DEAR READERS: It's the season soon-to-be grads typically would be finishing up their senior year and interviewing for post-college internships and jobs. With schools closed and many companies closed or working on limited schedules with skeleton staffs, what does that job search look like now? Should these students treat the job search as "life as usual" even though it is far from that?
There aren't many ways to sugar-coat the situation.
"Unfortunately, hiring is going to look different than before. Basically, 80 million jobs are at risk of layoffs, wage cuts, or reduced hours," says Caitlin Proctor, content manager and career expert for Zipjob. "If that happens, it is going to be a really tough market for job searching.
However, as Proctor has assured her sister who is in that soon-to-be-grad boat.
"It's not all bad news! Interviews are all virtual now ... and distance learning is actually great preparation for a remote workforce," Proctor says. "Online classes are using a lot of the same tools as the remote workforce, so listing your familiarity with this technology will help when applying for jobs."
Andrew Selepak, a media professor at the University of Florida and director of the graduate program in social media, has a number of students who will be graduating soon. And he agrees that time — at least the extra time they now have — is on their side.
"I encourage them to use this time while they are at home and can't go out to learn and develop new skills. It is always possible to learn more and earn online certificates to develop new skills," Selepak says. "But we often think we are too busy and don't have the time. Well, we all have the time right now."
It's also an opportune time to update online profiles and network via LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
"Online networking is key, so it's important to get your LinkedIn profile ready for recruiters and future employers!" Proctor says. "This means filling out each section with keywords and skills, adding a profile picture, and growing your network."
"Human Resource people also working from home will be looking for job candidates on LinkedIn — so it only makes sense to be updating your LinkedIn online resume with new accredited skills that employers may want," Selepak adds. "While we are still in a quarantined society, recruiters may be impressed by students who are able to demonstrate they can learn new skills and work independently from home, which are soft skills that we are seeing not everyone has."
While the economy has slowed and fewer people are working, no pandemic lasts forever, which means people will be returning to work and companies will be hiring.
"They will revisit job searches and start new ones," Selepak says. "Students should be applying for jobs and searching for jobs and opportunities they might not have taken the time to explore before."
As Proctor notes, while many companies are under a hiring freeze, many others are hiring rapidly for temp or temp to hire positions. "Exposure to work in any industry will help young professionals make long-term career goals," she says.
Now also is a great time for students to reach out to people in industries they hope to work in once things return to normal — not to ask for a job, but for information about the industry in general.
"Hopefully they will remember the students who reached out, and then offer those students an opportunity because they demonstrated a soft skill — being able to relate to another person's situation without seeming to want anything in return," Selepak says. "Every situation can be an opportunity if we look at it the right way."
"What is going to happen next is still up in the air, but there are steps recent grads can take to hit the ground running when the job market bounces back," Proctor concludes. "No one will question the 'gap' in your resume if you can't find a job right away, and no one will worry about 'job hopping' down the line either."
Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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