As we approach Summer 2021, it seems we are finally on the route to recovery from the pandemic – which has major positive implications on the economy and hiring. Just as college students, grads and 20 somethings needed to rethink their job search plans at the outset of the pandemic, they should now shift their preparation and develop strategies that account for the expected economic upswing and job competition.

Here are ten distinct steps that early careerists can take now to set them up for job search success going forward.

1. Think to the future

College students and recent graduates should think critically about how their interests and skills might intersect in the workforce. Become familiar with tools like the O*NET to explore and assess career options.

Try to understand the outlook for these careers long-term – the health of a given industry directly correlates to the opportunities for work and growth within that field. Try to identify “rising tide” industries, while also considering which company types and careers are likely to be diminished. The O*NET’s Bright Outlook Occupations and Labor Market Outlook tools provide crucial information on the growth occurring in different industries.

At Priority Candidates, our Career Assessment Specialist guides you through this process and ties in these various important factors to identify the best possible career and job fits. Clarity of career direction is the foundation to a productive job search.

2. Plan for the present

Once you have a sense of what career(s) you may want to pursue, take steps now that will benefit you in the future. Try to understand how people currently working in the industry have gotten to their current roles – what paths have they taken?

Think practically about what courses or majors can help you develop the skills you’ll need to apply in the workplace. If you majored in (or are currently majoring in) in a non-traditional field, consider taking additional courses (either through your university or elsewhere) that will allow you to add applicable skills to your toolbox.

3. Get tech savvy

Familiarity with and strong proficiency in common software applications (such as Microsoft Office Suite) is a prerequisite for many entry-level jobs. Many jobs in areas like marketing or sales will also look to a candidate’s existing social media usage and experience to evaluate them as potential employees. Within specific industries, jobs, or careers, other technological skills may also be required. If you’re interested in specific industries and roles, understand what technologies are commonly used –maybe you can take a bootcamp to become more proficient. At the very least, make sure you know “enough” – understand what it is used for so that you can speak articulately about it during an interview. You are not expected to know how to do everything, but demonstrate that you are inquisitive, industrious, and care about the roadmap for your future learning/skill building.

4. Spring into skill building

To launch your career, develop the skills you need to get hired. Think about taking skill-building classes (especially those that offer certificates) during your summer break, post-grad year, and throughout your career. Your professional growth is ongoing; to progress in your career you should make it a priority to stay consistently apprised of what new skills you can develop to be competitive in your industry. Put existing skills to work by volunteering or doing a complimentary project. Understand what soft and hard skills employers most seek, and seek opportunities to hone and demonstrate them.

5. Become a networking ninja

At least 70% of jobs are secured through a networking connection. And this has become almost a prerequisite in terms of the hiring process in the pandemic and its recovery. While networking can be intimidating, it is important for young people to demystify this process and realize that they have been “networking” their whole lives. Think back to relationships you have formed with professors, peers, friends from home, high school teachers or coaches – if any have experience in a career or industry you are interested in, reach out with a simple message and try to reconnect.

One helpful tip can be to go for GOLD: Graduates of the Last Decade. These connections have launched their careers more recently and may know which companies are hiring entry-level talent. A college alumni database can be a helpful resource, but think beyond these lists – use LinkedIn and do your own outreach. And remember, networking is not something reserved to your job search – it’s a skill you utilize and develop throughout your career, so it’s best to get comfortable now. Networking is a two-way street; you can offer to help others in some beneficial way as well.

Look to recent job seekers to be “job ambassadors”. By connecting on LinkedIn with as many recently employed young professionals as you can, you can be exposed to jobs at their companies. Many companies have invested in employee referral programs to attract the right talent; and reduce their recruiting time – be proactive about strengthening your connection with those who could put your name in such a program.

6. Civic mindedness matters

Employers appreciate civic mindedness more than ever in the wake of the past year’s pandemic impact, as well as social and racial injustices that have vaulted to the front of our national consciousness. Giving back and paying it forward are altruistic character traits that let actions speak.

7. Target realistic, right-fit jobs

In order to get hired, you need to be savvy about the positions you apply to. Look for jobs that you are qualified for at companies that can offer you a seat at the table. You are unlikely to land your dream job out of college – but strive to learn transferable skills or to grow into a better position over time. Culture and fit are important. Be strategic when considering a job offer – remember, the wrong first job and a bad first employment experience can set you back in terms of career trajectory.

8. Become a virtual virtuoso

While more employees are likely to return to their offices in the coming months, remote and hybrid workplaces and strategies are likely here to stay in at least some capacity. Use your collaborative, remote project accomplishments to demonstrate this prowess. Become comfortable and be open to working remotely to get hired. This starts before you have been hired – many companies use HireVue as an initial interviewing tool, and you’ll need to demonstrate virtual proficiency before you meet with anyone from HR. Be sure to master your virtual interviewing skills (and overall interviewing skills) as you need to make the best first and lasting impressions. This includes your personal story. Practice by recording yourself on Zoom and rehearsing with a trusted peer, parent, or professional.

9. Steel yourself for the search

Prepare yourself for the ups and downs that are common to the hiring process. If you are searching for a job, try to remain resilient and perseverant. The job application process is defined by rejection – and many firms simply do not respond or follow-up after you have applied or even interviewed. Consider looking for multiple jobs or opportunities, especially if you have varied interests. Maybe you can pursue one interest part-time or through volunteer work, while also earning money through other income streams. Try to align the experiences, so your search is goal-focused.

10. Your Marketing Playbook is 360

Your resume, LinkedIn, and digital footprint need to be simple yet dynamic. All of these materials work in concert together – they must tell a clear story and be consistent. Recruiters check out job seekers online FIRST before they reach out to you, so make sure your playbook is tailored to the jobs you want.