The five-step plan that will find you a career even from a social distance
The COVID-19 pandemic has practically brought the economy to a halt. Even so, you can keep making progress toward your career goals and your job search. For college graduates trying to find a job, it’s important to stay focused on long-term goals and short-term successes.
If you or someone in your family is focused on getting into college, here's tips on how to apply for college despite COVID-19, or how to apply for college during the pandemic if you're a senior.
Fear not, job seeker. There are things you can do now so you’re ready once things “get back to normal.” Here are five ways you can make progress toward your career goals:
1. Networking is more important than ever.
“This is the time for current students and graduates to double down on their networking opportunities through platforms like Handshake and LinkedIn,” said Barbara Fouts, assistant director of the Office of Career Development at North Central College.
Start by reaching out to your parents’ contacts and your fellow higher education alumni. Many potential employers have moved to online workspaces. They may have more time to lend advice and give you practice interviews. Ask specific questions about what you can do to improve. Build relationships and connections now that could turn into potential opportunities in the future.
2. Practice your video interviewing skills.
Check with your college or university career placement office to find what resources you can access. North Central College students and graduates can use a tool called Interview Prep, available through the College’s online Career Studio.
Interview Prep lets you choose the kind of interview and the questions they want to record. Getting tips using the Virtual Coaching function is a great option, too.
3. Get creative gaining experience.
Despite social distancing, the best ways to get experience are still what you'd expect: internships and jobs you can do while you're a student. Internships are still available, but for the most part have moved online. “These internships allow students to gain professional experience without having to leave their homes,” said Fouts. At North Central College, students should log in to the Handshake platform and add the word “remote” in the search bar to find internship opportunities they can do safely.
There are other things you can do that are less conventional, as well. Think about starting a project with a local non-profit organization. Set up an online tutoring service for children. Seek out creative work like graphic design or writing web content—even if the work is unpaid.
Turn a hobby or passion into a small online business. Your initiative will look good on your résumé and could impress a future interviewer.
4. Build a new skill set.
If there’s a course that would complement your major and help build your résumé, search out online opportunities.
For example, think about improving your second language. Or maybe you can take digital marketing now since it wouldn’t fit into your schedule before. Starting an online graduate degree is another option to explore. Find a way to use the time you have and take advantage of online classes. You can find resources to help you learn more about professional development through the Office of Career Development as well, like LinkedIn Learning, edX and Coursera.
5. Stay in touch with the career professionals at your college or university.
Not only are they the best resource for getting job alerts, they work full time to make you more hireable. Ask for help tailoring your résumé to markets with lots of open jobs. Companies working with consumer products, logistics, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and technology are flourishing during the pandemic.
"There are companies in these categories that are going to continue hiring,” Fouts advises. “Those employers are looking for skills you’ve just acquired, like critical thinking, leadership, decision-making, research skills and information management.”
It can feel like the doors have closed on your career dreams. Students who graduated during the recession of 2008-2009 know the feeling. But keeping a positive outlook and getting ready for an economic rebound will make you a valuable employee. Not only now, but in the months and years to come.
Laura Pohl is an editorial director in higher education with more than 17 years of experience as a content writer, publications editor and speechwriter.