career contessa

Career Navigation and Exploration with Career Contessa

Lauren McGoodwin isn’t a stranger to career uncertainty.

“I graduated during a recession, and I had trouble finding a job,” admitted McGoodwin during her digital chat with SoFi’s Career Expert, Ashley Stahl, “but this time is totally different.”

That doesn’t mean job seekers can’t weather the storm. Since 2013, McGoodwin has been helping people find their next career moves through Career Contessa—a development site for job seekers.

While these are unprecedented times, McGoodwin shared her expertise on how people can find work they love now, and grow their careers, even in a time of instability.

Rebounding from a COVID-19 Layoff

The pandemic has led to a historic number of layoffs across industries, including a record shattering 21-week run of over a million Americans filing jobless claims. With so many jobless, how can you find new work in the new landscape of perma-WFH and COVID-19?

Before even visiting a job board, job seekers should take a look at the state of their finances. They should evaluate the size of their emergency fund, and the length of their runway, explained McGoodwin.

If the runway is on the shorter side, job hunters should start looking for a role in a company that offers security, McGoodwin suggested. “It might not be your dream role, but that’s okay for now.” It’s okay to take something that’s less exciting for now, if it can keep food on the table and provide stability.

In the case that the runway is a little longer, the job search can be slower. It might mean working with a career coach, going on informational interviews, or developing new skills. While this pause in work might not have been anticipated, it can be a time to slow down and reevaluate priorities.

Once the timeline to find new work is figured out, the search can begin. In this COVID climate, finding a new job might look a little different, explained McGoodwin. While some industries, like some associated with travel, have cratered, others are thriving.

Job hunters should start the search with research. “What industries and companies are growing right now? How can your skills transfer?” asked McGoodwin. If a job hunter’s industry is suffering, they might want to consider looking to green pastures and companies for employment.

However, “there are some skill sets that are always in demand,” reminded McGoodwin. Positions requiring experience in sales and healthcare, and software engineer and product manager roles are experiencing a surge right now. With a little research into industry trends and hiring, job seekers can search a little smarter for companies that are hiring and offer some security.

Career Exploration During a Pandemic

We might be in a time of uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean a person has to stay in a role they’re miserable in. “The reality is, top performers with strong networks who can offer value will always be in a good position to hunt down job offers,” said McGoodwin.

If a person’s still working, but wants to hunt for a new role, they should start with some “genuine networking.” Right now, the market is flush with people searching for work, and in turn, many people are trying to network. Here’s how a job seeker can stand apart in the networking game:

•  Start with “warm contacts.” Seekers should reach out to people they’re already in contact with, not complete strangers. A warm contact is more likely to engage, and be willing to go the extra mile.

•  Be genuine and concise. In a time when everyone’s trying to network, make it a point to be short and sweet. Seekers should explain what they want without too much padding. This isn’t the time to get a networking pen pal, McGoodwin reminded, “the more you impress someone, the more willing they are to help you.”

•  Make it equal parts give and take. “Networking is not just a job referral,” explained McGoodwin, don’t just ask for a job. Networking needs to be done consistently, and networkers should understand that the process is a give and take. That means offering help and celebrating wins in addition to asking for favors and connections.

In addition to honing networking skills, job hunters exploring new opportunities should brush up on their personal branding. Beyond a buzzword, personal branding means becoming the go-to expert in an area of expertise.

Personal branding can be creating a personal website to share insights, or posting regularly about an industry on LinkedIn. The main goal is to share ideas with the world, and raise a person’s profile. When it comes time to apply to new roles, potential bosses and hiring managers can easily get an idea of who the applicant is, and how talented they are.

If you’re ready to start exploring new opportunities, but aren’t sure where to start, you might consider working with a career coach. A coach can help determine your strengths, unlock potential, and help discover possible career pivots.

Psst, SoFi members get complimentary access to career coaching—check it out!

Becoming a Dispensable Team Member During a Pandemic

Some attendees to the live event were employed, but expressed anxiety about their job security. In a world of remote only work, how can employees stand out and be indispensable to their team?

It all starts with clear communication, McGoodwin advised; “Have a frank conversation with your boss, ask them where you should be focusing your time and energy, and what they want to see from you.” Working on projects that are important to the boss or manager is a sure way to stay top of mind.

With everyone working from home, it’s harder for bosses and supervisors to know what everyone’s up to. Take the guesswork out of the process, recommended McGoodwin, by sending managers regular updates. “Share a Monday emails of to-dos for the week, and a Friday email with accomplishments.”

It might feel like bragging, but sending regular updates maintains relationships and can strengthen job security. If a manager doesn’t know what their team is working on, how can someone stand out?

The more a teammate tells a manager what they’re working on, the easier it’ll be to ask for a raise when it comes time for annual reviews. With teammates getting laid off, employees might be taking on more work right now, and it could be a reasonable time to ask for a raise.

While times may be tough, asking for a raise doesn’t have to be,” said McGoodwin. “You’re always entitled to ask for a raise.” Just make sure to:

•  Do the research. Don’t just ask for a raise, ask for a certain amount of money, McGoodwin explained. Employees should take time to research what peers are earning in their field. Coming to a meeting with a specific figure that’s backed up with evidence strengthens the case for getting paid more.

•  Be creative. A manager may agree that their teammate deserves a raise, but their company might have a spending freeze. In that case, employees should be willing to get creative about their raise. That could mean accepting a small raise now, with reevaluation down the line, or revisiting the topic in a few months.

In the time of COVID-19, many plans might’ve gone out the window, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t continue to grow in their role.

Career Coaching with SoFi

Times may be tough, but SoFi is here to help. SoFi members have access to free career coaching to kickstart their job search, work on personal branding, or explore their next steps. Get helpful, personalized career advice from an experienced coach today.

Learn More

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

ABOUT SoFi SoFi helps people achieve financial independence to realize their ambitions. Our products for borrowing, saving, spending, investing, and protecting give our more than one million members fast access to tools to get their money right. SoFi membership comes with the key essentials for getting ahead, including career advisors and connection to a thriving community of like-minded, ambitious people. For more information, visit Want an easy and convenient way to manage your financial life? Get the SoFi app. For iOS and Android.

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender