May 20, 2020
For job-searching students and graduates alike, the COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented situation. Businesses continue to grapple with unanticipated logistic and economic challenges, as permanent staff adjust to remote teamwork and the economy slows.
The bountiful job market of just about two months ago has been transformed into a job market characterized by unknowns. However, that isn’t to say opportunities have evaporated—there are still many companies that have, or will have, roles that need to be filled.
Here are four key recommendations we’ve imparted to national media regarding how to best position yourself for current and future opportunities amid these challenging times.
Getting a job is a job. It is also frustrating, stressful, lacks structure and predictability, and is wrought with more rejection than most young adults have experienced.
To develop momentum and resilience, it’s important to establish structure in your daily job search. Look to our Seven-Day Job Search Plan, which plots out steps to take on a weekly basis. Track the contacts you make and the follow-up you need to do. Vary your activities from day to day so you don’t burn out. It’s also a good idea to recruit an accountability partner—ideally someone who is also searching for a job—to help keep you focused and motivated.
Look for specialized job boards, such as industry- or location-specific boards. Some examples include MediaBistro for media and marketing, Built In NYC for startups and tech, and Idealist.org for philanthropy, non-profits, and government positions. Invest in those that allow you to narrow searches in areas of focus, geography, experience level, duration, and date of posting; as we say, these are winning features. And be sure to create job alerts on Google, LinkedIn, Indeed, and others, so you get notifications when relevant positions are posted.
In this market, postings are taken down quickly; be careful to separately save all interesting listings and your corresponding applications – don’t simply rely on the online posting. Act quickly – if you do not apply, others will, and you may miss out on opportunities. At the same time, it’s always worth applying to potential right-fit options – since offers can be rescinded at the last minute, it is best to be in the game continually.
As soon as you see a listing of interest, apply and make yourself a dream candidate. Be specific about your skills and experience, including other remote jobs or internships – you want to eliminate the unknowns for whoever might review your application, and make clear what you’ll bring to the position. Include a thoughtful, well-written cover letter if an option; not doing so leaves others to stand-out for further consideration. Call out any distance-learning prowess you may have, such as collaborative projects managed virtually.
If you have an internship lined up, reach out to the company and confirm the status of their programs. Be creative – consider and propose ways you can contribute remotely. Getting in touch with a point person now will make you look professional and invested. Discuss both how you could pitch in creatively during the internship, and offer ideas of how you can volunteer in the interim.
Even if your internship seems likely to move forward, keep applying to others, because offers can be rescinded at the eleventh hour. LinkedIn is a great resource and has several hashtags related to internships where you can find new openings.
Continue networking and reaching out to people who may have creative suggestions to help you secure a role that matches your interests and preferences.
If you receive news that your opportunity is cancelled, be prompt and gracious in your response. Acknowledge you heard the news and hope to reengage with them in the future. Never burn bridges; instead, keep options open – this could lead to online project work over the summer, a future opportunity to interview for next summer or a full-time role after graduation.
If you can no longer fulfill an offer you accepted, due to family or health circumstances, let the company know immediately. Your professional reputation is being developed, and the company will appreciate you informing them promptly. By acting responsibly, you might open a door for a peer to receive that opportunity.
A determined attitude, flexibility and a strong work ethic are key attributes when navigating troubled times. It is essential for grads in limbo to focus on building skills. Available opportunities may be in positions that you did not originally think to aspire to, but in any of these jobs, what’s important is to build transferable skills.
Those who are willing to be flexible can create opportunities for themselves. Seek out virtual internships. Create a “volunteership” using your skills to help nonprofits or other organizations in the area where you’re interested in gaining skills. Of course, not everyone can forego pay for skill-building. Look for opportunities that may give you an opportunity to grow.
Don’t limit yourself to one strategy. We recommended one of our clients simultaneously take an advanced virtual course in Excel, study Powerpoint on his own, and get certified in a popular inbound sales software and Google analytics – all in addition to continuing to apply to internships and jobs where he lives. This multifaceted approach – creating a summer of productive skill building while internship and job searching – is highly valuable and demonstrates your industriousness to employers.
Think locally. Local opportunities offer flexibility and have several benefits, including potential pay. While a local internship might not be what you envisioned, try to contribute to a company in ways that allow you to apply or develop new skills. For example, you might seek out work at a local restaurant and offer to help build their social media presence or create a marketing strategy to execute in the coming months.
Students may consider taking college courses, preferably as transfer credits (if acceptable) to your school. This may allow you to graduate early or to fit in graduate-level courses. This can put you in a talent pipeline for when the market rebounds. If that is not feasible, consider complementary courses that make you more marketable to future employers. An engineering student might complete coursework in the business curriculum or finance, for example. Finally, consider taking specific skill-building coursework in high-demand skill sets, such as data science or coding.
The current job market presents challenges for all professionals, and early careerists are particularly vulnerable. By taking these steps, you’ll position yourself to deftly navigate the employment landscape and posture yourself well both in the short and long term.