’s social media pages, there’s a good chance they’re interested in learning more. That’s why it’s crucial for job seekers to use these platforms to tailor their image and buttress their overall appeal accordingly. It’s never too late to beef up your brand and the extra hours offered during unemployment could be the right time to do just that.

Take advantage of online learning opportunities

In many ways, unemployment is all about finding new ways to maximize your time. After basic steps such as filing for unemployment and updating the resume, then it’s time to approach secondary tasks and considerations. Investing in yourself is always a good idea, especially during unemployment, and online educational opportunities are great options for many individuals between positions.

“If you are working in IT, the technology landscape is constantly evolving. New tools, software and tech-stacks are constantly being introduced. Employers always love to have that person who invest in themselves by learning new things and staying current. It gives the employer confidence their company will not be left behind technologically. Taking a course or getting a nanodegree proves you are that person,” said David Moise, CEO of Decide Consulting.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Find another way into the digital front door

As many unemployed individuals know all too well, browsing job boards and applying online can be draining. Aside from the tedious nature of the process, it can also take weeks and months to gain any traction whatsoever on a single application. Rather than limiting the job search to traditional application channels, there are other unique, proactive ways individuals can approach to the hiring process.

“In addition to online applications, candidates should start their job search by clearly identifying their target roles and companies and then making a ‘network map’ of their contacts who may be able to refer them. It’s most powerful to start with people who have worked with you directly and can speak to the quality of your work. But if those people aren’t connected there, friends and acquaintances are an option too,” said Amanda Daering, CEO of Newance.

“People are often hesitant to ask for help but the reality is that when we’re asked for help – we’re usually happy to do so,” Daering continued. “The important part is to make the ask as clear and easy to do as possible.”