Originally published: 7/22/2020
As a graduate these days it’s more important than ever to be proactive and create your own opportunities. The Class of 2020 is graduating into a working world that has been transformed by COVID-19. It’s bad enough having to forego the official ceremonies and celebrations that should mark such an important life moment, without having to worry about what lies beyond. But with no clear end to the current situation, it’s important for graduates to adapt to the ‘new normal.’ Here are seven ideas to help.
1. Focus on sectors that are thriving
The news for jobseekers isn’t all bad. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that non-farm payroll employment rose by 2.5 million in May, with sharp increases in leisure and hospitality, construction, education, health services and retail.1 Meanwhile, analysis by ad-tech company Taboola of eight billion page views showed increased interest in home improvement, gaming, pet products, home beauty, and fitness.2 It’s worth doing your own online research to find sectors and roles that might not have been your original choice, but in which you could apply your skills. Then make a list and start targeting specific companies that are growing.
2. Curate your online profile
Social media has been vital to helping us all feel connected during the pandemic, but you may not have put much thought into what your online presence will say to potential employers. According to CareerBuilder, 70 percent of employers use social networking sites to screen candidates during the hiring process.3 Your LinkedIn profile is obviously crucial as a shop window for your professional self, but you should also curate your other social media to showcase your wider interests and talents, as well as minimizing the impact of anything you’d rather an employer didn’t see.
3. Get (virtually) networking
You may not have had the chance to attend careers fairs prior to graduation, but research shows that up to 85 percent of all roles are filled by networking.4 Start by asking friends and family members if they know anyone who works within the roles or companies you’ve identified who might be prepared to speak to you. If that draws a blank, start networking online: research and target a shortlist of key influencers in your chosen sector, then introduce yourself via LinkedIn and request a virtual chat.
4. Improve your soft skills
With the world of work constantly evolving, relevant soft skills are becoming just as important as specific technical expertise in some sectors. The pandemic has driven a rapid change in working practices, many of which are likely to be here to stay. Take some time to familiarize yourself with core skills for effective remote working: not just self-motivation and time management but technical set-up, and even virtual meeting etiquette.
5. Create your own internship
Thanks to closed offices many formal internships have been cancelled, although others are still running in some form (you can check the status of a range of internships here, or for information on our own internship programs here). However, that doesn’t mean companies don’t need an extra pair of hands. Smaller businesses in your local community may well be receptive to being approached proactively with a clear proposal for how you can help them. Think about the skills you can offer and the kind of help you can provide, then get in touch.
Although those who were fortunate enough to take time to explore opportunities for volunteerism abroad might have had to change plans, there is no shortage of opportunities to help closer to home. From volunteer fire and ambulance services, to homeless shelters and food banks, there are myriad ways you can make a difference while gaining useful experience. You could even start your own initiative to help those in your local community most affected by the pandemic.
7. Build a community
In the current situation it’s easy to feel isolated from your peers, particularly if you’ve had to leave your college environment behind and return to the family home. Creating an online community for graduates in your discipline is not only a way to help others and boost your morale, it could become an important source of useful contacts and information.
Nobody can be sure how the coming months and years will play out, but by being proactive now you could vastly improve your long-term prospects, and perhaps even have a little fun along the way. As you start on the path to your desired career, consider starting your job search at New York Life Careers, we have opportunities for people of all backgrounds.
1 U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. News Release: “The employment situation - May 2020.” Friday June 5, 2020. Accessed 14 June, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
2 Singolda, Adam. “Op-Ed: Analysis of 8 billion page views shows where the next hot start-up thrive.” CNBC. May 12, 2020. Accessed 14 June , 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/12/here-are-the-new-businesses-to-start-during-the-coronavirus-recession .html
3 CareerBuilder press release. “More than half of employers have found content on social media that caused them NOT to hire a candidate, according to recent CareerBuilder survey.” August 9, 2018. Accessed June 14, 2020. http://press.careerbuilder.com/2018-08-09-More-Than-Half-of-Employers-Have-Found-Content-on-Social-Media-That-Caused-Them-NOT-to-Hire-a-Candidate-According-to-Recent-CareerBuilder-S urvey
4 Adler, Lou. “New survey reveals 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.” LinkedIn Pulse. February 29, 2016. Accessed June 14, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler/
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