The job hunt after college is exhilarating and emotional while at the same time stressful and exhausting. Adding a global pandemic into the mix threatens to upend the process for the nearly 4 million 2020 graduates.
For recent graduates, the disruption to the hiring and internship experience has brought unexpected challenges and adversity, and tested their ability to persevere.
Some internships have been canceled or pushed back and job offers have been rescinded as companies have frozen hiring to lessen the financial burden brought on by the pandemic. Travel bans are restricting graduates from taking jobs across borders and graduates are faced with fewer job openings and increased competition for those jobs. These are just some of the added roadblocks new graduates are facing in 2020.
At the same time, many companies are pivoting to virtual interviews and networking events and, in some instances, entire internships have gone remote.
With remote jobs and internships comes new challenges for students and grads to overcome. Kristen Wahl, director of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge and the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition program at Argonne National Laboratory, has helped thousands of students land jobs post-college during her 20-plus years leading the program.
Here are a few tips from Wahl for landing that first job in the COVID-19 era:
Use the virtual tools at your disposal to network with recruiters. With in-person events off the table this fall, jobseekers need to seek alternative methods for making the connections that previously would have happened at career fairs. Reach out to your network on LinkedIn and other recruiting platforms. Email the professional contacts you’ve made through industry organizations or extracurricular activities. Pick up the phone and call recruiters to learn more about an open position. It’s all about taking the extra step to stand out from the crowd when first impressions are no longer face-to-face.
Take advantage of virtual recruiting fairs and career prep sessions. Is your school hosting a virtual career fair? Is the student organization you’re a member of bringing in a guest speaker for a virtual chat? Identify the many opportunities available to connect with potential employers and use them to make connections. To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to be an active participant. Ask questions. Share thoughts. Contribute to the conversation. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but also make sure you do your research on the company first.
At EcoCAR, we identified ways to connect students with prospective employers. We quickly ramped up virtual recruiting webinars and career prep sessions, continued facilitating personal introductions and industry mentoring opportunities and revised our recruiting tools to better match talent with relevant positions.
And finally, practice your virtual personal sales pitch and refine your digital professional presence to reflect all you have to offer. Make sure your LinkedIn and portfolio highlight your experiences and skills. Go beyond just sharing your degree information and articulate your value proposition. This includes showcasing your out-of-the-classroom experiences, leadership training, previous internships, as well as describing times you overcame adversity.
Recruiters want problem solvers and critical thinkers. They want someone who will pick up a new skill quickly and learn fast. So, instead of looking at the pandemic as a setback on your job search journey, view it as an opportunity to demonstrate you possess these qualities and are right for the job.