By Marie Zimenoff
and Jennifer Doyle Vancil, M.Ed.
For undergraduates and MBA students, launching a new career or transitioning can be challenging, especially in the time of uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the summer of 2020, some internships were cancelled, job offers rescinded, or things were put on hold. Many of us thought this was going to be a short term thing and then it turned out to be much longer term than we anticipated.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers published data on its website from the companies surveyed last spring in 2020, which was pre-pandemic. There was actually a strong outlook on increase in hiring with 45% of the respondents thinking there would be increases in their number of employees. But then in reality, when surveyed in July 2020, only 16% of the companies thought there would be increases in their hiring and 31% projected decreases.
Some sectors rebounded tremendously and had to hire more people, including health, food, supply chains, and technologies. Here are a few tips for recent graduates (of any career level) to get a foothold in today’s job market.
Access Support from Career Centers
Career centers in colleges have tremendous resources including job fairs and career services such as helping students write cover letters, practice for interviews, or connect with alumni from similar industries. However, surveyed graduates across the United States are not accessing their career center for support. Take advantage of the free help from your career center. You can ask multiple people and find support for your specific challenges. If you find yourself struggling, get help and ask for these service providers to take a look at your resume or connect you with people to network. Don’t forget to ask your professors for industry insights or connections as well!
If your resume still says, “My objective is to find a good job at a great company using my skills,” then you may want to replace that outdated objective with a customized profile. Customizing does not mean rewriting your entire resume every time, but creating a section at the top with 3 to 4 key points and a job title that gets rewritten each time for the job.
Customize Your Resume
Write 4 bullets about how you meet the qualifications for that job. If the company, for example, needs someone who is good at customer relations, write a bullet right at the top that says “increased membership as club president by improving communication.” Pull out the experience that demonstrates the qualifications required for the job. If you put something at the top that you can customize from job to job, it will be very easy to just switch out those points and the keywords in them, not rewrite the entire resume. This can speed up your application process.
You can also get support from professional resume writers (Resume Writing Academy - Find a Writer) or a coach (Career Thought Leaders - Job Search Coach) to advance your job search.
Target Group of Jobs
Your main resume needs to be targeted to a group of jobs. Find 3 main types of jobs that you will apply to and make sure you are clear on that underlying focus. When you have focus, it will make your resume stronger and make your job search proactive instead of reactive. Having a clear focus also enables you to write the bottom part of your resume in a targeted way and reduce customization for each advertisement. Knowing your target jobs also means you have the opportunity to research the industry.
You have to know the landscape of your industry before you can start looking for jobs. What part of marketing are you going into? Are you going into relationship based selling or digital technology? Whatever field you choose, research the industry very well so that you understand the differences between the different kinds of jobs.
Join a Professional Association
Whether you are transitioning with a degree or looking for your first job, professional organizations provide training and webinars to share knowledge. It is a good way to learn about the industry and get to know professionals in the field.
Getting active within professional associations can also help you identify additional certifications or training that can improve your job search and career advancement. Before spending more time and money, know what is important in your field. Professional associations can be a place to identify networking contacts or perhaps even a mentor that can guide you in launching your career.
Engage and Build Connections If you are still studying, make some relationships now and figure out how to interact or engage during classes. Where could you talk to someone beyond class to learn more? Talk to your professors not just about the coursework, but about how their teaching fits into whatever you think you want to do in your life. That is how you build those relationships you can rely on when you are looking for a referral to a company or getting ready to graduate.
Make yourself as findable as possible and then people can come to you. On LinkedIn, for instance, if you are liking, sharing, and commenting strategically on content in your industry, then other people who follow the industry have you on their radar. You can make some interesting connections through your online conversations.
We learn more when we are engaged, asking questions, responding to discussion, and participating. If you are taking an online class, it is even more important to find ways to engage. Find an accountability partner who is also taking the class or sign up with a colleague or someone to help you engage with the materials. Take advantage of the time and the commitment that you have made.
Make the Most Out of It
It is helpful to sit down with yourselves and remember your reason for investing in your education. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to do something different. Even if you are taking a LinkedIn learning class or a free Coursera class, when you put in the time, figure out what you need out of it and how you make that happen.
Most of those courses, even the free ones, give you suggested projects that you can do if you want to use that class to make a pivot in your career. Do the project, even if it is not required, and find someone who will look at it or help you with it. Then, you can talk about that project in your resume and in your future interview to show the skills.
Set yourself on course to proactively manage your career by keeping abreast of changes in your industry and maintaining your network throughout your career -- not only when you are in job search!
Ready to find a coach or resume writer to help you? See our Associate directory
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