Insight and Advice on Landing a Job In the Time of Coronavirus

The good news? Over 6 million degrees were conferred this academic year — including yours. The bad news? Since coronavirus hit in March, over 36 million people have lost their jobs. Welcome to the unpleasant reality facing your just-graduated job search.

As a way to help, InsideTrack career coaching experts led a higher ed webinar to discuss ways to help students like you put their best selves forward as they enter a rocky job market. Advisors, career counselors and student support staff from colleges and universities across the country joined in to listen, learn and ask questions. The result is a comprehensive Q&A that we hope will help you find your path forward.

The industry I’m targeting is currently experiencing layoffs and may end up with fewer positions. Any tips for this?

ANSWER: Network, network, network. People are more likely to take a risk on you if you’re somebody that somebody else knows. There’s an innate trust that comes through with networking.

Once you send out applications, be patient. Everything is upside down right now, and that includes the hiring process. Recruiters and HR departments are dealing with all sorts of things in addition to hiring and they all have their own coronavirus-related issues going on. So don’t be surprised if it takes substantially longer to hear back after you submit your application. And while you’re waiting to hear back from prospective employers, try and stay busy — and positive. It’s easy to fill the “why haven’t I heard anything yet” void with negative thoughts. Don’t go there.

And remember that when jobs are scarce, you don’t need to look for the job, you just need to look for a job. Statistically, the average worker today will have a dozen different jobs during the life of their career. So don’t get discouraged if your first job isn’t the “I want to work here forever” job.

How can I seek out and connect with industry mentors? 

ANSWER: A mentorship is an opportunity for you to say “I don’t have the skills for this, but I’m willing to learn and get some practice.” The alumni office at your college or university can be a great asset, so start there. Lots of schools have partnerships with local employers, as well.

I just graduated. What can I do to strengthen my marketability while I’m waiting for a response from job applications?

ANSWER: This is an ideal time to volunteer. It can help you gain new skills, hone existing skills, and it will look great on your resume.

It’s also a great time to do your homework. Use your down time to learn everything you can about the field you’re hoping to enter and the specific company you’ve applied to. There’s a lot of power behind using social media in the right way, becoming an “expert” in certain areas just by engrossing yourself in articles and conversations around topics that are important in your industry. Learning as much as you can will come in handy when it’s time to have the interview.

Are there tools available that can help me match my strengths and interests with the possible career options?

ANSWER: There are some great resources on our career support page. One of our affiliates, Emsi, has an interactive tool that provides personalized recommendation for learning and work, based on the skills you have and the skills you want to learn. It’s called SkillsMatch and it can also help you find a job. Roadtrip Nation, another affiliate, has a student-centric resource page that’s full of documentaries, archived interviews, podcasts and more, including a Roadmap tool that matches students to potential career paths. And we’ve created a Skills and Strengths Inventory Worksheet to show you how your soft and hard skills translate into different fields.

Informational interviews can be another way to find out what types of jobs are out there and what the day-to-day looks like within each job. Ultimately, you’re looking for a job that will leverage your skills and strength.

What would you tell a student who is interested in changing career fields? 

ANSWER: If you already have a job or are unemployed and not wanting to return to your previous job field, this would be another place to tap into networking. Talk to people in the career field you’re interested in — someone in your family, a neighbor, a family friend. Check in with your school’s career center. And your professors can be a source for help as well — many of them worked in the field of study they now teach. Sign up for groups on LinkedIn and don’t be shy about asking questions. Most states have a Bureau of Labor Statistics that can provide valuable research information.

What about an internship? Is there a way to still have an internship right now, during the pandemic?

ANSWER: It’s tricky. Internships typically involve being on site to learn on the job. With city, county and state closures, an internship is difficult at best. The more likely scenario right now is a micro-internship — a short-term, paid, professional assignment that gives you the sort of job experience you’d often get from a regular internship. The big difference? They’re virtual. A micro-internship is a usually a project-based position that lasts anywhere from a week or two to a month. Companies get work done that may not be the best use of their time, while identifying (and auditioning) potential job candidates. Students learn real-world skills, gain experience and explore career paths to help them find the right fit.

You can do a search for micro-internships in a specific field of interest. You can also find a need with a company and connect with them directly to see if they’d be willing to let you tackle a specific project. Examples of micro-internships run the gamut from social media content and lead generation to prospect research, mystery shopping, market research and updating user manuals.

What advice do you have for first-generation or low-income students who may have fewer connections to people in the professional careers they’re interested in?

ANSWER: Start with your school. Connect with professors and staff members in the career center (via phone, text, email or video) to explain what you’re looking for and see if they have suggestions. From there, it’s time for the informational interview. Let’s say you graduated with a marketing degree and are interested in sports marketing. If there’s a sports team in your area, do some research on them, then call or email the marketing director. Let them know you just graduated with a degree in marketing, are interested in sports marketing in particular, and want to learn more. Tell them you’d like to take them out for coffee — virtually, if need be — to interview them and find out more about their professional experience, what their job is like and so on. When the interview is over, thank them and ask if they might know of anyone else in this field that you could connect with and learn from. Connections lead to more connections and before long, you have a network.

I’m a nontraditional student who has already spent years in the workforce. I’m rethinking my career, but I only have one skill set. Help!

ANSWER: This is a case of fixed mindset. You’re feeling stuck. You’ve been doing the same thing for a while and at times, it feels like that’s all you can do. Not so. You need to look at your skills in a different way and embrace the idea that the skill set you have for Job A can easily translate into dozens of other types of jobs in different kinds of fields. Maybe your current managerial job relies heavily on time management and that’s a strong suit for you. Think about other types of positions where time management is a valued and in-demand skill.

One more thing …

Be good to you. Life is chaotic right now. You may be living with your family or taking care of a family. Try and set aside time each for self care. Yoga, meditation, centering, breathing exercises, mindfulness — whatever works best for you. Find time to unplug and relax, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Your body and brain will thank you.

With all the turmoil in the world right now and the nonstop feed of negative news, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But do the best you can to block things out, buckle down and do what you need to do. If that means setting aside a block of time each day for the job search, great. If that means taking small steps each day to check things off the list and move the process forward, great. The key is to remain focused, stay positive, use the tips and advice that work best for you, and be persistent. Somewhere out there is an organization that will be lucky to have you.

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