Things came to a screeching halt as COVID-19 penetrated regions across the U.S. throughout March. People began losing their jobs, and today NBC reports that the U.S. unemployment rate stands at 13.3%.
Sadly, the recovery period is anticipated to be a year to a year and a half out, according to Chamberlain’s predictions.
Now more than ever, Chamberlain says “there will be more competition for jobs, no question.”
Every business, industry, and individual has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way. There’s no getting around it, whether the effects have been severe or small. For recent grads, the COVID-19 crisis is not just a fear of physical and mental health, but like for most adult Americans, financial health is a great concern.
Where are the existing job opportunities, and how can recent graduates set themselves apart in this new marketplace to stand on their own two feet? NBC reports that 2.5 million jobs were added in May, dropping the unemployment rate by 1.4% (from 14.7% in April).
Still, the thin job market is intimidating to all job seekers. For recent graduates, the idea of applying to full-time roles, perhaps for the first time, may have already proven to be. Now, throw COVID-19 on top of this big life event and it is extraordinarily so.
However, the same principles apply when it comes to setting yourself apart. Not to undermine the seriousness of the current state of the global marketplace.
When it comes to setting yourself apart in today’s job market, new graduates should keep the following in mind:
1. Use the Job Description of the Role You’re Applying to as a Tool for Your Resume
One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career regarding building a resume is to ensure that the description of your past experiences and mission statement aligns with the job description of the role you’re applying to.
You don’t want to mirror or copyright the description in your resume, but be transparent in your abilities, experiences, and how great of a match you are. Use the job description as a tool to help you land the job!
So, for example, let’s say you were applying to a Social Media Coordinator role. If the job description states:
Must be proficient in core social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.), Google Analytics, WordPress, common social media management platforms (Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck, etc.), and have basic Adobe Photoshop skills
Must have experience managing 3+ social media networks daily
Should be creative, innovative, and willing to learn new software as technologies change and emerge
The ideal candidate will have 2-3 years of experience in a similar role
And so on – your resume should clearly state how you fit this exactly. While this may seem obvious, sometimes new job seekers just need to hear it! We don’t know something until we do – there’s no shame in growth.
Even seasoned professionals may need a reminder. (This may be the first time you’ve applied anywhere in a long time if you fall under the title.)
If you are applying for this role, and have experience in a part-time, internship, freelance, or even hobbyist opportunities, clearly write this. If you lack some skill but fit most of the description, state something like, “While I only have a year of professional experience as an intern, I learn quickly, am dedicated to the success of the organization I am a part of, and have an additional three years of experience working on my own blog and social media presence as an independent content creator during my college years.”
That is, say this if it applies to you. Work with what you have!
Really consider every experience and skill you have or how a different skill you have (soft or technical) will compensate for what you lack in the job description. Address every point as an opportunity for yourself and the employer.
You may even create your own professional website to show more of your skills using a platform like Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, etc.
Know your strengths and where you can learn. Show your value.
Screenshot from Canva.com
2. Enhance Your Resume
Use this time to make your resume shine. Especially if you’re not getting any bites on your current resume, you may have a peer or mentor review it. Perhaps, a recent college professor you’ve kept in touch with.
You may create alternative resumes for each job you apply to, to highlight different strengths and experiences that best fit the opportunity at hand. Though, the core framework of the resume should stay the same.
If you’re inexperienced with creating a resume layout, Google Docs and Canva offer several templates free that are user-friendly, catchy, and professional for job seekers. Now is a great time to make sure your resume looks top-notch!
Tools like Grammarly also help you correct spelling and grammar errors on your cover letter(s) and resume(s) if you do not currently have access to an auditing tool. Canva and Grammarly offer good free and premium versions.
Screenshot of Jobs on LinkedIn on June 22, 2020
3. Be Open to Roles that Aren’t Full-Time
While getting a full-time role may be ideal, if roles aren’t available in your field or function, you can’t change that. You can only monitor for changes and put yourself out there.
If you aren’t finding the right full-time roles, be open to freelancing and part-time opportunities in the interim.
A company may not be ready to take you on full-time right now, but things could change down the line and you need a job to keep yourself afloat.
Don’t lose hope – keep putting yourself out there. Having professional experiences in your field for viable companies will benefit you most in the long-run, but if you need to seek an opportunity anywhere to get you through in the meantime, there is absolutely no shame in that.
Every experience you have will contribute to the bigger picture if you want it to.
When anxiety arises about struggling to find the right full-time job, remember this too will pass. Focus on the positives. Keep your mind focused on what you can control in difficult times to alleviate the pressure of the unknown.
4. Subscribe to Job Boards
If you haven’t already, do your research! Subscribe to all relevant job boards.
There are so many that come to mind. Here are some:
Your alma mater may also have a job resource bank for you to navigate through. Use every resource at your disposal. You’d rather have too many job alerts coming through your email client than not enough.
The world has changed, and while you may have pictured starting your first full-time role in an office, this is not the case for most. Many jobs have moved to be flexible and remote, at least through 2020. The first time, full-time job experience has been reimagined for many recent grads.
Sketchy as it’s known on the Web, be open to searching Craigslist for opportunities too. Trust your gut when it comes to applying and responding to remote job descriptions. You may find some in your state or elsewhere.
If the offer seems too good to be true or the poster is asking for something unreasonable, it is and don’t reply. If you have a bad gut, get a peer to screen the job description or correspondence. Don’t worry – you’ll learn in time. This isn’t meant to scare you, but to remind you to be a conscientious user.
I can vouch! Before Ledgeview, my second job out east is one I found on Craiglist, and I enjoyed it for a long time before I decided to move back to the Midwest and find local opportunities.
5. Use a Professional Email Address
As you subscribe to these job alerts, be sure to use a viable email address. Don’t use your school email address. You likely won’t have access to it in the future, whether that’s six months away or a few years out.
Using your school email address may also lead prospective employers to believe you are still in school, which may put you at a disadvantage.
Use a professional email address when you are subscribing to job alerts, speaking to recruiters, building your resume, etc.
Create a professional Gmail account. Use your name and no funny nicknames or symbols. Limit the number of numbers in your email address. It’s best practice to use this logic when you create your email address:
First Name, Last Name @ Gmail.com
First Initial of First Name, Last Name @ Gmail.com
First Name, First Initial of Last Name @ Gmail.com
You may also use a number or two at the end of your name if your desired email address is already taken or a period in between your first and last name. This logic keeps it clean and professional.
It’s easy for recruiters to remember you and reach back out with this simple association.
6. Refine Your LinkedIn Presence
How is your LinkedIn profile looking? Have you started with the platform yet? Having a professional web presence can only boost your chances of being seen by recruiters.
Your LinkedIn profile should look very similar to your resume, except you don’t need to share your private contact details publicly. LinkedIn has many added bonuses, such as networking, easy 1-click job application (when your profile is updated and ready to send), a featured profile section to share your career highlights or interests, endorsements, article posting and engagement, and much more.
It is the go-to hub for professionals. More interviews are being conducted virtually today, so having your professional digital presence up to date is a must.
LinkedIn best practices are their own monster. In short, here’s what you should know. (We’ll cover this in detail in another blog.)
Have a professional profile banner
Have a professional headshot
Ensure your privacy settings are set to “Open to job opportunities” and that recruiters can see you are
In your headline section, under your name, state what you do instead of what your most recent job was. So, for example, if you were a Social Media Marketing Intern at your former company, you may say, “Passionate Social Media Marketer Focused on Influencer Engagements” instead of “Social Media Marketing Intern at (Company Name).” This helps tell recruiters what you do and what your aspirations are in short.
Update “About” with a brief but memorable mission statement
Add media to “Featured” to show your career highlights, inspiration, aspiration, or interests
Add your job history to “Experience” (If you have little job experience, still fill it out to include anything that applies to your current career goals)
Add your education history, including any continuing education (such as if you are going for your MBA online this year)
Add licenses & certifications
Add your volunteer experiences
Add your skills
Ask for endorsements from your peers as you connect on the platform
Add your accomplishments
7. Build Your Connections
Just because we are social distancing physically, doesn’t mean we should lose our connections with friends, family, or like-minded peers. Now is a good time to make professional introductions in the digital space.
Be patient as you wait for replies from professionals, especially at this time, as they may have more chaotic things on their plates now.
Work on building your LinkedIn base. Ask for referrals through current connections. Meet your industry peers through relevant LinkedIn Groups. There are so many ways to make an impression.
Just remember, as you make your introductions, keep them brief. State how you found them, how you know or know of them, and what you’d like out of a connection.
So, for example, let’s say I met Jane Doe in a LinkedIn Group for social media networking. She is a manager at a great company, and I’d like to know more about what she does and if there are any opportunities.
I could reach out to Jane Doe, requesting a connection, and send a message like, “Hi, Jane. My name is Julia. I am a recent graduate with a passion for brand development. I saw some of the articles you posted in the social media networking group we are both a part of, and wanted to make an introduction. Looking forward to connecting!”
Build a relationship over time. Like most good relationships, professional connections should be nurtured to mutually benefit each party. Don’t ask for mentorship or a job in the first message to someone you don’t know.
Have a conversation. Let the rest come naturally as you develop that professional bond.
8. Boost Your Skills
When job opportunities are slow, first of all, take care of yourself.
2020 is a global learning experience and a wakeup call. Among the things it’s taught us, one of the most apparent is that we are nothing without our health. Health comes first. Period.
Take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health. Step away from the computer. Go for walks. Enjoy family if you’re living with them at this time, or if you’re not, keep video chatting and calling them.
When your mental capacity allows, try boosting your skills.
Do what fuels your passion, hope, and drive, whatever that may be in the moment. Keep your skills fresh and mind productive.
You may even try diversifying your skill sets with tools like Lynda (LinkedIn Learning). Learn Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, or something else you find intriguing!
Enhancing and diversifying your skills will only make you more employable as jobs open up.
While tomorrow is uncertain, how you care for yourself and nurture your experience today is in your hands.
College grads and other job seekers can use these tips to navigate today’s marketplace. Whether you send these tips along to your son or daughter who is a recent college graduate, or a friend or family member, we truly wish you the best in your search.
If you are searching for an opportunity in the business and technology sector, learn more about what Ledgeview Partners can offer you here.