Newsletter: Finding a job right now is hard but not impossible. Here are some tips

A sign at a construction site advertises job opportunities.
A sign at a construction site in Cranberry Township, Pa., advertises job opportunities.
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Rachel Schnalzer, the L.A. Times Business section’s audience engagement editor, with our weekly newsletter about how you and your bank account can weather the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for whatever the economy might look like on the other side.

Are you searching for a job? Is a loved one looking for work? There’s no denying that the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout have made the job market pretty bleak. But it’s not impossible to find a new role. “At the end of the day, you only need one job,” notes Lori Shreve Blake, senior director of alumni and student career services at the USC Career Center.

Thuc Nhi Nguyen spoke with Blake and other experts to gain insights about job hunting during the pandemic. Here are a few tips:

— It can pay to be flexible. Don’t limit yourself to applying only to companies you’ve heard of before — and be ready to take on some virtual work. “There is still hiring happening,” said M’Chelle Ryan, associate director of industry relations and experiential learning at the UCLA Career Center. “It just may not look exactly how you planned.”

— Think about who’s making money right now, because they might be hiring. Tech companies facilitating virtual work, retail management, deliveries and at-home healthcare are good places to start in a job search. If you’re short on experience in these fields, emphasize your transferable skills, such as organization and time management.

— Network and ask for informational interviews. Check out your high school or university’s alumni network to learn where your connections are working. When you reach out, ask for a short informational interview to learn more about their workplace, and during the conversation, ask whether there’s anyone else you could speak with at the company. Repeat this process until you’ve spoken to someone in the department you think is the best fit.


Practice good video-call etiquette. During interviews, look straight into your computer’s camera to simulate eye contact, not the screen. Be sure your background is neat, simple and well lit. Dress for the role you’re hoping to get, and don’t forget to test your audio, video and internet connection before your interview begins.

— Don’t overlook temporary jobs. Project-based work and short-term, paid internships can be a helpful foot-in-the-door at a company that may be looking to hire farther down the line. Showing future employers that you took advantage of this time will reflect positively.

— Consider the gig economy. Older workers shouldn’t rule it out, especially because some platforms actively court recent retirees.

It’s also a good time to brush up on your remote-working skills, writes Kathy Kristoff. These skills will be useful in nearly every industry, whether you’re searching for work or just looking to strengthen your resume:

— Teleconferencing: If you haven’t had much experience using Skype or Zoom, it’s a good idea to practice with a friend, says Amy Pocsik, co-founder of Rise Recruiting. No one knows what the future of workplaces may look like, and it’s likely many companies and organizations will continue to rely on these programs for meetings and interviews.

— Active listening: Take time to practice active listening, especially with day-to-day distractions at home. Children, pets and chores can make it particularly difficult to focus on remote work, so it’s important to get in the habit of taking notes, reiterating the main points of a conversation at the end of professional calls and getting rid of distractions such as your cellphone.

— Recapping: After work meetings, write follow-up emails that restate everyone’s tasks and due dates. This project management skill is key when teams are working remotely.

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— Minimum wage is about to go up. Increases in several California cities kick in Wednesday.

Why are Black and Latino people still kept out of the tech industry? Johana Bhuiyan, Sam Dean and Suhauna Hussain address this question in a two-part series focused on tech’s diversity crisis. They include the stories of Black and brown tech workers, who share their experiences of racism on the job.

Even before the current economic crisis, some homeowners were struggling to pay off Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans. Andrew Khouri describes how the coronavirus has made handling these loans even more difficult.

— The IRS is finally staffing up. Certified financial planner Liz Weston explains how to get your coronavirus stimulus money if you’re still waiting to receive it.

— California’s economic trajectory is looking like a “Nike swoosh”: a sharp drop followed by a slow recovery, according to a new UCLA forecast. Margot Roosevelt breaks down the forecast’s projections for the Golden State.

The coronavirus could cut your Social Security benefits for life, unless Congress acts. Columnist Michael Hiltzik explains how those turning 60 this year may face a lifelong reduction in Social Security benefits as a result of the current economic slump.

Searching for a profitable side hustle? Kathy Kristof breaks down why writing and publishing a book is probably not the way to go unless your motivation is to establish credibility in a subject area or create a springboard to sell additional items.


When the pandemic hit, Southern California’s apparel manufacturers pivoted quickly to produce masks and other personal protective equipment. Laurence Darmiento explains how this action positioned them to compete with overseas suppliers but is also exposing employees to potential infection.

Reader question

A reader asked us: Can employers refuse to hire professional cleaners, requiring the employees to clean their respective work areas instead? Upon their return to work, can employers require that employees sign waivers abdicating any liability if employees contract COVID-19 at work?

My colleague Taylor Avery tackled these. Here’s what she found:

Let’s start with the first question: Employers don’t have to hire professional cleaners and can require employees to clean their workspace. Employees should be allowed time during work hours to complete any cleaning assignments they may receive from their employer, according to guidance from the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA.

“As long as the employer pays the employees for the time they take to clean their workspaces, and they aren’t using dangerous chemicals or somehow imposing a unique burden on disabled employees or something, then there isn’t a legal violation,” said Matthew Clark, an employment law attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

If the cleaning duties are dangerous or difficult, the employee still could not force the employer to hire a cleaner — but would have cause to quit and seek unemployment benefits, Clark said.

On to the second question: As for employers requiring waivers to void their liability, Clark said such a move is “ridiculous.”

“Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Any employee who gets an on-the-job illness or injury is automatically covered by workers’ compensation,” Clark said. “And in California, any employee who gets COVID-19 is automatically presumed to have gotten it on the job and is able to get workers’ compensation. Any kind of contract purporting to limit an employee’s right to workers’ compensation is illegal and unenforceable.

One more thing

Southern California students are receiving mysterious letters about an “important” job opportunity. Columnist David Lazarus breaks down what you need to know if you or your child receives one of these letters.

Have a question about work, business or finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, or tips for coping that you’d like to share? Send us an email at, and we may include it in a future newsletter.