5-Step Guide for First Careers in this CORONA ERA

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5-Step Guide for First Careers in this CORONA ERA

The graduating class of 2020 will go down in the history books for their FaceTime commencement ceremonies, for their online final exams, and for their (just assuming) epic virtual underground frat parties.

But, soon, it will be an extremely weird time to be a recent college graduate who’s looking for their first job during a rather … unprecedented moment in time.


While it’s still too soon to know how the coronavirus pandemic is going to impact the economy in the long-term, it’s probably fair to say the graduate career fairs will be few and far between this spring. There will be no in-person employer events.

The campus career center might not have all the answers. Long story short, the post-grad job search is likely to feel like more of a minefield than usual this year. And it’s likely to feel a lot lonelier, too.

I graduated just as the economy was getting back on its feet after the global financial crisis — and I still stumbled, rather inelegantly, into the land of grown-up employment.

Scoring my first real job took months on end. Joining the working world basically felt like I was at the bottom of Everest, staring up into the clouds, unclear on how to take my first step toward the summit. I’m almost a decade past my own graduation, but I never forgot that feeling.

Instead, I got obsessed with making it feel less scary for the next wave of college graduates, and wound up becoming an entry-level career coach when I was only 25 myself.

If you’re about to graduate into this season of lockdowns and virtual socializing, it might feel tempting to cocoon and cross your fingers and wait until it’s all over — but we don’t know when exactly when “over” is coming yet. Instead, I have a couple of ideas for how to put yourself out there and stand out during these crazy times.

5-Step Guide for First Careers in this CORONA ERA

Studies show that 70-80% of jobs never get posted online — they get filled directly through personal referrals instead. Networking is key to any successful job search, and it doesn’t have to stop just because you can’t meet someone in person.

Instead of submitting hundreds of resumes online: use this time to shoot your shot, introduce yourself over email, and ask out a professional hero of yours on a virtual coffee date. (You might be even more successful booking these dates than you would have been before, considering everybody’s stuck at home just like you are!)

Internships can be a key differentiator for graduates looking to stand out in the market, with employers saying internship experience is often the deciding factor for otherwise equal candidates. But what on earth are you supposed to do if your intern offer gets rescinded or you can’t find an internship right away?

Look for alternative ways to get the experience you need over these next few months. You could join a volunteer campaign or offer to help out a local small business. You could organize a virtual effort of some kind for your neighbors or for people across the globe.

You could pitch your own internship, too. Plenty of companies will use this down time to do some administrative “spring cleaning” they’ve been meaning to get to for years, for example. Propose the idea, offer your services, and you might just get the job.

More than ever, people will be turning to your online presence to get a better understanding of who you are and what you’re about. Make sure that your virtual first impression is as pristine and professional as you’d like it to be.

The key is to go a step beyond just “hiding” your personal life from the world. Think, instead, about how you can impress them with your online presence. What if you did a series of interviews with senior people in your field and wrote about what you learned on LinkedIn?

Not every company goes through hard times when the economy hits a bump in the road. Make a list of businesses that do well – that maybe even do better – if people are stuck at home: delivery companies, video streaming services, home exercise equipment manufacturers, online dating sites, and many more.

Across the world right now, senior executives are working from home for the first time ever. This is a totally unprecedented situation and very few people are experts at virtual work. That, in itself, presents an opportunity.

How do teams keep their spirits up when everybody is at home? What’s the best way to flag issues to your manager? How do people get their work equipment set up at home? What are the pros and cons of the various software systems people are using in order to stay in touch?

Set out to educate yourself on a specific aspect of remote work (team culture, technical set up, meeting etiquette, you name it) so that you can add value to your new team from day one.

In every situation — yes, even in pandemics — there are little opportunities to reach out and make yourself useful. By focusing in on what you can bring to the table, and communicating that value clearly, you’ll find a way to get through this job search with grace.

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