The Coronavirus pandemic has continued to drag on, longer than any of us initially imagined. Organizations have been forced to reevaluate and embrace new workplace trends and essentials, resulting in major alterations. In ways “the new normal” has been normalized – companies have adopted ‘work from anywhere’ policies or permanently remote positions, and employees across generations are expected to be able to interface and collaborate virtually.

For early careerists to become compelling candidates in 2021 and beyond, they need to adapt and address certain fundamental professional practices. Here are core areas to focus on to get hired in 2021.

Architect Your Skill-Building

When considering talent, employers are hiring for both the present and future. Of course, they want employees who can grow within the company – however, first and foremost they seek applicants with concrete and proven skills who can contribute on day one.

No one is handing you a syllabus: you need to research your career interests to understand what hard and soft skills employees are expected to have. If you know someone in the industry, ask what skills you might work on in the near term – do employees work in a particular programming language, utilize a specific software, or rely on certain soft skills? Reaching out like this will not only be illuminating – it will provide a valuable networking opportunity.

Next, find resources and options to obtain these skills. Make a learning plan that you can execute in small chunks of time. Consider testing out courses by finding free information sessions about the topic, grabbing a book from the library, or asking a knowledgeable friend to show you some basic principles. Be disciplined about investing time in learning new skills. Remember, skill building is an ongoing process – as you continue to evolve professionally, you’ll want to stay ahead of the curve.

Make Networking a Habit

We work extensively with our clients to create a networking strategy, and to develop lifelong networking habits they can carry throughout their careers. Think of networking like brushing your teeth – just as you don’t only brush when you have a cavity, you shouldn’t only network when you need a job. By being consistent and proactive about relationship building, you will position yourself to succeed both when job-searching and once you’re in your career. Make sure you think broadly about what professional connections will be valuable going forward – and think critically about ways you can help; remember, networking is a two-way street.

Make conscious choices about how to use your time. Most of us are already spending time on social media each day – if you redirect some of that daily time to LinkedIn, you can, over time, make major strides in building and reinforcing your network.

When you do reach out to people, be very specific about the type of insight you are seeking. Study the backgrounds of others working in your preferred industry to gain an understanding of potential career trajectories. People one or two years older than you can be “path-finders,” where did they intern? Where did they apply after graduation? Seek them out and ask.

Be Versed in Virtual

COVID has forced companies to go virtual, and these changes are likely to impact both your job-search and your eventual employment.

Learn the tactics needed to successfully interview in a virtual environment and practice getting all details fine-tuned. We help clients prepare for all facets of virtual interviewing, from critiquing background settings and camera positioning, to helping craft effective responses, to practicing and recording virtual interviews to increase comfort level and preparedness.

You should also prepare to connect with coworkers in a virtual environment, and understand how to effectively collaborate with a diverse group without the benefit of face-to-face interactions. A virtual environment increases access in some respects – because it is easier to have more people sit in on virtual meetings, or participate in virtual events, young professionals may have more interaction with senior executives than they would in a traditional workplace environment.

To develop relationships, you’ll need to be proactive. In the same manner that you might prepare to interview, find questions and practice. Consider how you will build rapport with new colleagues, and look for common bonds like a shared alma mater or interest. Seek feedback when you are not in the same location or time zone. What will you ask of them? What will you be prepared to share about yourself? Ask people, via your networking discussions, for tips on what has worked well for them in recent months. Share suggestions for you what you find helpful.

At Priority Candidates, we help our clients identify and build needed skills, make their networking practice a lasting routine, and develop agility when navigating the virtually distanced work-world’s complexities. Your career will benefit in both the short-term and long-term if you make a personal commitment to address these workplace essentials that are here to stay.