Centred Content

Dear Joanna,

Almost two years have passed since the Covid-19 virus hit our community and when I lost my job as a stocking clerk at a local supermarket. My job coaches at Reena have been helping me get back into the job market. I have a bit of hope when I learned that throughout this crisis, many companies – especially the “essential services” like the grocery stores, the healthcare companies, call centres and courier services to name a few, have continued to hire as key players in the economy. I’d love to work again and earn my keep but I am so nervous about getting sick due to the pandemic. Please can you offer some advice as to how I can conduct a safe job hunt.

Signed: Safe Job Hunt

Centred Content

Dear Safe,

I’ve consulted with the Reena job coaches for their suggestions. Let’s use your job goal – to work as a stocking clerk in a supermarket – to demonstrate how job seekers can secure employment during this pandemic while being safe and protected from Covid that follows the Public Health guidelines to keep us healthy.

  1. Online applications. Make a list of all the grocery stores you want to work at and try to pick those closest to your home as possible so you can walk there.  And pick the early morning or evening or even overnight shifts that have the least amount of people so you can keep the social distancing (and all the other requirements like hand washing). Use Google to search out all the grocery stores that are hiring by entering a “key word” search. For example, if you want to work at Walmart, type in “jobs at Walmart Canada”. There should be a link to apply for jobs online. For a bigger picture of the job openings from this sector and beyond, check out online job boards such as Indeed.com, Glassdoor.ca, and Linkedin.com  as well as from the company’s website.
  2. Follow up. Prior to the virus, you might have applied online and then dropped in to follow up with the store manager. However during this virus, it’s a bit trickier. I would arrange to drop in to the grocery store where you applied when you or your family member need to go shopping for food and supplies. Pick times when the store is less busy to avoid line-ups and crowds. Then,  I’d ask to speak to the store manager or the assistant manager. Mention that you are following up as you have applied online to see what the next steps are. You can also try to call the customer service department and see when the manager is in the store before you show up. During these time of crisis and shortages of staff, showing initiative while keeping the social distancing of a two-metre distance (physical distancing) from others at all times. Remember, employers are overwhelmed with handling this crisis, and applying new ways of doing business while complying with the Public Health requirements to keep a safe environment for staff and customers and prevent outbreaks. So even though they need staff, we are all in this together to learn how to deal with this pandemic crisis. Be patient.
  3. Potential employers. Here’s a list of the best employers in Toronto https://www.canadastop100.com/toronto/ this year during Covid. Identify those who are in your area and where you want to work. Check out their websites for jobs as well as the aggregate job boards like www.indeed.comwww.glassdoor.com and www.linkedin.com. Once a week, I would check out all the websites where you want to work to see the job postings. Below are some examples of hiring employers. positions across the country, including delivery drivers, warehouse workers and employees in its manufacturing, merchandising, operations and product departments.
  4. Conduct a Workplace Safe Environment Scan. Once you have identified grocery stores or any employer where you’d like to work in person, I would visit the site before applying for a job. Find out how the employer is protecting their staff and practicing the safe and healthy workplace environment that complies with the guidelines mandated by Public Health. Pretend you are a customer. Check out their practices. For example, grocery stores have installed plexiglass protectors around the cashiers as well as 6 feet markers on the floor, and employees wear masks. You can check this site out to see what is required https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html. Needless to say, if the employer is not protecting its staff, you probably do not want to work there.
  5. Preparing for a virtual job interview. Many employers are having online job interviews using apps such as MS Team, and Zoom. Others are using the good old fashioned phone. As you would do for the in-person interview, you must prepare and practice your responses. Make sure all your technology works prior to the job interview date (is your sound working? Is your webcam working?). You still need to dress for success as you would in any job interview.
  6. Keep Learning. This is a great time to work on your resume, cover letter and social media profiles. You can also learn new skills including ones for the job search, computers, leadership and others that could help you be more marketable and to keep you engaged in learning and growing. Here’s a great new site through LinkedIn for skills building – https://linkedin.firstwork.org/. You would need to open an account. It’s at no cost. The public libraries in Toronto, York region and across the province offer plenty of excellent online learning, blogs and podcasts https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/. Another helpful resource is https://connectability.ca/what-to-do-while-in-isolation-covid-19-resources/.

In the meantime, please keep safe, healthy and well during this pandemic.


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org

Joanna Samuels, M.Ed., RRP, CMF, is the Employment Resource Supervisor at www.reena.org. With over a decade of frontline experience as a job developer, job coach and facilitator, Joanna helps talent with disabilities achieve their employment goals as well as employers with building an inclusive workforce.  Also, Joanna is a certified Life Skills Coach, Personality Dimensions Facilitator and published blogger and author as well as a guest speaker on issues related to employment, career and training