How new grads can find a job during the coronavirus pandemic
Tips to stay positive and proactive about job searching during this tumultuous time.
If you are a college senior, you were set to graduate into the best job market in 50 years. Then the coronavirus pandemic started. Now campuses are empty as you take online classes from your childhood home, graduation ceremonies have been canceled, and it’s likely that you will graduate into a recession. Right now, there's uncertainty about what the national and global impact will be on jobs for recent college graduates, but there are ways that you can stay positive and proactive about job searching during this tumultuous time.
Bonus tip: For more helpful info, be sure to check out Monster's grad site.
Identify your ideal career path
It might seem like all of your friends know the right career path for them—but it is okay if you still don’t know what you want to do after graduation. This is a good time to reflect on past internships, jobs, extracurricular activities, and classes to plan for your future.
Take out a piece of paper and write three columns: start, stop, and continue. In start, write down the things you wish you had done in your past jobs or internships that would have made things better. In stop, list the things that made those jobs and projects difficult so you know what to avoid. Under continue, jot down the things you’ve done before that you want to do in the future.
Take out another piece of paper and make a list of your top 10 strengths and think about the industries and roles that match up. When you are making your list, write down the hard skills and soft skills like interpersonal communication, organization, and leadership.
Even if you haven’t held relevant summer jobs or internships, you have more experience than you think. Consider what you learned from extracurricular activities like being on the executive board of your sorority, fraternity, or other clubs on campus.
If you work hard enough, you could be good at almost anything. But you will be happier and more successful if you are doing a job that plays to your strengths.
Broaden your job search
Your ideal companies might not have openings that match your skills and experience level. A lot of people don’t get their ideal jobs right out of college, even when they graduate into a stronger economy. Be open-minded about your job search and apply to jobs that might not be at your dream company (or even in your ideal industry) but that will give you the transferrable skills you’ll need in the future.
Think of ways you can pivot and apply your strengths and skills to high-demand industries like health care, shipping and delivery, online education, grocery stores and restaurants, and digital communication companies like Slack or Zoom.
Expand your search further by looking for paid internships, temp jobs, and part-time jobs for recent college graduates. If you are living at home with your parents, apply for jobs in the city you live in now and the cities you hoped to move to after graduation.
For example, look for part-time jobs, temp roles, and freelance work where you are now, and full-time and long-term roles in the cities where you’d like to be. Most companies are working remotely so you could be onboarded for a role in New York City even though you are currently in Cleveland. Explain in your cover letter that you plan to relocate.
Think of your first job as a stepping stone that gets you closer to your ideal job. You’ll gain new skills, build your network, and learn more about what you like and dislike in a role and company. And, most importantly, you’ll earn a paycheck!
Be strategic about your job applications
First, prioritize jobs that have been posted most recently because that's a sign that the company has a current role that needs to be filled. If a posting has been up for weeks, it may be less of a priority for the company at the moment.
Be confident when you're reading job postings. You can still get the job even if you don’t meet all of the job qualifications. Use your resume and cover letter to show you have transferrable skills employers need. Look for jobs at companies that are hiring rapidly to meet customer demands.
Speaking of your resume and cover letters: Spend more time on each one so your job application gets seen. It takes more time to modify them for each job application but it's necessary. When you apply to a job online, your application often goes into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)—software that reviews your resume to determine how well you’d fit the requirements of the job posting.
The key to getting past the ATS is written right in the job posting—keywords such as the job title, responsibilities, and skills. Most resumes that go through an ATS are eliminated because they don't meet the requirements the hiring manager specified, such as the right skills, education level, or job titles, according to Monster research so it is key to getting your resume in the hands of a hiring manager.
Prepare for job interviews
You spruced up your resume and cover letter, and now you have a job interview! It is normal to be nervous, but remember that the hiring manager already thinks you are qualified, otherwise, you wouldn’t have landed the interview. The best thing you can do to decrease your nerves and impress the hiring manager is to prepare. Practice the 10 most common job interview questions by writing down bullet point answers for each. Decide the questions you are going to ask at the end of the interview.
Learn about the company by reviewing the website, checking recent news, reading the company’s blog posts and press releases, and looking at its social media accounts. Look at the about page or careers page because it is helpful for learning why the company was founded, how they team defines what they do, the mission and values of the organization, and the company culture.
Now that many people are working remotely, job interviews are being done by phone and video instead of IRL. You’ll stand out from the competition if you learn the ins-and-outs of phone and video job interviews. We’ve got the phone job interview and video job interview tips and tricks you need to know.
Use your network
People understand that this is a difficult time to be graduating from college and many people want to help. Reach out to your college career center and make a phone or video appointment with a counselor. Go to any virtual workshops and classes that they host. Some schools are hosting virtual alumni events and meetups, so add those to your calendar to connect with alumni who could be helpful for your job search.
If you’ve had part-time jobs and internships, reach out to former colleagues and bosses if you see openings at their companies. They're more likely to hire you than the competition because they know your skills and work ethic. Even if they aren’t hiring, they can be references for your other applications. Since they're in the industry, they may hear of other jobs through their own network and they can recommend you.
Ask friends, family, alumni, and past co-workers for email intros to hiring managers if they work at one of the companies you are applying to or know someone who does. Those email intros, or having people in your network send your resume and cover letter on your behalf, can get your application to the top of the pile even if human resources isn’t done sorting through the applications that come in through the ATS.
Make yourself more marketable
Take classes and certification programs to learn skills that are relevant to your industry. You know how people say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Use this time to work toward the job you want. Start a passion project like a blog, newsletter, or writing a business plan for a company. Help people and get noticed by sharing your skills on social media, your own website, and other platforms.
If you want to work in finance, share financial advice like tips for budgeting, dealing with layoffs or furloughs, or saving money because of pay cuts. If you want to work in the fitness industry, start a blog, host workouts on Instagram Live and YouTube Live, and share tips for staying active while staying at home. Be creative. A passion project can make you stand out during your job search or it could even become your full-time job.
Need more help on the hunt for jobs for recent college graduates? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads.
Elana Lyn Gross is a journalist and the author of “What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life after College.” "What Next?" teaches readers how to create a five-year plan and has actionable career, finance, wellness, and relationship advice to help them accomplish their goals. Early reviewers have called it “the book every twenty-something needs,” “the go-to guide for life after college,” and “basically the Google Maps for post-grad life.”