Graduating college during a pandemic is certainly a unique experience and one that’s causing anxiety for many grads. How will I find a job? Are there jobs available? Will I need to rethink my career path and goals?
We heard these concerns and put together a panel of experts to answer the tough questions coming from both grads and career services professionals. We wanted to start a conversation about how college grads can go about their job searches and begin their careers under these unprecedented circumstances.
Even in COVID times, many of the same strategies grads have used for years are effective. But now they may need to be more flexible and put in place a few different plans. Below we’ve wrapped up all of the quality advice our expert panelists provided. We hope this helps students get excited about the challenge ahead of them and feel more confident as they pursue the start of their careers.
Read on to find out what our panel experts suggested or jump straight to the infographic.
18 ways grads can jumpstart their careers
1. Tap into your alumni network
Alums are often happy to help graduates in their job searches. You can work with your career center to find out the best ways to contact alums. Or connect with alumni via LinkedIn.
2. Ask friends and family to spread the word
As Christian Garcia said during the panel, everyone you know should know that you are looking for a job. Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your friends’ families. Expand your network as far as you can.
3. Connect and engage with people on LinkedIn
Many college graduates begin to use LinkedIn when looking for a job. However, many aren’t utilizing the platform in the best ways. Make sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile and engage with professionals who interest you as well as the brands and businesses you’d like to work for.
4. Set goals for the application stage
If you don’t have goals, in terms of how many applications you’ll send out, then it may be difficult to measure how effective your search is. If you’re searching full time, try to apply to 5 to 10 jobs each day. Or set a goal that works for you.
5. Stay positive when applying
A panel quote from Wake Forest’s Andy Chan:
“You should set your expectations that in order to get one job offer, you would have to apply to 50 jobs and get 5 interviews. That’s sort of 50:5:1. We were telling that to students on March 14th, so on March 15th we should be thinking probably double that.”
The takeaway: You’ll likely have to apply to a lot of jobs. Stay positive!
6. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each job
Here at Jobscan, we’re big fans of this strategy because we know how effective it is. With lots of competition and sophisticated applicant tracking systems, a one-size-fits-all resume just won’t work. Take the time to tailor your resume to each individual job.
Need help? You can use Jobscan to scan your resume beside any job description and instantly receive a custom match report.
7. Ask: How can I be a leader right now?
Most grads are asking: How can I get a job right now? But the better may be: How can I lead during this time?
8. Make network connections on behalf of others
A panel quote from Santa Clara University’s Rose Nakamoto:
“Figure out how you can pay it forward. Do you have friends or peers that would by a connection you’ve made? Facilitate that connection. Start to be a leader to create currency for others by paying it forward. I guarantee you that will come back to you in really positive ways down the line.”
9. Be authentic and share your knowledge
Being a leader on social media means sharing what you’ve learned with others. If you have the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader whether solely on social media or extended to relevant publications and communities, employers will take notice.
10. Seek out a variety of professional experiences
Not everyone knows what they want to do or what they’re good at. Working in a variety of positions and skills either during college or just after can help you discover your strengths as a worker and give you lots to talk about during interviews.
11. Discover your working style and preferred environment
As mentioned just above, you may not know which jobs are truly enjoyable or which environment you need best. Make it your intention to discover these things during your first working experiences.
12. Volunteer and learn as much as you can
Nonprofits usually have an array of needs and volunteering your time can provide you experience that may not be available to you as an employee. Stretch your skills and give your time.
13. Have more than one plan and pursue them all
Your dream career path may not be available to you right now. What’s another route that interests you? Grad school? Gig work? Entrepreneurship? Create multiple plans and pursue them all.
14. Look for gig work if you can’t find a full time job
The gig economy is real. Lining up multiple freelance gigs while you’re job searching not only helps you pay the bills but also gives you an assortment of experience and new contacts that can help to expand your network.
15. Remember that no job is too small
Don’t fall into the trap that says you can’t work a certain job now that you have your degree. Employers appreciate candidates who are actively working and finding ways to make ends meet.
16. Ask: How can my talents help my community?
In your quest to develop your talents and begin your carer, you might ask how you can use your unique skills and knowledge to help your community. Using your talents to help others is rewarding in many ways and will benefit you during your job search. Plus, you may discover your true passion.
17. Make a list of causes you’re passionate about
Not sure how to use your skills and talents for good? Start by making a list of the causes you’re passionate about. Determine what the problems are and think about the ways that you can contribute in order to solve them.
18. Use your unique skills and abilities to drive change
A quote from Rochester University’s Joe Testani:
“I think what’s critical now is helping students see where the cracks are in our systems, and if they want to help and solve those problems that have been exposed very blatantly by COVID and then more recently with George Floyd, that is really critical. And if students want to lean into that and solve the problems, well there’s organizations, there’s nonprofits, there’s for profits, there’s government agencies. The list goes on in terms of where they can take their talent.”