The good news is that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in November – down by 8 percentage points from its pandemic high in April of about 15%. The bad news is that well-paying jobs are still hard to find, as many positions that were furloughed or eliminated during the Coronavirus pandemic have not been restored or replaced. However, this is not the time to give up the job search. Instead, now is a great time to break through and position yourself as the BEST option when companies are ready to hire.
This will undoubtedly be easier for those who had jobs before the pandemic. With their work histories and skillsets fully demonstrated and proven, they will most likely be the first re-hired when things get back to, dare I say, normal.
But recent grads – many of whom participated in the first-ever fully remote graduation ceremonies – are notably in a tougher spot. They presumably have a great education under their belts, and hopefully an internship or two, but as they look for their first full-time job, they have met great barriers. To them, I say, fear not! Your time will come.
Unfortunately, it might be a while, as the country seems to be entering a “darkest before the dawn” phase ahead of widespread vaccine availability. So, as they make ends meet by completing last-mile deliveries, babysitting remote-learning children, landscaping or completing other needed services, here are some tips for them to take advantage of what they do have… time!
As companies are still adjusting to new work environments, it is important to be patient and considerate. HR managers are at the center of the changes brought about by COVID: workspace adjustments, virtual everything and, of course, staffing. They are busy, and they might not respond to your application right away. Use that “distance” to listen and learn more about the company. Read an article about the company you’re applying to or its industry, and send a note with your insights, or let them know how you would be able to help. Use a light touch, not a bombardment. Your courtesy and foresight will be noticed.
Use the Time Wisely
You could be doing a lot of “nothing” while you’re waiting for that interview call-back… creating TikToks, posting on Insta… but unless your one of the lucky “TikTok Royalty” making $200,000 a post, is that really the best use of your time? Not likely. Instead, use the time gap to research what your dream job really is – not just your “next” job, but the job that fulfills your lifelong passion. Then, when you’ve figured that out, determine if you have the full skillset to get there. Do you need a refresher in computer design, or a certificate in data science? Find a course on a free online platform like Coursera and get to it.
Use Your Network
The job-search buzzword of the century is networking, but what is that really? Does networking happen at a job fair? In a bar? At a family reunion? YES! The key to networking is not thinking of these as separate and distinct events; rather think of every human interaction (in-person or virtual) as an opportunity to connect yourself with your next boss, coworker or client. Your dentist’s golf buddy has a nephew in Marketing? Great! Your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate (credit SpaceBalls) used to hang with the mail clerk at Google? Give me her number! Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they know someone. After all, experts note between 80% and 85% of jobs are filled through networking or some kind of “warm” connection.
Be Targeted and Deliberate
Yes, you can apply to every job posting you see, but as I’ve learned over decades of marketing experience, the more targeted your effort, the better the result. So, be as deliberate as possible when you approach a company with a job application. Go above and beyond to show them that you are the best fit for the position. Many people today use the “Easy Apply” feature on LinkedIn. That’s fine, but it is not targeted, and does not present you in your best light. Instead, go to the company’s website, find the hiring manager’s email and send your resume WITH a cover letter that explains briefly but effectively why you’re the right pick for the job. Your effort will be noticed.
Practice Interviewing Online
Maybe you are a great interviewer in person, but that is useless if during a virtual interview the hiring manager is looking at your forehead for the whole conversation because you held your phone wrong. Call a friend and ask them to interview you. Make sure you’re holding your phone right; your background is not cluttered or inappropriate; your lighting is good. Then, have your friend ask you questions like, “What makes you the best fit for this job?” and practice your answers. Nothing is more of a turnoff to an interviewer than a candidate who “Umms” and “Hmmms” his or her way through the conversation.
We all remember our first job after college – some fondly, some not so much – but something we can all agree on is that the experience gained in that first job will stick with us for our whole lives. So, to the recent college grads going through this experience during this unprecedented time, I say “Good luck and Godspeed.” Enjoy the journey, as well as the destination. And if you’re looking for a friend to network with, look me up on LinkedIn. I might know somebody.
Written by Scott Hirsch.
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