With college graduation approaching soon, spring is typically prime recruiting and application season for young job seekers. But this year, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, things are a bit different.
Instead of taking on new hires, companies across the United States are responding to the disease by laying off employees. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that COVID-19 could claim 3 million U.S. jobs by summer.
Naturally, now is not a great time to be entering the job market.
“I thought my anxiety couldn’t get worse … but now i will be ‘graduating’ college amid a mass pandemic and attempting to find a career in a plummeting job market, cheers to all the anxious 2020 grads!!!!!,” one graduating senior tweeted.
Some seniors who had secured a post-college job before the COVID-19 outbreak have since had their offers rescinded.
“We’ve seen over 2,000 employer registrations canceled,” said Christine Cruzvergara, vice president of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, a company dedicated to helping students earn jobs and internships.
On top of that, hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities have closed their campuses, leaving thousands of students without the on-campus career resources they’re used to having. Institutions are working quickly to move these resources online so they can offer things like virtual career fairs. But these efforts won’t change the fact that the job market is tanking.
Now is undoubtedly an inopportune time to be starting a career. But if you’re a graduating senior, don’t take your foot off the pedal. Although life is currently filled with uncertainty, it would benefit you to anticipate COVID-19 passing and the job market opening back up.
In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to adapt and prepare yourself for success in your eventual career.
Beef up credentials
Take this time to look at your resume and determine how you can strengthen your credentials. Picking up new skills or certifications that are relevant to the jobs you wish to apply for will increase your marketability and distinguish you from the competition.
Also, employers prioritize hiring those who take positive action when faced with adversity. Taking an online course amid the chaos caused by COVID-19 demonstrates your personal drive, discipline, motivation and strong willingness to learn.
And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to build your credentials this way. There are many free or cheap online courses out there. A glance at this list of 100 free Ivy League courses, for example, reveals the depth and breadth of topics that are available to those who want to invest the time. And there are thousands of other online courses to choose from, which could lead to a resume-enhancing certificate, specialization or even micromaster’s degree.
Prepare for a digital future
As work becomes more digital, you should take this time to sharpen your technology skills.
Entering the workforce, you’ll need to know how to operate tools like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Slack and others so that you can effectively work and communicate in a digital world.
Tons of companies, groups and organizations offer instructional videos and tutorials for free or cheap that will help you learn how to use these tools. Typically, the instructional videos are just a Google search away.
“Even though what’s to come is uncertain, I would suspect that the one thing that is certain is that work will never be the same again after all of this is over,” said Marianna Savoca, assistant vice president for career development and experiential education at Stony Brook University. “We will have a lot more connectivity and virtual working than we ever did in the history of our country.”
Create an effective and professional LinkedIn profile
Now, more than ever before, employers are turning to online profiles to gain a better understanding of their applicants. And although you should make sure all of your social profiles are clean and respectable, the most important social network from an employment perspective is undoubtedly LinkedIn.
Notably, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to create and portray a personal brand. And like any successful brand, you must show that you have value and that you are unique, trustworthy and professional.
“The more complete and professional your LinkedIn profile is, the more seriously you will be taken as a candidate ready for a professional position in any industry,” Savoca previously told The University Network. “Hiring managers will be looking for you there, so make sure your photo is a clear headshot of you smiling, and that your tag line and summary entice the reader to learn more about you.”
And since many employers and hiring managers will be looking through LinkedIn on their mobile devices, it’s very important to have a good personal tagline and summary, Savoca said.
Altogether, the summary and tagline should be filled with language employers would appreciate, but that varies by industry, Savoca explained.
“If they are looking for a software development job, their summary should indicate the software packages that they know. If they are looking for work in finance, and they have some licensing already — or they have taken courses in certain aspects of finance — that needs to go right up in the summary.”
Start online networking
More than 80 percent of jobs are found through networking. And, contrary to popular belief, networking is also possible online.
Reach out to people working your dream job via email or LinkedIn to introduce yourself.
If you decide to apply for a job, shoot a message to your potential boss to thank him or her for the opportunity and to ask if you should provide any additional information.
If you’re having trouble securing a job right now, volunteering is a great alternative. Not only will you help those around you, you will gain valuable experience that you can list on your resume.
While in-person volunteering may be difficult amid the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual volunteering is still an option. And opportunities are typically easy to find.
We at The University Network offer a volunteer board of our own with multiple virtual volunteer opportunities. It’s available here.
Become comfortable with uncertainty
Keeping a positive outlook in times of uncertainty is easier said than done. Naturally, uncertainty creates feelings of stress and anxiety that can be blinding.
But to have a successful career and a healthy life, you’ll have to develop a way to overcome these feelings. And the most effective way to do that, at this point, is by practicing mindfulness, Savoca suggested.
You can achieve mindfulness, a state of awareness in the present moment, by practicing things like yoga and mediation.
COVID-19 has abruptly stolen your senior year, and there’s little you can do about it. It has cost you your last semester on campus with your friends, the chance to properly say goodbye to many of your classmates and professors, and your ability to have a sense of closure with your higher education experience. But don’t let it take away your future. Continue to grow and improve. Once the job market opens back up, you’ll thank yourself for it.
News & Content Manager
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.