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'I never thought it would be like this' | For many unemployed Carolinians, looking for work is a full-time job

Some people have exhausted their state unemployment benefits just as the holidays approached, leaving them desperately searching for a job just to pay the bills.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nine months into the pandemic, nearly 11 million Americans are still unemployed. 

A recent report from financial planning site LendEDU found 63% of Americans will take on record credit card debt this holiday season.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department revealed 885,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the first time during the second week of December. That was more people than analysts predicted, reaching the highest level since early September when 893,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits. 

Some people have exhausted their state unemployment benefits just as the holidays approached, leaving them desperately searching for a job just to pay the bills.

But many are finding those jobs to be few and far between.

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“It's just ... it's hard," Leslie McNealy, who was laid off at the start of the pandemic, said. "I never thought would be like this. I've never been put in this position."

McNealy said she's had a job since she was 15 years old and has struggled to try to find a new one she's qualified for. 

“I've had a ton of experience with multiple different things, customer service, hospitality," she said. "And especially with those jobs, those are far and few between."

McNealy, who is immunocompromised, said she and her husband had no choice but to move in with her parents and grandparents, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the job search.

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“The only jobs that I've seen that are hiring are, like, warehouse jobs," she said. "And there's hundreds of people in a warehouse. Do you pick your health? Or do you pick, you know, I might make $150 a week. I'm just scared to death.”

Job expert and founder and CEO of Viva HR Ryan Naylor said those searching for work may have to just settle for what’s available for now. 

"Consider the next year or two a flex career year where you're dabbling into a new industry you otherwise wouldn't have gone into, but it's still an opportunity to make some money and make ends meet," Naylor said. 

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Mother-of-two Jennifer Ruch lost her job in November.

“I've worked at my job for eight years," Ruch said. "I was a supervisor. I was an account specialist."

Now, she’s selling off her collection of antiques just to pay the bills.

“I'm really grateful that I have a way to at least provide, you know, a little bit of money because there's a lot of people that can't even do that," she said.

Naylor suggests using job searching sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter. He also recommended sorting your search by ‘"most recent."

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"If you can find the jobs that have been posted within 24 hours, you have a higher likelihood of landing an interview," he said.

But with millions out of a job and so few openings, many are stuck clinging to hope.

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“I just don’t understand why they don’t help us," McNealy said. "I don't know how much longer we can last.”

Here are some additional tips for landing a job during a pandemic:

Network online

"Start with LinkedIn," writer for Flexjobs, a job search site for work-from-home opportunities, Rachel Pelta said. "Join groups that people in your field are in and become an active participant. Offer useful advice (or words of encouragement) and share articles that the group might find helpful."

Stand out 

"We have seen signs that interest in finding a remote job has risen during the pandemic," Pelta wrote. "However, not everyone is truly interested in remote work as a long-term job. Companies want people who are serious and dedicated to remote jobs for their remote roles. If you’re someone who can show you’re committed as a remote worker for the long-term, you’ll have an advantage."

Search for remote work 

Because companies are largely focused on remote operations during the pandemic, shifting your search from the typical in-person work you're familiar with to from-home roles may be wise.

Here is a list of 25 companies hiring remote workers now.

Customize your application and resume for each job

"When you apply to a job online, your application often goes into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), software that reviews your resume to determine how well you’d fit the requirements of the job posting," wrote Elana Lyn Gross, contributor for job search site Monster.com. 

"The secret to getting past the ATS is written right in the job posting—keywords such as the job title, responsibilities, and skills. Nearly 75% of resumes that go through an ATS are eliminated because they don't meet the requirements the hiring manager specified, such as the right skills, education level, or job titles."

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