With unemployment rates climbing to all-time highs, many students and grads looking to enter the workforce in 2021 may be unsure of what to expect.
As 2020 comes to an end, students and grads are looking back on a year where companies have made lay-offs, furloughed roles and reduced hiring. Many have seen career fairs, university hiring events, and in-person assessment centers canceled altogether. So, at such an exciting time in your life, as you embark on your career, how can you navigate the current environment and land a great job when traditional job hunting has been turned upside-down?
Here are 10 tips that you, as a student or fresh grad, can use when searching for your first job in the COVID-19 era:
- Don’t panic.
The first thing to do is: don’t panic. Companies are still hiring, and every day there are countless job advertisements being listed and job offers being made. Although it may sound like the situation is dire, don’t give up hope. Companies are always looking for fresh talent who are ready to enter the workforce and to start their careers with them.
- Be proactive, even before you graduate.
Now that you are less likely to meet people in person for interviews and career advice, you’ll need to be more proactive than you may have been otherwise. That means drafting your CV/résumé and cover letters even before you have work experience.
Fill your CV with your education (even if it’s ongoing), honors and accolades, languages you might speak, and volunteer or part-time work experience. Get involved in extracurricular activities to demonstrate your interests and ability to balance commitments. Request digital letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors to include in your job applications.
- Tidy up your digital profile before entering the workforce.
Your digital profile is more crucial in these times than ever before. Make sure your digital footprint is credible, portrays a good reputation and is already professional even before you enter the workforce.
Did you know that most employers check candidates’ social media profiles? That means it’s time to clean up your social media accounts of all the questionable party pics and controversial statements. At the very least, ensure your social media account security settings are set to “private” if you want to keep those memories. And while you’re at it, create a professional email address that is based on your full name at a reputable email provider. Sorry, but that means saying goodbye to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Create an “all-star” LinkedIn profile.
When applying for a job, you're going to compete against hundreds of other applicants; you need to make yourself stand out. Continue to strengthen your digital profile by making an "all-star" LinkedIn profile. This includes having a professional head shot, adding skills, obtaining recommendations, and filling out your contact details.
LinkedIn will guide you through this process. When you have finished your “all-star” LinkedIn profile, find key decision-makers like hiring managers and recruiters and contact them directly.
- Register your CV with staffing agencies.
Register your CV with talent recruiting and staffing firms, like Randstad, in the country in which you are based. The recruiters and sourcers there will always be on the lookout for fresh talent to add to their databases. This will also give you some extra resources who are keeping an eye out for you for the right role.
- Invest in virtual supplies.
It is highly likely that much of your job, if not all of it, will be remote in 2021. It’s vital that you invest in the right supplies to help you succeed in a virtual working environment.
Get a good laptop with a webcam, buy a quality headset or microphone, and make sure you have high-speed internet that won’t cut out during interviews. Download and familiarize yourself with teleconference tools like Google Meets, Zoom, Cisco Webex and others.
- Participate in online assessments.
Virtual career fairs and virtual job assessments will be the norm going forward. Register to take part in online job fairs, thought leadership and industry conferences, and company recruiting events.
Expect that psychometrics will be used more often in place of in-person interviewing during the first phase of recruitment. This means you will likely be requested to fill out personality and aptitude tests. And when it comes to inquiries about the status of your job application or recruitment process, you may initially be interacting with chatbots.
- Research the company culture.
Since you won’t likely be invited to the office in person, you’ll need to find out as much as you can about the company’s culture online. Look for examples of how employees stay in touch and stay social. Look for people stories and read reviews on sites like Glassdoor, where employees share what it’s like to work there.
When you speak with someone from the company, ask questions like:
- Does the company have well-being initiatives?
- Does the management encourage a healthy work-life balance and “turn off” time?
- How many days am I expected to be in the office?
- If I’m hired, how will I get my laptop and onboarding kits?
- Learn how to keep yourself motivated.
Most of us have had experience watching a friend or colleague do something well and then replicating it. In the remote working environment, you're not going to learn the traditional way: through osmosis. You won’t likely get to sit next to and observe a colleague or manager for 8+ hours a day.
In the remote working environment, you’ll need to be self-motivated. You’ll enter the workforce with a great deal of autonomy, and that includes completing your own training and upskilling independently. Keep up the curiosity you bring with you from school and be a life-long learner.
- Embrace remote working.
Sure, it’s wonderful to have lunches with colleagues and to have in-person team building and birthday parties. You may think to yourself, “When I start my new job, how will I socialize with my team?”
In one year, companies and teams have learned to conduct all of the aforementioned social activities virtually. Don’t be shy. Turn on your camera and you’ll build the same relationships with your team as you ordinarily would in the office.
You’re entering the workforce at a unique time: when students and grads are given more freedom and trust than ever before. Companies and managers are realizing “as long as the work gets done,” it doesn’t really matter where you’re physically sitting. So, with a strong Wi-Fi connection, you’ll be empowered to work from just about anywhere — your apartment, a cafe, hotel, Mom and Dad’s house, or even outside. Embrace that perk while it lasts.