Strategies to Help College Graduates Find Jobs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Graduate Job Search

On March 1, 2020, Students poised to graduate from college prepared to enter one of the most robust job markets in more than 25 years. Unemployment sat at a historic low, as many employers had to sweeten the pot by offering generous benefits and substantially higher than average salaries.

Along came COVID-19 to dampen the college graduation party.

According to a survey conducted by Student Loan Hero back in April of 2020, nearly 75% of graduating seniors reported the coronavirus pandemic had impacted their career plans. Although the unemployment rate has improved since April of 2020, almost 20% of Americans between 16 and 24 years old remain unemployed.

As we leave the winter of 2020-21 behind, let’s learn more about the strategies to help college graduates secure employment during COVID-19.

Consider Freelance Gigs

Digital technology has given the freelance industry a significant boost. If you cannot secure employment after college, try to land a few freelancing gigs that feature your professional skills.

Freelancing during COVID-19 accomplishes three things. First, you build a portfolio of work that you can show prospective employers. Second, you gain experience, which is often the Catch-22 for college students trying to land a job right out of college. Third, freelancing online follows the social distancing guidelines promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Improve Your Virtual Interviewing Skills

At the height of the pandemic, few employers conducted in-person interviews. Although the number of COVID-19 cases has waned over the past few months, the same employers that conducted interviews online via platforms like Zoom have decided to continue with the virtual approach to interviewing job candidates. This means you should develop interviewing skills that are similar to the interview skills developed for in-person interviews. Speak clearly at a moderate pace to ensure the interviewer can hear you, as well as sit up straight in your chair and look the interviewer in the eyes.

Networking is Everything During COVID-19

This tip might seem counterintuitive since networking at professional events is no longer an option. Nonetheless, you should reach out to friends, family members and some of your college professors to get insight into which companies are hiring and which companies have put the brakes on the hiring process. You might be able to get a few professional contacts that you can send your resume and a cover letter. If you have not updated your LinkedIn profile for a few months, now is the ideal time to shine a brighter spotlight on your professional credentials.

Craft an Attention-Grabbing Resume

Now more than ever, college graduates need to develop attention-grabbing resumes to boost their chances of getting invited to an interview. With dozens, if not hundreds of job candidates competing for a position that you covet, drafting a resume that stands out for all the right reasons can help you get the proverbial foot in the door. Just make sure to not overdo your professional credentials, such as boasting about accomplishments that you did not accomplish.

Your resume should not be longer than one page, with a focus on including the types of keywords that electronic scanners notice.

Write Targeted Cover Letters

There is a school of thought in the job hunting world that modifying resumes to match the job requirements of different companies makes good professional sense. Although the jury is still out on the resume school of thought, one thing remains for sure during a job search.

You have to write unique cover letters.

Template cover letters are as easy to spot as the rising sun on a clear day. Employers delete templated cover letters from email files and toss paper templated cover letters into the trash. Not only do you want to present different professional credentials, but you also want to change up the introductory couple of sentences. You still want the first two or three introductory sentences to grab the attention of the reader, but you do not want to use the same two or three sentences for every cover letter.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Back when the economy was humming, college graduates could afford to take chances with their job searches. Although there are companies that are hiring, the number of job postings is lower than average. This means you should focus on job postings on sites. Many sites let job seekers know how long an employer has posted a particular position online, as well as provide a detailed job description that you can work into the “Skills” section of your resume.

Creativity is the New Normal

Despite the lifting of most shelter-in-place orders, many companies continue to follow the work from home employment model.

Creativity in your job search post-college also involves flexibility. No, you do not have to change careers because of the pandemic. However, you should be open to taking an internship, even if it is not paid. Working as an intern is like giving the company an audition before they hire you to work as a salaried, full-time employee. You should also be open to accepting a temporary position, which also gives you the chance to show the company what you bring to the table.

Volunteer During Your Job Search

Sitting around the house waiting for a phone call or an email that extends you a job offer is a recipe in frustration. Use your free time during the job search wisely by giving your time to a charitable organization that appeals to your ideals. Volunteering not only looks good on a resume, but it also can help sharpen the professional skills you need to develop post-college. You might also meet one or more volunteers that can recommend you to potential employers.

Just remember that your job search should be priority number one.

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