FLINT, Michigan -- The COVID-19 pandemic has created new and dire stresses on everyone. In Michigan, the state’s unemployment rate has slowly declined after massive job losses in April in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
But while the state of Michigan has a whole has reported improvements in the unemployment rate, the state’s 8.6 percent rate is still slightly worse than the national average. Flint was at 10.5 percent as of September of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Adding to the anxiety of losing an income source is the fact that the pandemic has also fundamentally changed the ways organizations that support unemployed people can help. Diona McLaughlin, communications manager for the Genesee, Shiawassee, Thumb Michigan Works!, said their staff locally has been able to adapt quickly to creating virtual services to help people dealing with joblessness.
GST Michigan Works has hosted virtual job fairs in October and November, with 169 people able to connect with employers, which McLaughlin says, “tells us there’s a need. People want to get back to work.”
The main advice she has for people seeking jobs right now, simply, is to reach out. GST Michigan Works offers career coaching services and has plenty of information on their website and Facebook page.
“We have many programs available to help people reach sustainability and overcome barriers,” McLaughlin said. “Most people are surprised when they find out but are so grateful to their career coach for helping them get back on track. I would further tell job seekers they are not alone in their job search; we have career coaches waiting to assist them.”
An added anxiety for people who are unemployed can be using the technology required to participate in virtual events if they’re unfamiliar with those tools. McLaughlin said some of the tried and true methods of job searches in more traditional face-to-face settings are still applicable in a virtual environment.
“Use the tools that are available, speak directly with the employer that is at the booth,” she said. “Take this opportunity to find out more about the company and the open positions. Register for the job fair before it starts to see the employers that will be there and research the employers you are interested in beforehand. Send a thank you message to the employers you plan on following up with before leaving the job fair.”
Forbes Magazine has several suggestions for job seekers looking for work during the pandemic, including making use of online networking tools, preparing specific questions, and understanding that even when positions are posted, the hiring process is taking many companies longer than normal to complete. PBS also recommends adding remote work-friendly keywords to LinkedIn or other job-affiliated social media profiles.
Future events, including job fairs, are listed on the GST Michigan Works! website as they’re scheduled. There are also job postings, information for employers, and other resources available.