Job hunting is one of those necessary undertakings in life that can range from baffling and frustrating to downright discouraging. And that’s during normal times. This past year has been anything but normal, with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing everything into disarray. It’s no wonder college students are questioning how to build their career prospects and get prepared in this new employment market.
However uncertain the future may seem—fear not—some things haven’t changed. Many of the same strategies you’ve been taught to prepare for the job hunt remain tried and true—and we’ve gathered a few more tips to help see you through.
Embrace (and respect) the online realm. It’s been said many times … because it’s essential. Building a professional online presence and portfolio (your own personal brand) is still a top priority if you want to be part of the career-building ‘in’ crowd. Career networking sites like LinkedIn are one of the first places recruiters and employers look to get a feel for your experience and skillset.
Not only should your LinkedIn profile be up-to-date, optimized for internet searching, and targeted for your desired industry, but you should be actively seeking contacts through past employment, professors, friends and family. As you meet new contacts, send invitations to connect on LinkedIn. These connections could mean a referral down the road.
Be aware, LinkedIn is not the only place employers might look—your other online profiles should be tended to as well. All parts of your public online presence must reflect the characteristics you’d want a possible employer to see. If they don’t, keep them private. Be mindful of what you share online, because those silly or harebrained antics can come back to bite you in your professional life.
- Take advantage of Handshake. Have you heard of Handshake
? It’s an online job board designed to cater to college students and recent graduates. Employers from all industries post job listings, and host information sessions and virtual career fairs. While COVID is causing increased competition in the job market, taking advantage of Handshake can help you cut through the confusion to connect with the right people.
- Network, network, network. This one never goes out of style. In fact, career experts say
that approximately 85% of open positions are filled through connections and referrals. It’s simply much easier for hiring managers to trust the word of someone they know over words on a piece of paper. So, while you may not be actively looking for a job right now, college is the ideal time to meet new people and learn about the companies you are interested in. The key is to make genuine, lasting connections with people from all walks of life. Down the road, most contacts will be happy to walk your resume to the right person, or refer you to someone they know at the company you’re applying at. Whether in-person or virtually, building relationships is an integral part of career-building that even a pandemic can’t upend.
Write a targeted resume. Now, more than ever, your resume needs to speak for you. The current economic situation has resulted in millions of lost jobs and an increase of online job hunters. Most job interviews are taking place online. Many larger companies have resorted to using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to sort through the thousands of applications they receive each day.
As you prepare to enter the job market, plan on revising your resume for each posting, keeping the design simple and no-frills so ATS can read it. Sort through your personal job experience and compare to each job listing to find similarities. Then incorporate those specific keywords into your resume. Keep your focus on skills and transferrable experience, which can apply to many different job environments, and make it easy for hiring managers to connect your skills to the job you’re applying for.
- Be adaptable. At a time when pretty much everything seems in flux, flexibility is your super power. Things may have changed significantly since you last searched for a job, but change is inevitable, and those who are able to adapt are the ones who succeed. Set your mind to seeing change as an opportunity to grow and master new skills, and strive to remain optimistic despite any uncertainties. Not only will you be more prepared for any obstacles you face, but you’ll be a far more marketable employee when the time comes.