Graduating into a Covid-19 job market: How college grads can still find a job
The Class of 2020 is graduating into what must feel like an apocalypse.
Lockdown and layoffs have hijacked summer internships and placements. Graduate recruitment is on hold, face-to-face interviews cancelled, onboarding delayed. Exciting post-grad career plans are in the shredder.
While it's easy to feel overwhelmed, and even tempting to cocoon until the COVID-19 chaos is over, that's not a wise career move. Instead, you will need to get your game face on, temper expectations, and be prepared to enter an industry that's maybe not in your realm of studies—at least for the short term.
These are challenging times, and, understandably, new grads might feel like their job prospects are slim to none, but that's not the case. We spoke with career experts who shared their advice on how the class of 2020 can find a job—even during a worldwide pandemic.
Graduating into a COVID-19 job market is going to take perseverance, grit and resilience, and these grads have it! says Lisa Petkovsek, a professional career coach in Toronto and founder of careerbalancecoaching.com. "Students graduating now are skilled, incredibly resourceful, and well equipped to weather any storm that comes their way."
Build your network
Grads have access to support through their schools, family and friends, and their online communities, so reach out, Petkovsek. Network as much as possible and build new relationships in industries and companies you're interested in. "Use LinkedIn or Google to research interesting people that you don't know and send them an email or connection request to learn more about them, their company, or their industry."
Start with a request for a virtual informational interview—an interview where you'll ask a lot of questions without any expectations recommends Petkovsek. "People are more than willing to help each other, especially in our current circumstances, so there is an opportunity here."
Craft a compelling profile
Time to update your LinkedIn profile! Make sure that recruiters can find you, and use this as a tool to help establish your professional network, recommends Kim Kiloh, director at the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers at UBC. It's more important than ever to showcase your skills, interests, and create a public portfolio of your work.
"For new grads, don't hesitate to showcase a couple of academic projects that you are particularly proud of—a great final presentation, a digital artifact, a research poster, a design concept, or a strong piece of writing," Kiloh says. "Work that you did for grades is still work, and can give a future employer a bit of insight into your abilities."
Apply in the healthcare sector
Reach out to companies that are directly working on pandemic response efforts. Many organizations are pivoting to online operations and service delivery, says Kiloh, so look for jobs in health care, the food industry, pharmaceuticals, social services, technology and software, online learning, and marketing and communications.
If you can, consider taking on a short term role, or a part-time position. "Many organizations are still navigating uncertainty and may not be able to offer you a full-time position. However, these shorter gigs give you a chance to get to know the organization and show what you can contribute," Kiloh adds. Think of the experience and networking gains, and just maybe they'll keep you on.
Ace that video job interview
With face to face interviews on hold, companies are conducting virtual informational meetings and video interviews. These can be daunting, so be sure to get in lots of practice, and optimize your setup in advance, including investing in a quality camera/microphone and mastering video conferencing platforms, says Peter Caven, a Toronto-based career coach and managing director at launched.careers.ca.
Prepare, prepare, prepare! "Even in virtual meetings, 90% of communication is not the words it is body language and para verbal—tone, inflection, pacing," Caven says. "It is impossible to maintain the 90% of communications if answers need to be thought up and delivered on the fly."
Consider a survival gig
The bottom line: Doing anything legal is usually better than doing nothing. If you are not able to get a job in your field of interest or on your career path, consider other options—yes, even a fast-food gig.
"Do something unique that will stand out and differentiate you from your peers. Think about the skills you will acquire—McDonald's is recognized as having outstanding training, great processes, a strong brand, and providing leadership opportunities," Caven says.
And do it now! Aggressively and strategically take yourself to market today, Caven stresses. "Otherwise, those who capture opportunities now will be ahead of you by the time you get in the game."
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