The Realist’s Career Guide for Uncertain Times

Photography by Tatiana Syrikova courtesy of

So, you got laid off. Here are career and leadership coach Betsy Koepke’s resources for landing on your feet.

  1. Do Your Homework: Study the types of companies you are wanting to work for and periodically check to see if they have openings or get on an email alert list for when positions open.
  2. Maximize Your Contacts and Opportunities: Tell people in your personal and work networks that you are looking for the type of job or have interest in working with the types of companies/organizations you’ve identified. Ask them, “Is there someone I should talk to within the company/organization about getting myself hired?” Then find those contacts inside the company/organization if you can, so you can turn a cold call or interview into a warm call/warm interview.
  3. Align Your Resume: Make sure your resume fits the needs of today. If you are applying for a position within a larger company that perhaps receives hundreds of resumes, you want to make sure your resume will pass through the machine scanner. You do this by aligning key words and phrases from the job description with the words on your resume. As much as possible, you want to think of your resume as being a “mirror” to the words on the job description. You want to be honest and also make sure that you have wordsmithed your own experiences and work history in the best possible light to fit/align with what they are looking for. Resources that could help include a guide from Glassdoor on cover letter writing, resume examples from Indeed and Red Rocket Resume’s writing and coaching services.
  4. Rock Your Interview: Go back to doing your homework. Study the company from as many angles as you can — their website, people you know on the inside and what their customers have to say about them.

Practice, practice, practice. Think about the questions they might ask you and how you would answer them in a way that sounds appealing from their perspective.

Think about the questions that you want to ask. What do you want to know about them to decide if this is a place that you want to work? Remember, you’re also hiring them as a company. Being assertive and asking questions to gain more clarity on what the job position and workplace culture is like shows that you have given this serious thought and that you also want to make sure that it’s a good fit for the benefit of all.

In the age of the virtual interview, make sure you:

  1. Are professionally dressed and groomed.
  2. Are doing the interview from a clean and professional appearing workspace.
  3. Set up the camera at eye level. You don’t want the camera angle shooting up your nose.
  4. Well lit (make sure you are lit from the front), the space is quiet, and that your microphone works.
  5. Keep eye contact by looking at the camera.

For both audio and video interviews, you need to do more with your voice than you would otherwise, because you can’t do as much with your body language and gestures as you might in person.

If the interview is phone/audio only, it can be difficult to know when to stop talking or keep talking because you can’t read the other person’s body language. You can always pause and ask if your response answered their question, or if they’d like you to elaborate further.

Level Up Your Skills

Also, be aware that these are the top five most in-demand soft skills in 2020:


Now more than ever, organizations need people who can creatively approach problems and tasks. Focus on honing your ability and confidence to bring new ideas to the table in 2020. Here is a resource to help you get started:Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Creativity” with Denise Jacobs.


To maintain or advance your career, refine your ability to effectively communicate ideas and persuade your colleagues and stakeholders that it’s in their best interest to follow your lead. Two resources to support you in this: “Persuading Others” with Dorie Clark and “Leading Without Formal Authority” with Elizabeth (McLeod) Lotardo and Lisa Earle McLeod.


Well-functioning teams accomplish much more than any individual — and organizations know it. Learn how your strengths can complement those of your colleagues to reach a common goal and highlight this fact as part of your next performance review. Recommended resources: Shane Snow on “Dream Teams” and “Teamwork Foundations” with Chris Croft.


To stand out in 2020, embrace the reality that the only certainty is uncertainty. Show up with a strong and clear mindset, and a confident and emotionally stable professionalism. If you find that you are struggling mentally or emotionally, have a candid conversation with a trusted colleague or leader in your organization. It is better to “kill the monster while it’s little,” which means nipping challenges in the bud early, so that you don’t emotionally or mentally “spin out” down the road. Koepke’s “Balance Not Burnout” online course is actually a great resource to get you feeling strong, stable and clear.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others. This is a super valuable asset to teams and organizations right now because with people under stress and pressure in ways they haven’t been before, the ability to effectively respond and interact with those emotions goes a long way toward keeping things running smoothly. Koepke recommends “Developing Your Emotional Intelligence” with Gemma Leigh Roberts, if you’d like to learn more. If you’d like to take a deeper dive in this area, this is a topic that Koepke specializes in helping people cultivate as part of her private coaching sessions.

Use this link to sign up:$50 (this will need to be updated with a new link).

Read more career advice from Betsy Koepke here.

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