College graduation season is here, yet graduating into the COVID-19 job market will be a unique challenge. The class of 2020 must face realities that weren’t true even a year ago. The extent to which coronavirus will ultimately affect our economy and job market is not yet fully known. As of the publishing of this article, approximately 26 million Americans are out of work.
The competition for jobs is fierce.
Preparedness and adaptation are the keys to reducing anxiety and formulating an action plan for landing interviews.
You may feel alone in this process, and to an extent that’s true today. Career fairs are likely non-existent. Companies don’t want to hold in-person interviews. Even your university’s Career Center may be struggling to provide guidance.
As you prepare to graduate, there are steps you can take to put yourself out there as a worthy candidate with confidence.
Update Your Résumé and Social Media Presence
Devote a solid few days to this. Think of it as preparing your personal brand (i.e., YOU) for its big debut.
Build a compelling narrative by opening the résumé with a Summary that tells your prospective employer how your career goals align to their objectives. Highlight relevant skills, experience and measurable achievements. Do the same when you describe internship experience(s).
Don’t forget to list relevant coursework and honors in the Education section.
Concerned your résumé isn’t up to par? Submit it to us and we’ll provide a free analysis.
Pro Tip: practice writing a cover letter even if you don’t need one yet. Our clients sometimes struggle with cover letters as much as, if not more than, their actual résumé.
It’s also time to create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one. Follow the pages of companies for which you’d like to work. Follow headhunter/recruiting agencies. If you’re new to LinkedIn and it intimidates you, check out this page for one of the most comprehensive step-by-step guides to creating a profile we’ve seen.
Pro Tip: NETWORK. Send connection requests on LinkedIn to people from every circle of your life: classmates, coworkers, neighborhood friends, people from church—the goal is to build your online presence by interacting (e.g., liking posts, commenting).
Research one company you’re interested in, and develop a strong understanding of its mission and growth plan. Then rehearse giving answers that highlight one of your strengths as a way they can reach their mission. After you get the hang of this exercise, pick a different company you want to work for and do it again.
Depending on the level of social distancing being practiced in your area, you may be interviewed remotely. We recently published tips for surviving the new reality of virtual interviews. Read it here.
Develop Weaker Skills
Now is a good time to develop skills in any weak areas. For example, if you’re going into IT but found the topic of Software Development Lifecycles too confusing in class, brush up on it now by watching relevant YouTube videos. If you’re going into Financial Law & Compliance but couldn’t follow your professor’s lecture on a particular banking regulation, research it. Find an intro-level class online to shore up your confidence.
The website Coursera offers many free courses online covering a wide range of topics. If you also want to receive an official certificate for a particular course, you can register to do so for a minimal fee. Browse their catalog and see if one of the courses can help add value to your skillset. Hey, even Shakira has used them!
Graduating into the COVID-19 job market means properly managing expectations. What you’re experiencing is very different from your friends who graduated just last year experienced. Keep these in mind:
- Application-to-Interview: it used to take 10-20 application submissions to land an interview. It may require more than 30 applications now
- Remote Capabilities: be prepared to answer questions about your ability to work remotely. Expect questions about your physical workspace (i.e., is it free from distractions) and if you’ve worked remotely before (a way for them to gauge if you’re trustworthy and dependent)
- Onboarding: if you’ve been hired somewhere, congratulations! Be patient during the onboarding process. Human Resource folks and your hiring manager may be working remotely for the first time. Your official start date could be much farther out than the typical two weeks
- Be Okay with a Smaller Company: if your hopes are set on working for a large, multinational corporation, keep in mind they’ve probably started reducing their workforce in reponse to the pandemic. Approach smaller companies where you can find your place in this new job market and gain valuable skills
Wishing our very best to the graduating class of 2020! If we missed anything, share your tips in the Comment section and help other students who are graduating into the COVID-19 job market.